“the machine-gun soloist” Luciano Lutring cut a swathe through Italy and France in the 1960s, carrying out hundres of smash-and-grab robberies and, for his continued ability to evade capture, became something of a folk hero, his story dramatized in Carlo Lizzani’s 1966 picture Svegliati e uccidi, aka Wake Up and Die or, more accurately translated, Wake Up & Kill.
The film is reasonably slick and, for an Italian picture of the 60s, very adequately budgeted too, with gorgeous location shooting to match Lutring’s trans-European crime spree. Robert Hoffman in the lead rôle does a very nice job at conveying the idea that Lutring’s toughness is a front for a deep insecurity, and Gian Maria Volonté offers strong support as the police detective in pursuit of Lutring, but it’s Lisa Gastoni who stands out as Lutring’s desperate wife, pleading him to put his destructive ways behind him before it’s too late. Despite its strengths, however, the film is severely hampered by poor structuring: it’s unclear how sympathetic Lutring is intended, especially given his frequent casual violence against his wife; and the chase-escape-chase structure becomes tedious very quickly, but an excellent, open-ended final shot with Lutring fleeing the cops perhaps forever does a lot to redeem the picture.
Audio and Visuals
As mentioned previously, the relatively high scale of the production allows for some handsome shots, and Lizzani handles the picture with no shortage of style. However, despite having been restored from the original negative, the film as presented on Blu-Ray seems a little murky, the colours not quite as thrillingly sharp as they ought to be. The soundtrack suffers from the messy mixing common to Italian cinema, but even then, the volume balance is iffy, certain scenes playing much, much louder than others, making things difficult on your poor home sound system and ears.
The set is just what you’d expect from Arrow, with a reversible sleeve featuring either original or newly-commissioned artwork, and a highly informative illustrated booklet.
The Special Features section of the menu gives us only: a murky-looking theatrical trailer; the English-language dub of the film; and the English-language dub, with subtitles. This is a cheat, as most Arrow releases of Italian pictures feature the English or Italian dubs as standard. The English-language version is also quite poor, opening with a cheesy voiceover narration, although its quicker pacing does fix an issue present in the Italian version.
We’re accustomed to Arrow giving us sets so loaded with brilliant extras that it often doesn’t even matter whether the film itself is any good. Without any audio commentary or critical retrospective, we’re forced to take the film on its mixed merits alone. Appreciators of Italian cinema will probably want to give this film a look for historical reasons anyway, but the set offered here does nothing to make this an essential purchase. If video shops still existed, I’d say rent don’t buy.
Wake Up & Kill received its re-release on DVD & Blu-ray on the 23rd November. Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!