Scoumoune: Mafia Warfare (1972)

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Due Out for Sale 18-Nov-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 101:15
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By José Giovanni
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo
Claudia Cardinale
Michel Constantin
Enrique Lucero
Alain Mottet
Michel Peyrelon
Philippe Brizard
Marie-Claude Mestral
Aldo Bufi Landi
Luciano Catenacci
Lucie Arnold
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI ? Music François de Roubaix


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     It is 1934 and hit man Roberto (Jean-Paul Belmondo) has a problem. His friend Xavier (Michel Constantin) has been framed for murder by his partner Villanova (Aldo Bufi Landi) and is awaiting trial. Roberto intervenes, shoots Villanova dead and takes over the gambling clubs and brothels previously run by Villanova, using the money to help to pay for Xavier’s defence. Roberto also installs Xavier’s beautiful sister Georgia (Claudia Cardinale) as brothel madam, and they renew a past acquaintance. Despite being innocent (at least of that crime) Xavier is found guilty and sentenced to 20 years hard labour. When a rival gang threatens Georgia’s brothel, Roberto shoots a number of them dead in a gun battle. His plea of self-defence rejected, he also gets 20 years hard labour and ends up in the same prison as Xavier, where they remain during the German invasion and the liberation. After a number of escape plans fail, they volunteer to help clear mines and bombs left behind after WW2 in exchange for a remission of their sentences. Xavier loses an arm in an explosion and the pair is released. However Roberto is not a reformed man, and his attempts to muscle in on the post war gambling club trade results in tragic consequences.

     Scoumoune: Mafia Warfare (aka La scoumoune or Hit Man) is directed by Jose Giovanni based upon his own novel L’excommunie. The book had been filmed over ten years previously by Jean Becker as A Man Called Rocca (1961) (that film is available in the three disc set French Screen Icons: Jean-Paul Belmondo 1 from Madman and was reviewed on this site here), but Giovanni was unhappy with that screen adaption so remade it himself, using the same leading man. So ten years on Belmondo plays the same character in the remake.

    This version of L’excommunie does play better. While the narrative is still stretched over too many plotlines, there being three distinct acts (the initial pre-prison crime drama section, the prison, and the short after prison scenes) here at least it hangs together better, mainly because Scoumoune is more grounded in the political events of the period, including the war, the occupation of France by the Germans, the French partisans and collaborators. While none of this is overdone, or really intrudes into the main plot, it provides for an explanation of time passing and makes more sense of the mine-clearing through which Roberto and Xavier gain their release from prison. This remake is also more bloody and violent, as well as less sanitised, making Xavier’s sister not only a married woman but a brothel madam, things omitted from the earlier film.

    By this time Jean-Paul Belmondo was a genuine screen icon, a star. There are none of the stunts in this film that he was famous for, and in truth there is little development of his character over the years this film was set, but it is still Belmondo; he is suitably laid-back and handsome and his screen charisma is evident. Indeed, this film had considerable star power with the inclusion of Italian Claudia Cardinale. She does not have a lot to do except sport a range of hair styles and look beautiful, which indeed she does. But this is clearly Belmondo’s film, and he does not disappoint.

    Scoumoune plays better and is more bloody and violent than A Man Called Rocca. It is more grounded in the period of the 1930s and 1940s and has considerable star power in Jean-Paul Belmondo and Claudia Cardinale and so is well worth a look.

     Scoumoune: Mafia Warfare is included in the three disc set French Screen Icons: Jean-Paul Belmondo 2 from Madman that also includes The Inheritor (1973) and The Body of My Enemy (1976).

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Scoumoune is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a nice print. Detail is very sharp in close-ups (look at Belmondo’s eyes in the opening sequence) and medium shots although slightly softer in wide-angles. Colours are deep, rich and natural. There was nice film grain, occasional small artefacts, slight ghosting (for example 33:56, 69:25) and brightness turned glary in some later scenes, but nothing too distracting. Blacks and shadow detail were very good.

     There are no subtitles.

     The layer change at 84:19 resulted in a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is disappointing because the original French audio track is not offered. Instead, the only audio available is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224 Kbps. This really is a pity.

     Dialogue is easy to understand, but of course is an English dub, and not a particularly good one. The effects come across with some depth and are pretty good. There was no surround or subwoofer use.

     The score by Francois de Roubaix was low key and fitted the film well, coming over clearly in the audio.

     This was the English dub of original French language and lip synchronisation was poor.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     None

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There does not seem to be a Region 1 US or Region 2 UK release of La scoumoune. There are a couple of Region 2 French / European versions with the original French audio, but they do not have English subtitles. For English speakers, this Region 4 release will have to do.

     I cannot find an equivalent Belmondo collection listed on sales sites. The only thing close is a Region 2 UK collection that includes Breathless, Pierrot Le Fou, Le Professional, Stavisky and A Double Tour.

Summary

     Scoumoune is a remake of A Man Called Rocca (1961). This version plays better and is more bloody and violent than the earlier film. It also has considerable star power in Jean-Paul Belmondo and Claudia Cardinale and is well worth a look.

     The video is fine, the audio is acceptable, except for the absence of the original French language track. There are no extras but the film is presented in a box set with two other films, which is great value for fans of Belmondo or French cinema.

     Scoumoune: Mafia Warfare is included in the three disc set French Screen Icons: Jean-Paul Belmondo 2 from Madman that also includes The Inheritor (1973) and The Body of My Enemy (1976).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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