On the day John Chandler (Henry Silva) is executed for murder, his brother Philip Chandler is born.
Thriller Assassination is something of a James Bond knockoff typical of the Italian film industry of the 1960s and ‘70s. It has big aspirations, a lot of style, a popular above-the-title star, a sensational soundtrack and storytelling so outlandishly absurd making sense of anything that’s happening is next to impossible. This is a convoluted game of double agents, international intrigue and political assassination, and one that frequently borders on parody.
The central conceit involves the CIA convincing John Chandler to allow himself to be pronounced legally dead and then undergo slight plastic surgery to become his own brother Philip to infiltrate an international criminal organization involved in everything from arms trafficking to political assassination. He must convince his own wife Barbara (Evelyn Stewart) he’s a completely different person while also keeping his belligerent handler from getting so angry he may try to execute him for real.
The narrative crisscrosses the globe before finally settling in West Germany for its final act, everything culminating in a series of brutal and violent events that grow increasingly implausible as they go along. There’s even a central set piece where the CIA decides John/Philip has become more of a liability than an asset and tries to sever ties and, thanks to some bizarre editing decision, I have absolutely no idea how he engineered his escape. It just sorta happens, and I think we’re supposed to nod our heads and go along the absurd implausibility of it all.
Director Emilio Miraglia (The Vatican Affair, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) makes his debut behind the camera working under the pseudonym Hal Brady, and he stages a couple of fantastic set pieces even working with a noticeably limited budget. Future Giallo favorite Stewart (check out The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) makes a notable impression, and Silva rips the film to shreds with his lethally icy central performance.
But the two real stars of this one are cinematographer Erico Menczer (The Cat o’ Nine Tails) and musician Robby Poitevin (Man Who Cried for Revenge). This film looks and sounds incredible from start to finish, the pair helping Miraglia generate a look and feel that’s utterly unique yet also disquietly reminiscent of the bigger Hollywood productions the director is going out of his way to emulate.
All-in-all, if taken in the right frame of mind Assassination is a total hoot. It’s a bit of a disaster and I totally dug it. Make of that what you will.
Assassination is presented on a 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.35:1 1080p transfer. This is billed as a new 4K transfer, and there are plenty of instances where the image gorgeously pops. But there are also some odd inconsistencies, making this video presentation something of a moderate mixed bag. Plusses, however, outweigh the minuses by a substantial margin.
This Blu-ray features English & Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono soundtracks and includes optional English SDH subtitles.
Extras here include:
Audio Commentary with film critics Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson
Original International Theatrical Trailer (2:59)
Also included are trailers for The Hills Run Red, Code of Silence, Arabesque, Diabolically Yours, Gand Slam, The Champagne Murders, The Sicilian Clan, The Night of the Following Day and Impasse.
Assassination is a fun Italian Cold War thriller that makes precious little sense and frequently feels as if it were edited in a blender and put together with haphazard indifference. But it is dazzlingly shot and filled with kinetically oddball beats that kept me glued to the screen, all of it held together by a performance from Henry Silva so cold-blooded he’s practically got daggers made of ice firing from his eyes. Worth a look if this sort of thing is your cup of arsenic-laced tea.