DirectorFernando Di Leo
Release Date(s)1984 (April 5, 2022)
Studio(s)Visione Cinematografica/Cannon Films (Code Red/Kino Lorber)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: D-
The Violent Breed (aka Razza violenta) was the final theatrical feature film from director Fernando Di Leo, reuniting him with Henry Silva and Woody Strode, who had starred in some of the memorable poliziotteschi crime thrillers that he made during the Seventies, like The Italian Connection and The Boss. The Violent Breed is a bit more difficult to classify than those films, since its storyline is so elliptical that it defies easy analysis. It’s a crime story built on a post-Vietnam War setting, but the inexplicable way that clandestine organizations are involved make it almost feel like an espionage film. Of course, it’s still an action movie first and foremost, with everything else being little more than window dressing.
The screenplay by Di Leo and Nino Marino shows rather than tells, almost to a fault. Mike Martin (Harrison Muller), Kirk Cooper (Silva), and Polo (Strode) are friends serving in Vietnam together, but when the war ends, Polo stays behind. Years later, Cooper is working for the CIA, and he enlists Martin’s help to go back after Polo, who is now running a crime syndicate that deals in illicit drugs and guns. Martin heads back to Vietnam, but things aren’t quite so simple when he gets there, and he’s not sure who he can trust.
Since Silva sadly passed on a few days ago, it would be wonderful to report that this is a lost classic among his extensive filmography, but unfortunately, he’s not given much to do here. His character is sidelined after the opening Vietnam scenes, and he only appears in the background for the rest of the film. Instead, The Violent Breed is a star vehicle for Muller, who made several Italian action films during the Eighties before vanishing from the business after making Getting Even in 1989. Muller tries to affect a tough guy kind of insouciance in The Violent Breed, but he just wasn’t a particularly charismatic actor. He has a somewhat affecting relationship with a certain female character in the film, but since Di Leo and Marino made the regrettable decision to treat her as a sacrificial lamb, even that doesn’t amount to much. Strode fares a bit better, despite the fact that his character’s motivations are utterly baffling.
Di Leo staged the action quickly and on the cheap, but it’s passable enough for this kind of film. He also left the ending wide open for a sequel, but that never happened. The Violent Breed was a negative pickup for Cannon Films in the United States, but they largely just dumped it on VHS. They had their own return to Vietnam that year in the form of their improbable hit Missing in Action. In a fight between Harrison Muller and Chuck Norris, there could only be one winner.
Cinematographer Roberto Gerardi shot The Violent Breed on 35 mm film using spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. Kino Lorber and Code Red describe this version as using a “Brand new 2K master,” and while there’s no indication of the source that was used, it was likely a print. Things start out unpromisingly during the opening credits, which look extremely rough. They’re quite soft, with heavy damage, and some instability as well. Once the credits are over, things do improve a bit, but inconsistently so. The image quality is decent in many shots, but still rough in others. Detail is adequate at best, and there are persistent speckles, scratches, and other damage marks throughout. The colors seem faded at times, though they’re not too bad on the whole. Contrast is fine, though shadows and other darker areas of the screen tend to be washed out. Without better elements to work with (and the budget for a restoration), there’s not much else that could have been done here.
Audio is offered in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English SDH subtitles. The source for the audio was probably the optical mono tracks from the 35 mm print that was used for the video transfer, and the quality varies between sounding harsh for some of the sound effects, and muffled for the synthesized score from Paolo Rustichelli. The dialogue sounds like a mixture of production audio and ADR, and lip sync from the latter can be quite loose at times. The ADR voices also don’t integrate very well into the soundstage. Still, the dialogue is clear enough to be understood, and it’s a serviceable track overall.
The following extras are included:
- The Violent Breed Trailer (HD – 2:50)
- The Last Hunter Trailer (SD – 3:43)
- The Violent Professionals Trailer (SD – 1:22)
- Street Law Trailer (SD – :29)
- Seven Blood-Stained Orchids Trailer (SD – 2:46)
- Blastfighter Trailer (SD – 3:24)
Note that all of the trailers are included as a single item on the menu, and they can’t be played individually. They are chapter encoded, however.
Fernando Di Leo might not have given the late great Henry Silva a major role in The Violent Breed, using him instead for his marquee value alone, but Silva never needed much screen time in order to make a lasting impression. It’s a shame that Kino Lorber and Code Red couldn’t secure a better master for the film, but considering that it’s hardly a disc that audiences have been clamoring for, that’s not too surprising. It’s still a film that Silva fans will want to add to their collections, so it’s nice that this has received a Blu-ray release in any form.
- Stephen Bjork