This product was provided by Arrow Video for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
In 1933 in Alleghe, a small village of 2,000 inhabitants nestled in the mountains of Northern Italy, two beautiful women were mysteriously killed: one was ruled a suicide and another an accident. In 1946 two men were gunned down in the street in what appeared to be a robbery.
These four killings seemed unrelated, but years later connections emerged and the deaths went from tragic circumstances to a full-blown conspiracy that would become one of Italy’s most notorious murder cases. Author Giovanni Comisso would later write a novel about the events, and was adapted to the screen in The Possessed, directed by Luigi Bazzoni and Franco Rossellini.
Released in 1965, the film stars Peter Baldwin as Bernard, a writer who returns to Alleghe to reconnect with a lost love, only to discover that she mysteriously commited suicide in the hotel where she had worked as a maid. As Bernard inquires about her death, many of the townsfolk believe it to be murder, although they have few clues as to the identity of the perpetrator.
As Bernard slowly begins uncovering secrets, another young woman is found dead, and while ruled an accident due to sleepwalking, it’s clear foul play was involved. What transpires is a deep conspiracy involving the shame of a family that results in two additional murders.
Bazzoni and Rossellini’s film has all the trappings of a classic noir, shot in beautiful black and white with a slight dash of early giallo sprinkled in for good measure. The Arrow Blu-ray release of the film contains a new, 2K restoration from the original camera negatives, and it’s absolutely flawless, containing no discernable dust, scratches or grain. The blacks are deep and not washed out like some older black-and-white transfers tend to be, which makes the expert framing in some of the film’s more intense scenes really pop.
Although it mostly plays like a straightforward whodunnit, one of the more interesting creative flourishes of The Possessed is the frequent, almost supernatural visions Bernard has as the mystery intensifies. These surreal dream sequences are well shot but don’t necessarily fit within the confines of the narrative, almost acting as a crutch to compel Bernard into making his next move. Still, it’s an incredibly compelling piece of proto-giallo and acts as a great introduction piece into the genre before its explosion in the decade to come.
The Blu-ray contains both the Italian- and English-language versions of the film, and it’s packed with a bevy of bonus supplements, including a newly filmed appreciation by critic Richard Dyer and interviews with the film’s makeup artist, Giannetto De Rossi, and assistant art director, Dante Ferretti. There’s also an interview with actor/director Francesco Barilli, who was a close friend of Luigi Bazzoni.
As with all other Arrow releases, the package also contains a reversible cover, and the first printing has a 39-page booklet that discusses the making of the film, the real-life murders and technical specifications. For those looking for a solid noir with a bit of an arthouse kick, then The Possessed is not one to be missed.