"I got junk in the chromosome lottery."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 03/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"According to the liner notes included with the DVD release for La Città gioca d'azzardo (1975) aka Gambling City aka The Cheaters, released in the states in 1976, the movie came about due to the popularity of the American film The Sting (1973), both dealing con artists plying the tricks of their trade. This didn't really surprise me, as I can't begin to tell you how many shoddy Italian productions I've seen created specifically to leech off a popularized genre by copying much better films, the main difference here being Gambling City is actually an excellent feature. Co-written and directed by Sergio Martino (Case of the Scorpion's Tail, All the Colors of the Dark, 2019: After the Fall of New York), the film stars Luc Merenda (Violent Professionals, A Man Called Magnum). Also appearing is Dayle Haddon (The World's Greatest Athlete, Spermula), Corrado Pani (The Cat with the Jade Eyes), and Enrico Maria Salerno (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Execution Squad).
Luc Merenda plays Luca Altieri, a petty, yet adept, card shark, working Milan's illegal gambling parlors. After falling into an upscale game and fleecing his competitors for a rather large sum of money, he's made an offer by the wheelchair bound owner of the club, an underworld figure known as `The President' (Salerno). Seems The President wants to bankroll the talented Luca and have him work his club, allowing Luca to keep a percentage of his winnings, the rest going back to the house, i.e. The President. Luca accepts, but soon finds himself in hot water after crossing The President's son Corrado (Pani) by performing the horizontal mambo with Corrado's girlfriend Maria (Haddon). Things escalate between Corrado and Luca (Corrado's goons give Luca a near crippling beating) to the point where The President decides to liquidate Luca, if only because he's now considered a danger to the organization (he's tempted to do the same with his idiot son, but doesn't), but later has a change of heart, perhaps feeling guilty for his idiot son's actions, allowing Luca to run off (with a briefcase full of money), warning him to never gamble again, or else it's curtains. Luca leaves town with Maria to recuperate, while Corrado engages in a coup d'etat, but since he doesn't have his father's head for business, things quickly sour. Luca's eventually drawn back into the life, despite the threat of death, and soon finds himself in the position to make one, last big score, despite Maria's pleading to give up the life and start anew.
As I said, I thought this an excellent film with an outstanding and stylistic sense of direction. Some of the scenes I liked best where when Luca was practicing his adeptness with cards. There was one shot in particular when he's playing where we see from an interesting vantage point how he manages to make a better hand for himself by palming some bad cards and switching them for good ones, all of this being imperceptible to his opponents. Merenda appeared to perform some of the tricks himself, while some of the others were most likely done by someone else as there's a number of scenes where we see close ups of hands manipulating cards. I thought Merenda, who was quite handsome, did particularly well as the smart aleck, passionate hustler, supremely confident in his skills (on and off the tables), blindsided by his affections towards a woman who was nothing but trouble. Once he's forced out of the life (due to his injuries), he sees there's more to life than just cards, but since that's the only thing he's good at, the desire to return to the old ways is too much. Dayle Haddon also did all right, despite her relatively minor role as a kept woman who realizes that while money can buy a lot of things, it doesn't necessarily equate to happiness. And then there's Corrado Pani as the smarmy, spoiled, vindictive, misogynistic, power hungry, extremely petty son of the big boss. I really enjoyed the scenes where after he took over the organization, things started to fall apart specifically because no one respected him, and only saw him as unworthy usurper to the throne through an unwarranted sense of self entitlement. These sequences may not have had a whole lot to do with the actual story, but they were satisfying as a form of comeuppance. It was funny how, despite all the problems that developed after his taking charge, he still had time to nurse his grudge against Luca. The engaging story moves along at a good pace, and features quite a bit of action, including a few bloody fight scenes and an exciting chase sequence near the end. There is one aspect about this film I found completely bizarre and that was the bouncy, upbeat, almost comical main theme. There are slight comedic elements in the story, but they didn't justify the main theme music, which seemed to have been lifted from a Pink Panther film. This bit of music plays throughout the film, with more serious (and appropriate) pieces thrown in the mix. It was a decent piece of music, but just not for this film. Also, I thought the ending terribly sappy, but this shouldn't deter anyone interested in seeing this otherwise wonderful film.
No Shame provides an impeccable anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer on this DVD release. The picture is sharp, clean, and clear, exhibiting no flaws. The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (included is both the original Italian track along with the dubbed English track), is very strong, but does have a couple of very minor dropouts, each lasting perhaps a fraction of a second, and only worth mentioning only because they stood out against an otherwise beautiful release. I would most definitely not discourage anyone interested to avoid this release because of this negligible flaw. As far as extras, there's a moderated commentary track featuring star Luc Merenda, a 35 minute piece titled Chatting with the Cheaters featuring interviews with the director Sergio Martino, cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando, and star Luc Merenda, the original, Italian theatrical trailer, English subtitles, a poster gallery, and an insert booklet with talent bios and liner notes by Richard Harlan Smith.
By the way, the line I used for the title of this review came from the character of The President, as he was talking about his feelings towards his son.
Solid Italian Crime Film
B. M. Kunz | Los Angeles, CA USA | 07/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In Sergo Martino's entertaining "Gambling City" Luc Merenda plays likeable card cheat/professional gambler Luca Altieri. Impressed by Luca's poker playing skills, the head of a crime family gives Luca a lucrative position in one of his Milan gambling houses fleecing unsuspecting customers at the high stakes poker tables. The partnership proves profitable for both until Luca falls for the wrong girl - a pretty brunette who also happens to "belong" to the boss's hot-tempered son. Now gambling with his own life, a bloodied and broken Luca attempts to beat the odds, elude capture and start a new life with the woman that he loves, far from the corrupt, crime-ridden Milan underworld.
Gambling City is a very good Italian crime film featuring a fine cast, a solid Ernesto Gastaldi written script, and some really striking cinematography from Martino regular Giancarlo Ferrando. However the lion's bulk of my praise must go to director Sergio Martino who seems to finally be getting his due with recent DVD releases of many of his films. With excellent gialli like Case of the Scorpion's Tail (just to name one of many), a highly entertaining western in Mannaja, and now with the release of Gambling City, it is apparent that Martino's talents were truly wide-ranging. This DVD from NoShame is another excellent addition to their Sergio Martino Collection. The restored print looks spectacular! There are also two audio options, english dub or original Italian soundtrack (with optional subtitles), both sounding good with only a couple minor fluctuations in quality. The most prominent extra on the disc features a thirty minute documentary consisting of interviews with Martino, Ferrando and Merenda. All in all a very fine presentation that should make fans very happy and convert a few new viewers."
A really good movie.
Marty Michaels | New York. | 12/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't need to already say what has been said about Gambling City apart from this is a terrific film and I am a big fan of Luc Merenda & Italian Cinema. I am particularly impressed with the quality of the " No Shame Films " dvd's so much so that I have bought everything they have released and I have not been disappointed once. I cannot reccomend this company higher."
An exceedingly professional movie, suspense, tension, toughn
Pork Chop | Lisbon, Portugal | 05/02/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"La città gioca d'azzardo, (Gambling City - 1975), is an
exceedingly professional movie, with a pleasing wide-screen
release, charismatic actors, clear subtitles, impressive action
sequences in the open air (high speed car chases), body-to-body
combats and more.
The script carries plenty of suspense, tension and demonstrates
visibly how ego's collide between people, in groups of people,
possibly resulting in conflict, competition, rivalry,
Here, a maverick individual, played by Luc Merenda, has had as
his livelihood since the age of 10, the mastery of a spectrum of
casino games, especially poker, pulling the odds in his favor
by ysubg sly cheating moves. These include marked cards,
supplementary cards in his sleeve, electronic devices that
conspirators can activate to feed information, etc. Viewers are
told that one or more other players to a greater or lesser
extent, aksi use those dastardly tricks
Leaving aside the loose cannon character of Merenda, (over-done,
somewhat incoherent, anarchy-like), there is the more relevant
and stimulating aspect to the script, of the gambling house's
CEO, having a hard time in keeping a lid his son that is brutal
in his approach, wreckless in dealing with people, lacking in
sophistication in strategy, and overall, not getting what's good
for the business, vs. attacking his rivals.
The son at length topples the CEO, only to see partners throw in
the towel from various disagreements, international financiers
panicked from the lack of technical training of the son (unlike
the CEO and founder), as well as cops asking to be fed more
money to look the other way. The leadership wasn't so much set
in stone, but was up until then, masterfully orchestrated to the
satisfaction of all parties.
It should be said that, a number of scenes may scare the
audience, such as broken bones, beatings, abductions, in action,
chain beatings, body blows, kicks, referrals to cement boots,
pistols and silencers, as "the muscle" intervenes.
Interestingly, the story suggests that gambling rooms employ
players that immerse themselves among the public, and cleverly
manipulate losses and winnings to maximize the room's overall
house's revenue potential.
At the same time, the movie over-emphasizes the stereotypical
human happiness / utopia side of things, by underlining an ideal
man and wife couple, financial stability, a baby, the comfort of
beach-side relaxation at brand-name locations such as the Cote
d'Azur, Monaco, etc.
Underlining the fact that this is entertainment, the soundtrack
carries forth a lighter mood to the underlying events."