TMP Reviews: The Assisi Underground on DVD!

This DVD is offered as part of MGM’s “Limited Edition Collection” on DVD, which are available from select online retailers and are manufactured only when the DVD is ordered. The DVD features a simple menu with no menu for chapters or scenes. Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) DVDs are made to play in DVD playback units only and may not play in DVD recorders or PC drives. This DVD did not play in our laptop DVD drive but did play in our Toshiba DVD recorder.

DVD SPECS

ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1 pan and scan
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
RATING: PG
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono)
SUBTITLES: None  
SPECIAL FEATURES: None

THE SET-UP

The true story of how an Italian Catholic priest helped smuggle Jews out of German-occupied Italy.
Produced by: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus
Directed by: Alexander Ramati

THE DELIVERY

Alexander Ramati directs this adaptation of his own documentary novel of the same name. Unfortunately, the film is directed in such a pedestrian, documentary style that no tension is able to build and viewers never truly have their emotions stirred. Ramati should have given the director’s chair to someone more seasoned.

While Ramati’s direction needs much to be desired, the story itself is interesting enough to warrant a watch. I was really surprised by the turn of events depicted, and I’m not talking about the Germans losing. Fans of World War II films will enjoy this take of the war behind enemy lines. The power of the story really comes to the forefront later in the film, making it worth your time. You also find out what happened to the real people involved, which I always appreciate in films based on true stories.  

Ben Cross is effective as Padre Rufino, and he has some great talent around him, including the great James Mason (in one of his final roles) and Maximilian Schell. The script is good, and stays true to the facts, but I found it difficult to keep up with all of the different supporting characters. The film was actually made in Assisi, and the production value seems high, but it doesn’t deliver the emotional impact you hope for.

Assisi Underground

VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video quality is surprisingly below standard. Films in the “Limited Edition Collection” usually feature less-than-ideal video transfers, because better masters are not available. For a film made in the mid-1980s, however, the print used to make the video master should have been a higher quality than this. At times, the picture seems like a second generation VHS tape. The image is very soft with little detail. It is also a pan and scan from a reported 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which is unforgivable. The audio is listed as Dolby Digital 2.0 from a mono soundtrack. Voices are fairly easy to hear, but more clarity would have been nice for such a talky movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES

None.

BUY IT OR NETFLIX IT?

RATINGS  
MOVIE: B-
VIDEO: C-
AUDIO: C-
EXTRAS: D
OVERALL GRADE: C

The Assisi Underground
should have been a riveting film, but you can lay the fault at the director for not crafting a tighter, more suspenseful story. Given the subject matter, it is definitely worth a rent, even with the film’s flaws and a low-grade audio and video presentation. By the end of the film, I was glad I watched it, which is something I cannot say for many other films.

I wouldn’t pay full retail to purchase this film, but if you can find it on sale, it might be a good buy if you are a true fan of the movie. I could see teachers or professors purchasing a copy to show in class as part of a curriculum, because it stays very true to the facts. Hopefully in the future, this film will get a better, widescreen video transfer and some special features.

The Assisi Underground is now available from online retailers through MGM/Fox Home Entertainment.

Click here to order The Assisi Underground from Amazon.