Don’t feel a bit sorry for poor Aldo (Joe Dallesandro) in The Climber (L’ambizioso), writer/director Pasquale Squitieri’s slick, sleazy 1975 crime action flick. The guy is so damn stubborn right from the get-go that all his big plans keep exploding in his handsome face thanks to his bull-headed determination to out gangster all the Italian gangsters who’ve ever gangstered. He scores some hefty wins in the material world, but it’s all a façade as the clock is ticking down on him as the bodies pile up.
It’s a great role for Dallesandro although he’s saddled with a derivative script that has him be a complete block-headed goon and most of his opposition be just as dumb or dumber. That said, if you love violent crime dramas with great soul-jazz-rock soundtracks and can flick off your story-starved brain for a spell of mindless violence, this is a pretty solid little movie when all is said and done.
After skimming profits from a Don Enrico’s (Raymond Pellegrin) illegal cigarette take, New York-transplanted Aldo is badly beaten and tossed onto a roadside (ouch). He gets lucky after he’s picked up by a gorgeous redhead named Luciana (Stefania Casini) who takes him to her apartment where he gets lucky a second time when she decides to sleep with him. The next day, he’s off to get revenge against the Don by looking up a guy he used to be partners in crime with in order to plan a heist (that goes wrong, of course). Our non-hero gets away with his ill-gotten gains, but he’s swiped off the street not long afterward and taken to the Don for punishment. “Is this the end of
Well, not quite.
As it turns out, Don Enrico is perhaps ever dumber than Aldo as he makes a last-minute deal with him to kill the creepy guy who gave Aldo and his pal that info for their botched crime. Aldo does the deed and shows up with the stolen goods, but the Don’s second trap fails thanks to fast-thinking Luciana. Temporarily freed from the Don’s clutches and armed with info stolen from the dead man’s safe, Aldo forms a ragtag gang of toughs and killers and gets to blackmailing, then muscling in on assorted properties owned by a lot of folks with connections to the Don. The rest of the film follows classic to current familiar gangster territory to a capital G as Aldo’s fantasy world of guns, girls and guts comes to a not too surprising close.
Squitieri’s eye for outdoor action scenes is great and he manages to mix in motorcycle stunts with gunplay in a thrilling action sequence. There’s also plenty of violence here outside the shootings, so action fans will get their fill for sure. While it’s a par for the course type of exploitation film, there’s some nudity (more male exposure than female flesh is exposed) and very brief shot of a kid watching a fuzzy porn movie that caught me off guard and had me reach for the remote to back up a few frames and do a double-take. That made me feel a lot less sorry for the nasty guy Aldo bumps off for the Don later, by the way.
In terms of picture quality, there’s a bit of grain and muddiness as the beginning, but after the credits, the restoration is pretty solid overall. You get to choose from the original Italian soundtrack in uncompressed PCM mono with optional newly-translated English subtitles or an alternative English-language soundtrack with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. The aforementioned soundtrack by Franco Campanino is good enough to get a disc or have been included as a bonus, but alas, you’ll have to just groove on those tunes as you watch the film.
The sole special feature is Little Joe’s Adventures in Europe, a great recent interview with Joe Dallesandro where he discusses his film career from his start with Andy Warhol to the two infamous Paul Morrissey films (Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula) and much of his career up to the 80’s. Oddly enough, Joe notes his voice was dubbed over in a bunch of his overseas work (this film included) because of his New York accent. Funny how that worked out here, as I think that local accent would have made the English version a bit more entertaining. I opted for the subtitled Italian version the first time out just to get a more authentic flavor. Aldo, his pals and enemies come off just as dumb in either version, of course. Crime doesn’t pay, kids – and even when it does, there’s always those pesky consequences you kind of don’t see coming. Ouch.
Score: B (80%)
Review copy provided by the publisher