Review: The Fifth Cord

Blu-ray: The Fifth Cord (1971)

Alcoholic, ‘troubled’, journalist lush Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) is at a swish Italian nightclub spying on his ex-wife and casting his somewhat voyeuristic glance over the assembled Bohemian middle class as they snog and sway to what is possibly one of the oddest film scores I’ve ever heard (by Ennio Morricone).

On his way home, one of the bright young things get smashed over the head by an unknown assailant in a tunnel (nothing like Irreversible unfortunately). Convinced this is a murder attempt by the victim, Bild is assigned to the case by his boss.

The much lauded The Fifth Cord is not the masterpiece a lot of people would have you believe. It’s style over substance and that substance is so protracted I shouted “HURRY UP” at the screen more than once. People crawl across floors, crawl up grassy banks, and wander around attempting to ‘escape’ the masked killer at a snail’s pace.

This is an Italian film, but that’s no excuse.

The killer him/herself records audio diary-style the reasons for killing, that although may be seen as quirky, is in fact all pseudo clap trap.

Nero is quite stylishly dishevelled (that Mac!) and although a little blurry eyed (and what eyes…sigh), he’s just so incredibly handsome his presumed troubled and world-weary persona just doesn’t ring true. When he himself is suspected of the crimes the pace slows up even more.  Eager to clear his name, he shouts a bit and is mean to all the women in his life.

In the extras (of which there are many, this being an Arrow release) Nero obviously likes this film a lot and claims it is a really ‘classy’ noir. The actual look of the film is very interesting, a snapshot of early 70’s Italy, with some seemingly good performances. Nero is always intense and supremely watchable, as is the glorious Silvia Monti, but the story itself (based on a UK novel set in Scotland) is protracted and I have to admit, I was longing to fast forward through much of it.

The plinky plonky Morricone soundtrack was hugely distracting and I think unintentional (it wasn’t disturbing, just plain annoying) and watching first in Italian, then settling on English was also distracting as Nero was speaking in English, with an Italian accent, while some other actors were dubbed (badly), or not dubbed, and there was a lot of ‘their mouth is moving but nothing is coming out’.

For me The Fifth Cord is a rather lacklustre noir (and I did wonder if I was missing the point as it’s so loved by critics), but surprisingly doesn’t fail as a thriller as I did not guess the identity of the killer. In fact after a really long chase (reeeaaaalllly long) when the killer is revealed I was pleasantly surprised. Having said that, personally this did not impress me and its only saving grace was getting to see Franco Nero wear a cool mac and roll around a bit on a bed.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
  • English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • New audio commentary by critic Travis Crawford
  • Lines and Shadows, a new video essay on the film’s use of architecture and space by critic Rachael Nisbet
  • Whisky Giallore, a new video interview with author and critic Michael Mackenzie
  • Black Day for Nero, a new video interview with actor Franco Nero
  • The Rhythm Section, a new video interview with film editor Eugenio Alabiso
  • Rare, previously unseen deleted sequence, restored from the original negative
  • Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kat Ellinger and Peter Jilmstad

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Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films via Fetch Publicity.