HomeReviewsSavant Blu-ray Review: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1920)

Savant Blu-ray Review: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1920)

Francesco Rosi’s Many Wars Ago (Uomino contro, “Men Against,” 1970) is often compared to Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957) for its passionate condemnation of World War I trench warfare.

Both films utilize formal techniques to underscore the inhumanity and absurdity of war.

While Paths of Glory takes a less detached approach than Kubrick’s later works, Many Wars Ago exhibits a more overt, blistering anger towards war.

Blu-ray Review: Many Wars Ago

Many Wars Ago vividly portrays the fury of war through pulsing movement and blasting sound, emphasizing chaos over individuality.

The film’s kinetic assaults on the senses are reminiscent of Rosi’s earlier work, The Moment of Truth (Il momento della verità, 1965), where visual forcefulness conveys a controversial message.

While the film does focus on individual characters, it often deemphasizes the humanity of the soldiers, portraying them as mere masses of flesh and metal.

Attempts by soldiers to assert themselves often result in harsh consequences.

The film is based on the novel Un anno sull’altipiano (“A Year on the High Plateau,” 1938) by Italian soldier Emilio Lussu, drawing from his experiences in World War I.

It depicts skirmishes between the Italian army and Austro-Hungarian forces in mountainous terrain, where the Austrians hold the upper hand with their advantageous positions and powerful weaponry, leading to repeated futile attempts by the Italian forces.

General Leone, a commanding figure in the film, exhibits imperious leadership and an erratic style, contributing to his forces’ thinning.

He rules with an iron fist, taking extreme measures for even minor mistakes.

His irrational strategic decisions, such as sending troops on impossible missions, highlight his crazed demeanor.

An absurd scene involves Leone outfitting soldiers in medieval-style armor for a futile mission, reflecting his erratic leadership style.

Many Wars Ago
Many Wars Ago

Francesco Rosi’s depiction of war in “Many Wars Ago” emphasizes the lack of agency beyond General Leone and the institutional forces supporting him.

The film’s protagonists, Lt. Sassu and Lt. Ottolenghi, are depicted as having little chance against this institutional behemoth.

Sassu, representing author Lussu, exhibits a resigned demeanor, while Ottolenghi’s hope for mutiny proves ultimately futile.

The narrative’s absence of moral order or ironic justice is starkly evident.

“Many Wars Ago” provides a wearying and frustrating experience due to its content and form.

The film’s nightmarishly constructed scenes of sound and fury on the battlefield prevent the audience from becoming numb to the repeated decimations of the Italian army.

General Leone, as the villain, is not the primary target of Rosi’s critique; instead, he symbolizes a dehumanizing institution.

The film is acknowledged as a challenging and stomach-turning war film.

Raro Video’s Blu-ray release of “Many Wars Ago” marks its debut in Region 1/A.

While the transfer has commendable aspects, it’s framed in a non-theatrical 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which may be a point of contention for some viewers.

The high-definition transfer, sourced from a reversal print, offers a clean image with reasonable detail but exhibits fluctuating color consistency and a faded appearance.

Despite these shortcomings, the digital transfer is praised for its minimal damage and absence of excessive digital filtering.

Many Wars Ago
Many Wars Ago

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track effectively manages the wide range of volume in the film.

While the intensified battle sound effects may come across as slightly harsh, this is intentionally designed to create a specific impact.

Additionally, the inclusion of English subtitles is optional.

Raro’s disc includes the following special features:

  • Interview with director Francesco Rosi (28 minutes) Rosi, now 91, is exceptionally sharp and engaging, recalling all sorts of specific details about the film’s production. He talks about wanting to make a film with a message after the fairy tale of More Than a Miracle (C’era una volta, “Once Upon a Time,” 1967). He discusses the contrasting reactions Many Wars Ago provoked and bits of production trivia.
  • Before and after restoration demonstration (2 minutes) Side-by-side comparison of select shots.
  • PDF of the original screenplay, only accessible on a computer with a Blu-ray disc drive.
  • 20-page booklet with Lorenzo Codelli’s essay, Rosi’s notes, excerpts from positive and negative critical reviews, and biographical information.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Raro Video’s Many Wars Ago Blu-ray rates:

The film (out of ****): ***1/2

Film Elements Sourced: **1/2

Video Transfer: **

Audio: ***

New Extra Features: **

Extra Features Overall: **

Raro Video

1970 / Color / 1:33:1 / 101 min / $34.95

Also, see Budd Boetticher: A Maverick Voice from the Past

Ashish Maharjan
Ashish Maharjan
Ashish, a seasoned editor and author for World Cinema Paradise, intricately weaves creativity with precision in his writing, establishing himself as a prolific content creator. Renowned for clarity and captivating storytelling, Ashish has cultivated a devoted readership, driven by his unwavering passion for words and commitment to excellence.

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