Sacco & Vanzetti – Blu-ray Review

4 Stars Historical docudrama debuts on Blu-ray

Before turning to the director’s chair in his native Italy, Giuliano Montaldo got his first big break in the movie business when Carlo Lizzani chose him for a leading role in the WWII movie Attention! Bandits! (1951). After a few more acting appearances and serving time as an assistant director on a few films for Lizzani and Gillo Pontecorvo, Montaldo first attracted international attention with films like The Reckless (1965), Grand Slam (1967) and Machine Gun McCain (1969). At the start of the 1970’s, he turned his attention to making a film of the notorious case of Sacco & Vanzetti. Kino has licensed the movie for its home video debut on both DVD and Blu-ray in America.

Sacco & Vanzetti (1971)
Released: 16 Mar 1971
Rated: GP
Runtime: 125 min
Director: Giuliano Montaldo
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Riccardo Cucciolla, Cyril Cusack
Writer(s): Fabrizio Onofri, Giuliano Montaldo, Mino Roli
Plot: One of the most polarizing trials in U.S. history unfolds in this riveting docudrama. Boston, 1920. Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, known for their anarchist beliefs, stand accused of robbery and murder.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, Other
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 2 Hr. 5 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 05/03/2022
MSRP: $29.99

The Production: 4.5/5

In 1920, shoemaker Nicola Sacco (Riccardo Cucciolla) and fishmonger Bartolomeo Vanzetti (Gian Maria Volonté) are arrested for murders of a security guard and paymaster and the armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts. As their trial unfolds during the Red Scare sweeping across the country, their anarchist beliefs are used as evidence against them, more so than the actual evidence of the crime itself. Despite the spirited – and often times attention grabbing – defense of their attorney Fred H. Moore (Milo O’Shea), the duo are sentenced to die in the electric chair, but their final agony may just be their triumph.

As one of the more underrated docudramas made during the 1970’s, Sacco & Vanzetti handles its subject matter very well. Director Giuliano Montaldo has a solid handle on the pace as well as the story of the real life trial; even the trial scenes have a sense of vitality that’s usually missing from most courtroom dramas. With the real life locations having changed drastically in the half century since the case, Dublin fills in for 1920’s Massachusetts wonderfully along with the surrounding locales. However, given the complexity of the real life trial, the film isn’t always a true factual account of the case (a TV mini-series would likely best the best way to truly capture that), but the film is directed and acted with such vim and vigor that that one sticking point can be forgiven. A nicely done account of one of America’s most notorious and controversial criminal trials of the 20th Century, Sacco & Vanzetti succeeds in shining a light on a case that still provokes discussion even today.

Reuniting with director Montaldo following Grand Slam (1967), Riccardo Cucciolla gives likely the best performance of his career as Nicola Sacco; he was honored with a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival of 1971 for this film. As Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Gian Maria Volonté gives an equally potent performance that ranks among his best; this came just a year after his best performance as a murderous policeman in Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. Among supporting performances, Milo O’Shea makes for a bombastic Fred H. Moore, while Cyril Cusack is more restrained yet no less potent as district attorney Frederick Katzmann; as the main female lead, Rosanna Fratello gives an impassioned performance as Sacco’s wife Rosa. Notably filling out the cast are Geoffrey Keen as Judge Webster Thayer, William Prince as attorney William Thompson, Edward Jewesbury as Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller and John Harvey as US Attorney General Mitchell Palmer.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio for this release. Gray scale in the opening and closing scenes and overall color palette and fine details are faithfully presented; the newsreel footage integrated into the film is also faithfully represented as well. There’s minimal cases of issues like scratches, tears, or dirt present – outside of the archival footage – meaning that this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.

Audio: 5/5

Both English and Italian audio tracks are presented on DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for this release. Dialogue, sound mix and Ennio Morricone score (with songs “The Ballad of Sacco & Vanzetti” and “Here’s to You” performed by Joan Baez) are all faithfully presented with clarity and strength with minimal cases of flutter, hissing, distortion, crackling or popping present. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 3/5

Commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox – Recorded for this release, Cox shares some information on the film, the cast and crew and the real life case that inspired, although there are some long stretches of silence between bits of info.

Theatrical Trailer (1:38)

Bonus KLSC Trailers – Illustrious Corpses, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More & Grand Slam

Overall: 4/5

Receiving solid critical notices upon first release, Sacco & Vanzetti is an underrated gem of a film looking at one of the most polarizing trials in American history. Kino has delivered a solid release of the movie with a decent HD transfer and an informative commentary track as its main special feature. Highly recommended. Sacco & Vanzetti: Giuliano Montaldo, Gian Maria Volontè, Riccardo Cucciolla, Milo O’Shea, Cyril Cusack, William Prince, Geoffrey Keen, Claude Mann: Movies & TV

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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Jack P

Senior HTF Member
Apr 15, 2006
Real Name
Those who see anything regarding this trial would be advised to know that in 2006, papers of Upton Sinclair revealed that Fred Moore confessed to him that his clients were guilty.

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