Posted May 16, 2017 by Chris Hick in Film Reviews

The Climber (1975) DVD Review

If after viewing the Italian film The Climber (1975) it seems all too familiar that’s because the film was the basis for Brian de Palma’s Scarface (1983). The plot is virtually the same, only the locations have now changed. The film opens on the docks of Naples with a young hustler called Aldo (Joe Dallesandro) having arrived from the United States to Italy from an American father and an Italian mother. He becomes involved and falls fowl of local mobster Ciriaco (Benito Artesi) who runs the hoods in Naples. Aldo gets caught up in scrape after scrape but sees his opportunity to rise the gangland ladder in selling drugs. He is given support by his lover (real life lover Stefania Casini) and gathers a gang of young bikers around him. They begin to undercut and wipe out Ciricao but of course as high flying as Aldo becomes the more dangerous it becomes for him.

The Climber stars former Andy Warhol pin-up star Joe Dallesandro. Dallesandro, an underground super star who had appeared in some of Warhol’s biggest films, usually playing street hustlers, starting out as a 20-year-old in Flesh (1968), as well as appearing in Trash (1970) and Heat (1972). He appeared and starred in 9 films for Warhol and his director Paul Morrissey. Dallesandro was born in Florida. As a teenager he was in all sorts of scrapes getting himself in trouble with the police for car thefts. The last two Warhol/Morrissey films Dallesandro appeared in were the two horror features made in Europe, Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula (both 1974). He was spotted and approached by the writer and director of the film that became known as The Climber (released in Italy as L’ambizioso), Pasquale Squitieri who in an interview on the disc Dallesandro describes the director as an eccentric character who once greeted him at his hotel door with a gun. Dallesandro continued acting in European films throughout the decade.

As this is a 1970s film you can expect to see plenty of boobs, fake gooey red blood, flares and violence. Dallesandro oozes the pimp street hustler image one came to expect of him (in real life he was bi-sexual). He has become an icon of the decade, even for those who have never heard of him. He was the bulging crotch of a pair of jeans for The Rolling Stones 1971 album cover, ‘Sticky Fingers’ designed by Andy Warhol, as well as being mentioned in Lou Reed’s classic song, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ (“Little Joey once gave it away, looking for some food and a place to stay. A hustle here, a hustle there…”). The acting too is average throughout and the direction of the violence not well constructed but the film has an energy to it that makes it easy to understand why it was one day morph into Scarface. I would also note as a word of advice to watch the film in its original Italian language for although Dallesandro is an American and is dubbed, he is also dubbed on the English language track making the acting throughout seem even worse.

The only significant extra is a 28 minute interview with Dallesandro who mostly talks about his career in Europe throughout the 1970s rather than solely on The Climber. Once again, an interesting choice from Arrow Video.

Chris Hick

Chris Hick