Blutiger Freitag, a.k.a. Violenza contro la violenza (1972, Rolf Olsen)
by Fabio Pucci
Three years before the release of Sidney Lumet’s cult film, A Dog Day Afternoon, there was a bloody, Bavarian, February Friday. The press and the police are all anticipating the next move by Heinz, an escaped convict with anarchist convictions played by Raimund Harmstorf – an actor most people will remember (with less beard and even less hair) as the antagonist in two films starring Bud Spencer and directed by Michele Lupo (Lo chiamavano Bulldozer and Uno sceriffo extraterrestre… poco extra e molto terrestre). Along with Heinz, there are an Italian emigrant in Munich, played by Gianni Macchia, the latter’s girlfriend (Christine Böhm), and her brother. A bank heist has been prepared in the smallest detail – but something goes wrong and the bodies pile up, leading to an escape to a cottage in the mountains with some hostages (including Dagmar, a boutique owner played by Daniela Giordano), and to the final showdown.
Based on real events which took place in Munich, in August 1971, Blutiger Freitag (Bloody Friday) is a cult film in Germany yet relatively unknown in Italy. In retrospect it appears as a seminal work; a precursor to many of the Italian film noir efforts (even Giulio Sacchi and his acolytes are not too far from Heinz & co.) with a kinship to Carlo Lizzani’s bandit films of the previous decade and anticipating the previously mentioned Lumet film.
Produced by the Bavarian Divina-Film and Lisa Film and the Rome-based Cineproduzioni Daunia 70 (which in that period was also involved in producing Fernando di Leo’s noir trilogy), Blutiger Freitag was directed by the Viennese Rolf Olsen (a prolific and versatile director in German genre cinema, who would go on to helm a symbolic title of the so-called shockploitation, Shocking Asia), and shooting started on February 8, 1972.
Submitted to the FSK (West Germany’s film revision board) on April 24, 1972, the 2561 metres long film was given a certificate for public screening in the German territory for audiences above 16 years old on May 8, 1972. The versions for foreign markets were all identical to the German one, except for the copy destined to Italy, which features several cuts in the dialogue and considerable changes in a couple of scenes.
The first one is a particularly notorious sequence, and – in its complete form – the film’s most gruesome one: the German version shows a cop being disemboweled by the explosion of a hand grenade, on which he had jumped to save a kid who had unwittingly set it off. The Italian cut reduced the scene to the indispensable minimum, cutting 10 seconds of blood and guts on which Olsen’s camera did not hesitate to linger.
Another difference, even more blatant as it marks a variant in the versions, can be found in the erotic interlude between Heinz and Dagmar, which in both cuts is divided into two parts (which we will call respectively scene #1 and scene #2), separated by an (identical) connecting segment. In the German edition, scene #1 (running 1 minute and 29 seconds) has the bandit kissing the woman impetuously, all over her body, as she moves from rejection to pleasure. As the sexual intercourse begins, the editing takes on a dreamlike form, with a succession of filters and cross dissolves, and a series of close-ups of the protagonists’ faces, images of slaughtered animals and foggy images of sapphic sex (played by body doubles, according to an interview with Daniela Giordano). In scene #2 (36 seconds) the man, after buttoning up his trousers, begins to quarrel with the woman, grabs her by the neck and punches her violently. Her scream, heard in the next room, will provide the starting point for the following scene.
In the Italian edit, the scene is characterized by a darker photography, probably obtained through post-production filters, and depicts an out-and-out rape. Set in a room with white walls, and only barely glimpsed because of the shades and close-up shots, Scene #1 (1m4s) has Harmstorf assault the woman in an aggressive way, tearing her clothes and kissing her violently, until she gives up in his arms. The whole oneiric evolution of the scene is therefore absent, but the actress’ bare breasts (not a body double’s) can be seen only in this version. Scene #2 (37s) is the continuation of what we saw earlier, as sex act passes from passionate tones to more violent ones, and climaxes with the woman being strangled.
Finally, there are further changes in the dubbing, especially concerning the characters played by Gianni Macchia and Daniela Giordano. As regards the former, the dubbing puts his Italian origin in the background, and tones down several lines of dialogue about his emigrant status. On the other hand, Daniela Giordano’s Dagmar is no longer characterized as homosexual, which in the German version is made explicit through some dialogue exchanges in the bank sequences. Those references also provide an explanation for the sapphic flashes during the erotic scene with Harmstorf.
The Italian edition, titled Violenza contro la violenza, was submitted to the Board of censors on November 24, 1972. The fourth section of the Commission of film revision demanded the following cut: “The scene of the rape committed by the gang leader on the boutique owner, precisely from the moment in which he abandons himself to caresses and libidinous kisses on various parts of the woman’s body, to the moment in which the woman, exhausted and worn, kisses him.”. After 62 metres of cuts, the Commission approved and gave the film the authorization with a V.M.14 rating on November 29; the copy was 2630 metres long. The VHS release on the New Pentax label, besides some minor jumps due to the poor state of the print used, presents a fullscreen copy (running 86 minutes and 21 seconds at 25fps speed) of the uncut Italian version, before the censors’ intervention. The German home video versions released before 2017 (namely, the VMP and Astro VHS releases, and the MCP and Best Enterteinment DVDs) present the German cut instead, and their running time (at 25fps) varying between 92m20s and 92m38s, depending on the presence of the Gloria Film logo at the beginning.
In 2015, Subkultur Entertainment launched a crowdfunding for a high-definition home video release of the film. After reaching the projects goal, and while examining the material obtained from Lisa Film, the label noticed that the negative-column was about 5 minutes longer than the restored optical copy (consisting of material from the negative and the interpositive). Having obtained all the material inherent to the film from the production company, Subkultur discovered a box without any annotations which turned out to contain a reel with about 5 minutes of never-before-seen scenes, eliminated by the producers, in at least one case due to censorship issues. Among these, a further variation of the erotic scene stands out: here, the dreamlike evolution included in the German version is shown without any filters nor cross-dissolves. In this form, the scene reveals surprising – and technically hardcore – close-ups, which the visual tamperings of the theatrical version rendered almost impossible to glimpse. What is more, it includes a 2 second coda which reprises the scene between Harmstorf and Giordano.
Among the other discovered scenes, the beginning of the dialogue scene between Macchia (as a gas station attendant) and Rolf Olsen himself (54s), a dialogue between Christine Böhm and Amadeus August (1m29s), the police chasing the bandits before the man on the bicycle is run over (50s), a sentimental dialogue between August and Gila von Weitershausen (35s), the four bandits meeting after the heist, with Macchia exulting (29s) and a slow-motion version of Christine Böhm’s death (8s).
The first disc of the Subkultur release reintegrates these scenes in the theatrical version: the result is the director’s cut (101m31s at 24fps), as originally conceived by Olsen before the tampering on the part of the production and censors. The second disc includes both the German theatrical cut (the same edited in Germany on VHS and DVD, running 96m35s at 24fps), and the Italian theatrical cut, with the cut imposed by the board of censors reinstated (90 minutes at 24fps), all in excellent video quality. The Italian version (which is similar to the New Pentax VHS, without the latter’s frame drops), as specified in the Blu-ray inner notes, was reconstructed using an old telecine of the Italian release as sample copy: a fragment of the pre-restoration copy has been included as the extra.
Special thanks to Peter Jilmstad