DVD Review: The Climber | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Climber

Studio: Arrow Video

May 26, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Seventies cinema exuded cool, and no one exuded cool better than former Warhol Superstar Joe Dallesandro. With his chiseled good looks and his detached attitude, it’s not a surprise that Italian director Pasquale Squitieri chose him to star in The Climber, a story about Aldo, a young, ambitious criminal mastermind who isn’t afraid to take on the local Mafia bosses.

Aldo, we soon learn, is an Italian-American who had relocated from New York to live with his mother. He’s eking out a living working for Don Enrico, the local Mob boss, whilst scamming Enrico’s customers here and there for extra cash. Enrico soon learns of this and has his henchmen severely beat Aldo and run him out of Naples. After coming to on the side of a country highway, he wanders to a nearby gas station, and there he meets Luciana (Stefania Casini), who agrees to take him to Rome. When he arrives, he meets up with his cousin, and soon Aldo is involved with a scam artist, who sets him up with a score.

Aldo thinks he’s stealing diamonds from a Dutch deliveryman—a crime he never intends to complete, as his plan was to keep the diamonds for himself. He soon learns that he’s just stolen a large amount of heroin from the Mob—an act with grave consequences, as it’s soon discovered that he has once again meddled in the affairs of Don Enrico. Instead of meeting his demise, Enrico offers him a deal—return the drugs, tell them who he was working for, and they might let him off. Aldo goes one better and offers to return the drugs and will kill the local boss if he lets him go.

After he murders the local boss, he decides to take over his enterprise, and begins collecting on old debts and loans, whilst building up an army of men. His goal: to return to Naples and take over Don Enrico’s territory. It’s a bloody but brief war, and Aldo soon accomplishes his goal—but it winds up costing him much more than he anticipated, resulting in great tragedy and eventual self-destruction.

Dallesandro took the role to stay in Italy after finishing production on a few Warhol productions. He had tired of the American underground cinema scene, and believed—foolishly in hindsight, but understandable at the time—that an American underground film star could not cross over into legitimate film work, and that by making a name for himself in Europe was perhaps more likely. One watches The Climber and can certainly think it’s a hip, underground foreign film, but in reality, it was a big-budget film compared to his previous cinematic work. Furthermore, it was an important stepping stone for him—he would, in fact, soon start making more mainstream films, and on his return to the States, he would begin to receive offers for lucrative mainstream work.

The Climber is a good film, even if it is somewhat formulaic, but what it lacks in quality, it makes up for in sheer coolness. It looks fantastic, has a fabulous score—one that varies between Italian progressive rock and American Soul—and is certainly a delight to watch. That’s okay; not every film need be an intellectual challenge.


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