Now that we finally have an English-language presentation of Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Argento's least seen, most elusive film remains his 1973 historical comedy Le Cinque Giornate or The Five Days of Milan. The film, about the people of Milan battling against Austrian occupation was made exclusively for Italian audiences so no English dub was ever created for the export market, and at the time of writing, no English-language DVD has surfaced, strange considering Argento's considerable fan base. Le Cinque Giornate, like Cronenberg's Fast Company is an anomaly in the Argento cannon, and after the film was met with a lukewarm response by Italian audiences, Argento would return to the type of films he made his name with in 1969 with Bird With the Crystal Plumage. So is the film, any good ? Well, yes, it is. Even without the benefit of knowing what's going on The Five Days of Milan is quite an enjoyable romp...
Set around the mid-19th Century, The Five Days of Milan follows the adventures of two miss-matched buddies as they wander the streets of war torn Milan... The major criticism of the film, put down to Argento and his co-author Luigi Cozzi's mishandling of comedy, is fair enough - the sequence where our two heroes are in a panic when they have to deliver a baby is just plain silly, and that the action is speeded up, Keystone cops style shows a desperation on Argento's part about his material.
Still, its not all played for laughs, there's a sequence where a crowd of peasants are ruthlessly massacred (including a striking shot of a child at his fallen mother's side) and the film does move at a fair pace over its 2-hour length with its impeccable period design, and the big crowd scenes, there's much to enjoy. Argento's direction is solid, his camera always roving and moving in on the action, and the film looks particularly gorgeous, shot in Cinemascope by Deep Red cameraman Luigi Kuveiller. By the way, Euro Cult fans should look for among the cast, the boyish good looks of Salvatore Baccaro, otherwise known as The Beast In the Heat
Watching the film, you get the impression that Argento had probably seen The Leopard a few times for inspiration, and naturally, there are shades of Leone, and there's a nice bit of Fellini grotesqerie in a sequence where a countess has a moment of sexual liberation amid the murder and mayhem of battle and gangbangs a troup of peasants. Also one wonders if Argento was pre-occupied with A Clockwork Orange at the time - dropped in among the traditional musical cues are moog-versions of Beethoven, à la Wendy Carlos; and there's a home-invasion style rape with similar camera angles to the famous scene in Kubrick's film.
Eagle Pictures' Italian DVD Le Cinque Giornate is excellent, presenting the film with a nice sharp 2:35 image. Audio is in Italian only and sadly there are no English subtitles provided. The sole extra here is a trailer. Until an English-language DVD surfaces, this is the best way to see this Argento rarity, so if you're game and you've got a few words of Italian, the disc is worth picking up.