“Little Joe never once gave it away, everybody had to pay and pay. A hustle here and a hustle there…”
Joe Dallesandro is of course immortalized in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” he graces the cover of the self-titled album by The Smiths, and his “package” is on The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album. He got his big break when he was discovered by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey during the shooting of Four Stars. He soon became an underground star with Warhol’s iconic trilogy of films about male prostitution: Flesh, Trash, and Heat. Dallesandro soon got some overground attention through his roles in Morrissey/Warhol’s biggest films, Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula, which both ended up being smash hits in Europe.
Given the success of his last two films and with Warhol pretty much starting to wrap up his movie-making enterprise, his final film as producer would be Andy Warhol’s Bad in 1977. Dallesandro was already at his point getting steady work in Europe, mainly France and Italy, and would remain there till the turn of the decade. He did try to draft out a Hollywood career, but other than a couple of notable small roles it never went anywhere.
The Climber is one of those post-Warhol European films, a feature that Dallesandro did in the mid-’70s, this time in Italy. It’s one of many Italian crime films in which he took roles. It’s a pretty unremarkable film in every way, from the performances to the cinematography and the story, which is very much a rehash of the classic rise and fall gangster story. Dallesandro plays the lead, Aldo, who is left for dead after he tries to rip off a small-time gangster. Soon enough, Aldo is creating his own motorcycle-based group to get his revenge.
Unfortunately, it’s a total bore, despite promises that it could be this great ’70s crime film. All the characters have absolutely nothing interesting about them, from the very beginning to the very end. The film was directed by Pasquale Squitieri, whose most well-known film is I Am the Law. It might be great, but I’ve never seen it. On the back of The Climber, however, I’m not rushing out to find it. The film is also dubbed in English and Italian, and neither have Little Joe supplying his own voice, much to his own annoyance.
The sole extra on the disc, however, is fantastic: it’s Dallesandro in a Daniel Johnson T-shirt speaking very candidly about his time with Warhol and his adventures making films in Europe during the ’70s. He did work with some real auteurs, like Walerian Borowczyk and Louis Malle in France, although he stuck to genre stuff in Italy.