Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Italian Rarities: Vitti, Mangano, Sordi x 2 + Bette Davis !

IL DISCO VOLANTE (THE FLYING SAUCER) Sometimes one has to go back and take another look at something one had dismissed out of hand - thanks to my IMDB pal Jorge's rave review for this 1964 Italian comedy, presumably made for the domestic market - I had never heard of it despite my passion for Monica Vitti and Silvana Mangano - until I got a copy (from another IMDB pal Jerry) last year. It is a throwaway farce with Italy's great comic star Alberto Sordi in several roles. The lunatic plot features a flying saucer which lands in a peasant community in Italy and the havoc it causes. I can see that its attraction now is the cheesy special effects: the saucer, the plastic outfits of the Martians - and the great comic turns it affords Sordi; as the local priest, the lover out in the car with a comic Vitti, the local police commander, and a rather camp nobleman. Mangano is also drolly funny as the peasant woman with a flock of children .... It is a Dino De Laurentiis production, directed by Tinto Brass.
Here is what Jorge says about it: Working with an acidic script by Rodolfo Sonego, Brass takes joyful stabs at the big triumvirate – Church, Family, State –, employs, at first, faux documentary techniques, and then goes full Commedia all’italiana, with some brilliantly funny vignettes, and with a cast to die for (Sordi in four roles, including a gay count very interested in the male aliens, and beauties Silvana Mangano, Monica Vitti and Elonora Rossi Drago in screamingly funny roles). One of film’s absolute highlights are Gianni Polidori’s designs for the saucer, and for the aliens’ costumes, including this sexy one for the female invader (with Sordi taking a peek at her attributes):

it is genuinely (and mordantly) funny. Silvana Mangano as a peasant woman with a handful of small children to take care and no husband to provide (and thinking how to have some profit with the male alien she just kidnapped!), or Monica Vitti maliciously insinuating herself into Sordi (as the police chief) whilst she crochets, are some of the many funny moments. In short: the Martians wish they had landed elsewhere because those Italians won't make their life (and their invasion) easy!

THE SCIENTIFIC CARDPLAYER (LO SCOPONE SCIENTIFICO). An Italian oddity from 1972, featuring 2 Americans and 2 Italian stars, in a so-so comedy about card-playing, directed by Luigi Comencini. Each year a rich old lady – Bette Davis, for it is she – arrives in a small Italian town with her companion Joseph Cotton (on autopilot here) to play cards with local poor couple Peppino and Antonia (Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano). Each year the couple dream of winning but the old lady always outwits them. This year though things are different – the poor couple are on a winning streak and keep winning, but the rich old lady will not give up and wants to keep on playing, even when supposedly at death's door, doubling up the bet each time. Peppino and Antonia will be ruined if they lose …. It is amusing and keeps the attention, as the whole village gets involved, along with their 5 children. Davis though dubbed is still very Bette – it is in Italian with English subtitles and the there is a neat play-off at the end. Interesting to see Davis and Cotton together again twenty years plus after BEYOND THE FOREST! Sordi and Mangano shine in two well-developed roles, he of course was terrific in those early Fellini's like I VITELLONI and THE WHITE SHIEK, and those comedies like TWO NIGHTS WITH CLEOPATRA with the young Loren, or NERO'S LOST WEEKEND or LA FATE (also reviewed, Italian label), among so many others.
1972 was a busy year for Bette in Europe - she also made MADAME SIN in England and did that lecture/Q&A session at London's National Film Theatre, which I attended - as per my report to Davis label.

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