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.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Ghosts of Rome / Phantoms of Rome, 1961

That's 500 posts done! So, to start the next 500, back to that early '60s Italy for another discovery - FANTASMI A ROMA: PHANTOMS (or GHOSTS) OF ROME, a very amusing comedy which I had never heard of - but there it is on YouTube, all 93 minutes, but I had to have it for myself so have ordered a copy - I can practice my Italian on it as there are no subitles, but that does not stop one's pleasure in watching this great cast at their peaks: Marcello Mastroianni - after LA DOLCE VITA, Vittorio Gassman, the great Edouardo de Filippio, Sandra Milo - and fitting in nicely, Belinda Lee again in one of her last roles.

I think its quite an achievement for Belinda to have become part of the booming Italian movie scene of the late 50s and early 60s - I can't think of any other English actress who did, particularly a glamorous one! not only in the popular peplums (sword and sandal movies) of the time but also comedies likes this and dramas like THE LONG NIGHT OF '43 [reviewed below here...] with the leading Italian actors of the day; and of course she was also in that French LE DRAGUEURS in 1959 (reviewed at Belinda and French labels).

A whimsical fantasy with bite, the story follows Don Annibale (De Filippo), the elderly Prince happily sharing his crumbling palazzo with the ghosts he knows are there of his ancestors. They include Reginaldo (Mastroianni), a two-bit Casanova from the eighteenth century; Flora (Sandra Milo), a doomed romantic from a few generations later who drowned herself after an unfortunate love affair; and Father Bartolomeo (Tino Buazzelli), a greedy monk who died after eating poisoned meatballs intended for rats. The child of 10 ghost is the older brother of De Filippo now in his 70s, who died when De Filippo was 6!

De Filippo soon joins them after an unfortunate accident. His nephew, Federico (Mastroianni again in one of his 3 roles ) turns up with his stroppy girlfriend, Eileen (Belinda Lee), and they intend to sell the palazzo to a developer who wants to build a department store on the site. The ghosts are rather upset with this turn of events, and decide to do their best to stop the developers’ plans. Then they co-opt the ghost of a renaissance artist (Vittorio Gassman) to paint a fresco in the attic, hoping that when it’s discovered the building will be declared a place of historical interest and therefore subject to a conservation order. It is an amusing satire on the booming new Italy of the '60s and the ghosts with their grey pallor and period costumes interact amusingly with the modern cast. Lee is amusing as the brassy girlfriend of the modern Mastroianni while ghostly Marcello, a rather camp Casanova, watches her bathe. . A lot of the comedy comes from the ghosts' attempts to come to grips with the modern life which is increasingly encroaching on their world.

It is nicely photographed by Giuseppe Rotunno (THE LEOPARD, AMARCORD etc. etc.) and has lovely art direction. Director Antonio Pietrangeli’s direction is spot on, and the ghosts are beguiling creatures, for which credit is due to Mastroianni, Gassman, and Milo. This must never have played in London or I would have known about it, but it is a nice discovery now, as I track down more Italian rarities with those players I like. All that's missing here is Vittorio De Sica!

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