Italian Cinema under Fascism

Mario Soldati – Malombra (1942)


Like Piccolo mondo antico, Malombra is a film set in a grandiose, but a bit crowded aristocratic house, which is itself squashed between the beautiful, but deadly see, and the stolid, un-romantic mountains. A claustrophobic space with no escapes, a space of directionless hauntings and self-induced psychosis. Also, of course, a space of late, musty fascism. The reality of the second world war and the twilight of the Mussollini era is never directly alluded to, but it seems to penetrate all walls, clothes, the flesh itself. Read More »

Mario Camerini – Il signor Max AKA Mister Max (1937)


Vittorio De Sica, heir to a large sum of money and owner of a newspaper vending stall, makes enough money out of his business to take a vacation at a fashionable resort. He is given a cruise ticket by an aristocrat who is an old school friend, and is mistaken for the aristocrat when he uses a camera that has his friends name on it. Assia Noris plays a maid who falls in love with him because of who he is and not who others think he is.

Remade as Il Conte Max with Alberto Sordi in the De Sica role and the latter as the uncle. Read More »

Giuseppe Amato & Vittorio De Sica – Rose scarlatte AKA Scarlet roses (1940)


Respectable bourgeois wife (Renee Saint-Cyr) turns out a mysterious bunch of scarlet roses and yields to temptation of adultery. Vittorio de Sica’s director debut (with supervision by Giuseppe Amato); light but already a little bitter comedy based on skillful Aldo de Benedetti’s stage hit. Naturally, superstar De Sica playing the main role himself – and is on the top of his charm here.
Sadly, there is only Spanish theatrical release (from that time), with Spanish dubbing and titles. Read More »

Mario Camerini – I grandi magazzini aka Department Store (1939)


Romance between a saleswoman and a driver of the Department Store. Charged with a petty theft, she is blackmailed by the chief of staff to enjoy her favors, but the driver, after doubting her, discovers the real culprits. Read More »

Mario Camerini – Il Cappello a tre punte aka Three Cornered Hat (1934)



Also known as Three-Cornered Hat, this Italian comedy is based on a Spanish folk tale, which had previously been adapted as a ballet by Manuel de Filla. Director Mario Camerini and his team of screenwriters have refashioned the material as a vehicle for the popular De Filipo brothers, Peppino and Eduardo. The story is a mistaken-identity affair, predicated on the fact that a pompous governor is the exact look-alike of a poor miller. Much of the fun is derived from the efforts to pass off the miller’s homely wife as the governor’s gorgeous spouse. Described by one Mario Camerini devotee as “pretty, noisy and accomplished,” ‘Il Cappell a Tre Punte’ was filmed in 1934, and released in the U.S. two years later. Read More »

Vittorio De Sica – Teresa Venerdì (1941)


Plot Synopsis from

Doctor Beware was the U.S.-released title of Vittorio DeSica’s 1941 effort Teresa Venerdi. DeSica not only directed, but played the leading role of orphanage official Dr. Vignali. The thinnish storyline finds the good doctor becoming romantically involved with three women. It is up to orphaned girl Teresa Venerdi (Adriana Benedetti) to untangle all the plot lines–and, as a bonus, to come to the financial rescue of the improvident Vignali. When the film was released to the U.S. in 1951, supporting actress Anna Magnani, cast in a secondary role as one of Dr. Vignali’s amours, was given star billing. Read More »

Roberto Rossellini – La vispa Teresa (1939)


Scalera had obtained backing for a series of animal shorts and needed someone to make them. Roberto plunged in enthusiastically. He arrived at Ladispoli with animals of all sorts distributed among pockets and cages and started sixteen documentaries, no less, all at once. A slew of titles were annouced. La foresta silenziosa (“The quiet forest”), Primavera (“Spring”), Re Travicello, and La merca; and perhaps ll brutto idraulico (“The ugly plumber”). Fellini recalls finding Roberto at Scalera kneeling under small reflectors. “Inside a small enclosure made of nets and rope were a turtle, two mice, and three or four roaches. He was shooting a documentary about insects [La vispa Teresa?], doing one frame a day, very complex and laborious, with great patience.”
“He kept shooting for months,” Fellini adds, probably with his customary exaggeration. For in fact Roberto’s enthusiasm flagged quickly. Read More »