|Nilde Baracchi and Marcel Fabre|
You can see Marcel’s elevator pitch: baby survives disaster at sea and is brought up by monkeys, leaving their island after growing up without a tail he makes his way in adventurous society with his simian skills and outrageous fortune! Who wouldn’t buy that? Certainly not the studio bosses in Turin…
|A city for Beavers... deep-sea diving troops|
Hang onto your blog-reading hats for a plot summation that is itself a high-wire act combining supposition, badly-translated Italian and guess-work.
|Look, no tail!|
They raise Farandola as one of their own until, fully grown they cast him out for his lack of tail. Harsh perhaps but they’re understandably feeling short-changed after devoting the best years of their lives to his upbringing. Distraught the man-child makes a raft and rows away from the island being eventually picked up by the crew of a passing ship, the Bella Leocadia.
|The new captain|
Faranadola begins an extraordinary sequence of adjustments to his new society. Pirates attack the ship taking the men as prisoners onto land where, at their leader’s instruction, they have an “orgy” (more like a booze-up but I’m not really an expert). Farandola frees himself and leads the counter-attack, defeating the drunken sailors and ending up getting himself appointed as captain.
The Wizard of Aus: The next episode hoves into view with Farandola and his new love, Mysora (Nilde Baracchi) deep-sea diving. They explore a Méliès-ian underwater world of giant-sized gold fish, random shrimps and a large paper mache whale that proceeds to swallow Mysora whole. Distraught, Farandola tries to row after the whale but it easily evades capture…
A press report reveals that the whale has run aground and been captured by an Australian scientist. Now, I’m not so sure how qualified this man is because when Farandola’s shipmate is expelled from the whales mouth and climbs out of the tank, the aquatic academic thinks she might be a new species and resolves to keep her for examination.
|The mad professor fights to keep his prize exhibit...|
|The famous Amazons of old Siam...|
Mysora becomes the prisoner of an evil advisor and Farandola and his men get captured after their attempt to find the precious pachyderm is uncovered. They escape only to be re-captured and stuck in barrels. But, through judicious mix of feminine wiles and opium (!?), Mysora manages to get them released and they float their way to safety… returning the elephant to the king who is mightily impressed gifting them with gold coins.
Death on the Nile: Off next to Africa where a hunting trip to the Nile is disturbed by the sight of two women being held captive by nasty natives. Rather ingeniously, Farandola shoots two bears (who must have wandered a little too far south) and uses their skins to disguise himself and Mysora as they storm the camp and rescue the girls. After evading the rest of the angry tribe, Farandola puts on a spiked hunting suit to wrestle a lion to the death and then rescues the three women from kidnap by gorillas… He speaks their language you see…
|We're not really bears at all!|
Mild spoilers... The splendid climax involves a balloon battle high amongst the clouds… an impressively-bleak vision of the War to come. Fogg has taken Mysora and Farandola has to fight through the skies to save her… Will he win the day and return to introduce his wife to his real family on their strange island in the sea…?
The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola is great value and whilst any missing the missing footage would make things a little clearer the story is pretty easy to follow… well certainly the second time round!
It’s packed full of invention and energy and co-director Luigi Maggi deserves great credit for not just holding Fabre’s imagination under control but making narrative sense of the frenetic adventures. There are many great shots from cinematographer Ottavio De Matteis and, considering how close this film is to the “tableau” era, it shows how free Turino cinema could be in support of a more pastoral photoplay.
|A whale and a horse.|
Albert Robida's book is available from Amazon and contains even more twists and turns than the above film: conquering Australia with Captain Nemo and traveling to Saturn for starters!