Let's be honest, some pre-war films can be a touch… challenging. You don’t always get whisked away by the magic and forget that you’re watching a hundred-year-old film and one that might, actually, just be bad.
It’s supremely condescending to not expect a film of any vintage to entertain and to move you: the techniques may have changed but people haven’t and neither has the drama.
Ultimi giorni di Pompeii, Gli was directed by Eleuterio Rodolfi and Mario Caserini, who also wrote the screenplay based on the famous novel by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. It is one of the last great “tableau” films, so called as they consisted of a series of, often quite intricate, single takes using a largely static camera.
|Fernanda Negri Pouget, Ubaldo Stefani and Vitale Di Stefano|
It is not the breakthrough of the following year’s Cabiria but it must have been one of the pinnacles of this particular form, three years after the stunning L’Inferno raised Italian film's level of ambition many notches higher.
|Eugenia Tettoni Fior|
The story revolves around Glaucus (Ubaldo Stefani) – one of Pompeii’s most eligible, who opens the film walking down the main street with his friend Claudius (Vitale Di Stefano). They are chatted to by a couple of young ladies but Glaucus only has eyes for Jone (Eugenia Tettoni Fior) one of the city’s great beauties.
Against this upper-class backdrop is introduced, a poor blind girl, Nidia (Fernanda Negri Pouget, who maintains her eyes in an excruciating upward tilt for the whole film… method miming!). She sells flowers when she isn’t slaving away at one of the local taverns.
Nidia falls very quickly for her rescuer but she’s quickly in misery following a visit from his true love… and we see her agonising against the curtains while Glaucus and Jone make love down stage.
|We know who Jone would rather be with...|
But Jone is saved by the intervention of Apoecides (Cesare Gani Carini), a Disciple of Arbace who doubts his master’s sincerity. Arabace swears revenge…
|Nidia follows Jone and Glaucus|
Nidia goes to Arabace for help – surely a love potion can help win her the heart of her master? Seeing a way of killing two birds with one stone, the priest makes plans…
|Caught in the storm|
After they have left, Arabace arrives looking for that love potion and the aggrieved witch concocts a brew that will rob Glaucus of all reason…
|The scene of the crime...|
He is duly sentenced to death in the Coliseum whilst Nidia rots away in her dark cell… is all hope lost?
|A cast of thousands....|
|It's never over till the final whistle...|
Amongst it all justice is done and our heroes are lead to a sea-borne escape by the blind girl who can see just as well in the volcanic gloom as in daylight…
|Eugenia Tettoni Fior menaced by Antonio Grisanti|
I watched the Kino DVD which is available direct as well as Rakuten and, yes from those tax-avoiding Amazonians.