Sunday, 10 October 2021

Iron man… Maciste All’ Inferno (IT 1926), with Teho Teardo and Zerorchestra, Le Giornate 40th Edition Streaming Day Eight

And, as always, the masses sided with the strongest…


This was essentially a cross-over event in the Dante Extended Universe, L’Inferno II plus Maciste XXVI equalling a completely decadent vision of Hell and an Earth of fairy tale pleasantry. It was a return to the glories of ground-breaking Italian film making with a soul-devouring Lucifer drawn directly from Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan and Giuseppe De Liguoro’s masterpiece, a feature film diligently drawn from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. Three years later and Giovanni Pastrone’s sensational Cabiria introduced the character of Maciste, a mighty slave who rescues the Roman girl of the title. The character was played by Bartolomeo Pagano who returns here for his 26th performance as the likeable lunk who combines power and morality as the Italian superuomo.


I could quote the works of Professor SE Finer on the enduring nature of political cultures but it’s not an over-stretch to say that the Italians had always favoured strong individual leaders and, indeed, this film accepts as much with the quote at the top. Il Duce was indeed a fan and wikiparently adopted several trademark Maciste poses as part of his fascist fantasy. He was prime minister when Maciste All’ Inferno was made so perhaps that puts a more intense spin on that line… Mussolini was five feet sex inches whereas Pagano was fully six feet and Lord knows what his chest measurement was.

Maciste assailed by hundreds of extras!

Anyway… this is such a wild ride with amazing special effects from the legendary Segundo de Chomón along with direction to die for – literally – from Guido Brignone, along with set and costume direction from Giulio Lombardozzi. This looks like Hell and it’s ugly, fierce and outrageously sexy. Hellzappopin’ alright with Pluto (Umberto Guarracino) ruling over all he surveys with the definite exception of his second wife Proserpina (Elena Sangro… statuesque ain’t the word!) and daughter, the barely clothed Luciferina (Lucia Zanussi).


No wonder it left such an impression on Federico Fellini who remembered it as the first film he ever saw – aged five or six? – even down to the details of Proserpina’s capture of Maciste. If Albert Camus is right and a man’s work is nothing but a trek to rediscover those great images in whose presence his heart first opened then, ladies and gents, I give you Satyricon and many more…

Pluto... Umberto Guarracino

Back in the Underworld, no one’s finding much satisfaction and after Maciste despatches a troop of demons back from whence they came, Pluto despatches his best guy Barbariccia (Franz Sala, who is having the time of his life!) to Earth with a group of others all wearing evil cloaks, hats and leers. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to gather as many good souls as possible including that of Maciste.


After his many adventures, Maciste has settled in a rural idyl, tending his garden, smoking fine tobacco and drinking barrels of fine wine. He looks after his lovely neighbour Graziella (Pauline Polaire) and all is peace until the arrival of Barbariccia and the boys… After a direct confrontation doesn’t work, Macist’s brawn versus Barbariccia’s brain and magical cheats, the latter looks to find the former’s weaknesses. He targets Graziella who, though far too holy for a direct attack, is vulnerable when helping Giorgio (Domenico Serra) a young man thrown from his horse by a demon storm. The two youngsters fall in love and soon a baby arrives only for Giorgio to hop off back to the city and his bachelor freedoms, this distracts Maciste enough for Barbariccia, having stolen the baby, to trap him and transport the big man straight to Hell.


Franz Sala giving his all

Now the fun really begins… as Maciste fights off hoards of demons, Brignone depicts his raunchier version of Dante’s inferno and Pluto’s women try to trap Maciste into kissing them for, if any earthman kisses a she-demon he is turned into a demon and condemned to remain in the fiery pits. Well… upon the basis of the images shared here, how long do you think Maciste is going to last?


But damnation is not the end and there’s battles a plenty as all Hell breaks lose as Barbariccia storms Pluto’s palace.


This hugely enjoyable romp was perfectly accompanied by Pordenone-born composer Teho Teardo who’s electronica was accompanied by local favourites the Zerorchestra along with Accademia Musicale Naonis and cellist Riccardo Pes. For this tale of many contexts, the cello represented Dante’s “voice” whilst the booming brass of the Accademia Naonis was that of Maciste. I think this was the performance that kicked off the pre-Festival event in Teatro Zancanaro, Sacile judging from the applause at the end and, as with everything streamed, I’d have loved to have been there in person to see it!

Elena Sangro

Before all this we had maestro John Sweeney accompanying three Vitagraph shorts that told stories of Japan at a time when the West was fascinated in the still emerging country. Thoroughly entertaining the three shorts said as much about the country that made them as their subject: Love of Chrysanthemum (1910), Ito, the Beggar Boy (1910) and Hako’s Sacrifice (1910).


So, another year over and done and a brilliant “bundle” of digital and live screening… here’s to 2022 and a 41st Edition viewed in person! 

Fellini particularly remembered Lucia Zanussi's belly button - fact!

OK, how Dante was this film?

Almost nine circles...
Feeling in Limbo

The wind-buffeted second circle... 

Nude heretics (probably) level six...

The Malebolge, eighth circle for fraudsters...

Old Nick exactly as he appears in  L'Inferno (1911) below...

For 'tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe…

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