Propaganda piece praising Mussolini and Italian Fascism.
"Camicia Nera" or "Black Shirt" is a staged propaganda documentary/drama tracing the rise of Fascism in Italy and and made to celebrate its tenth year. Made from the Fascist point of view, it is an attempt to praise all the purported achievements of that regime from 1922 to the year 1932.
It starts with Italy as it had been in the year 1914, as World War I was about to explode. The focus is on a family living in substandard dwellings in the malarial region of the Pontine Marshes, south of Rome. The main character is a blacksmith who must go off to war. His family and his little son will miss him and await his return. But he is injured and suffers from amnesia at the end of the war, hospitalized in Germany.
The return of the veterans is shown against a background of social turmoil, with the enemies of society being the socialists and their general strikes. Enter Benito Mussolini and his "fasci di combattimento" militias (thugs, actually) who strike at the Socialists and who, in their view, will bring about the salvation of Italy from chaos the Fascist State!
That state will oversee the society like a loving father from birth to death. The youth are enrolled in regimented "Balilla" groups. The Concordat is signed with Pope Pius XI, making the Vatican an independent state, a program of public works is instituted, the Pontine mashes of our blacksmith hero (who finally returns to his family) are drained and the water shunted into canals.
New housing goes up to replace the hovels the peasants had lived in. Emigrants who had left the country during hard times now are seen as returning joyously to rebuild the nation. The Fascist anthem of Italy, "Giovinezza" - "Youth," is sung everywhere. Fascist Italy has reached its tenth year.
For what the film is, a self-laudatory propaganda piece, the film manages to maintain a good deal of interest. Many of the scenes shot for the film are well photographed, particularly those of the agricultural areas, although he sound isn't up to snuff for that period.
Dictator Benito Mussolini's speech near the end, filled with his typical arrogant bluster, is interesting to watch. This is a period in which he was widely revered by the Italian nation, and many foreigners as well. The U.S. ambassador to Italy, Richard Washburn Child, even wrote an introduction to Mussolini's autobiography, that praised him to the sky! With hindsight, of course, we can look at him and wonder what he would have thought if he had been able to see himself about thirteen years hence when he would be nabbed by partisans as he was attempting to flee Italy in German uniform, then shot and strung up from a gas station beam in Milan and vilified by the crowds.
Another film of the period praising the Fascists was Alessandro Blasetti's 1934 "Vecchia Guardia" which was more of a dramatic piece than this earlier work made by Giovacchino Forzano.
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