I have the honor of being the first to review "Tragica Notte" (Tragic Night) for IMDb. I viewed a very fine, clean, restored print that had wonderful black and white photography. The subtitles had a few errors but nothing substantial. The film ran some 81 minutes.
The main players include Doris Duranti (Armida), the beautiful wife of Nanni. Nanni is played by Andrea Checchi, a major Italian actor. He and Armida run a little tavern. Nanni poaches game on the estate of a close friend since they were boys, Count Paul Martorelli, played by Adriano Rimoldi. Although Armida loves Nanni, she has also had a love for the Count, but neither she nor the Count would ever do anything to dishonor themselves by a physical relationship or betray Nanni.
The Count has a gamekeeper named Stefano, played by Carlo Ninchi. Stefano guards against poachers, but too strictly. He is a brutish man who likes the power of getting poachers arrested and jailed. It is to be understood that the property rights in animal life on large estates, surrounded by rather poor people, are not well-defined. Without some poaching, their populations grow too large. The estate owners cannot use all the game running wild either. They wink at a certain amount of poaching. Strict enforcement is not really their aim.
Stefano has had Nanni arrested and jailed for 2 years. The story opens with his release, whereupon Nanni and several friends don bandannas and beat up Stefano in retaliation. Really, this involves mainly slapping his face a good number of times and opening a cut. Stefano subsequently recognizes Nanni as responsible from a torn button.
Now another 2 years pass, and the story proper begins. Stefano is making elaborate plots to get back at Nanni, up to befriending Nanni while spreading the lie that the Count has been involved with Armida, and then eventually luring Nanni into a badger hunt where he can kill him and get away with it.
It seemed to me that the actor playing Stefano resembled Benito Mussolini and that his body language at times intentionally carried on that resemblance. Whenever he throws his rifle over his shoulder and struts away, he looks militaristic. In the fight with Nanni, he has Mussolini's defiant look. I simply could not dismiss the idea that this movie, made in 1942, was metaphorically critical of Mussolini.
This picture has one foot in traditional romantic melodrama and another foot in early film noir and realism. There are some beautifully staged and filmed scenes at night, where one can follow the action due to the good lighting techniques, and the clarity of the print is a big plus. For the year 1942, the film is on the forefront. It's not "Citizen Kane", but it shows a distinctive Italian stream of artistry and innovation.
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