(Includes spoilers) Based on the novel by Emilio De Marchi, "Il cappello del prete," Ferdinando Maria Poggioli's translation to the screen is an accurate rendition of a moody historical piece about greed, murder, and guilt. Set in 19th Century Naples and its environs, the movie is about the Baron of Santafusca, a once-wealthy nobleman who is now almost totally penurious and must survive through gambling, borrowing, and selling off family possessions in the now badly maintained palazzo he inhabits. An opportunity arises with the intended sale of his estate to a priest, representing a religious order that will use it as a seminary.
The priest, Don Cirillo, is a greedy, Fagin-like figure of miserliness and hoarded wealth, a conniver, a usurer. When the priest is to make payment, the baron decides to kill the man, throw him in the well, and keep the money for his own uses. He then embarks on a life of further gambling, luxury, music halls, and women. All the while the populace wonders what happened to the evaporated cleric. The priest's hat, dropped at the time of the murder, and another hat as well become evidence that will lead to the unjust accusation of murder for the baron's nephew and eventually lead to suspicion about the baron himself. At the point of running off with a soubrette paramour, the baron is questioned by the police, defends himself, then in a fit of incipient madness, confesses all and cooks his own goose. He is led off ion a period paddy wagon while the music hall lady-love waits outside in a carriage. Roldano Lupi as the baron gives a powerful performance in this very interesting movie. Luigi Almirante as Don Cirillo is convincingly sleazy. The settings are finely chosen.
Begun in 1943, the film did not open until after the liberation of Rome. It was not commercially successful because by that time Italians were flocking to newly available American films. Director Poggioli, a director who did not hide his homosexuality during a time when it could have spelt disaster, made many fascinating films during the fascist era, including SISSIGNORA, THE MATERASSI SISTERS, and GELOSIA. He committed suicide in 1945 just as Sergio Amidei (screenwriter on this movie) and Roberto Rossellini were shooting OPEN CITY.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?