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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Some spoilers) Poor Amedeo Nazzari. He's always going to jail in
movies for crimes he didn't commit and being separated from loved ones
for years, with all the accompanying heartbreak. This happened to him
in the 1939 "Montevergine" and in the 1950 "Tormento."
In this 1951 movie he is Pietro Vanzetti, unjustly condemned to fifteen years imprisonment, on the flimsiest of evidence, for the presumed murder of a business associate, Renato Salvi (a slimier-than-thou Vittorio Gassman.) It turns out the man wasn't dead after all but had deliberately vanished abroad to avoid a fraudulent check rap. In the meantime the wife dies, the daughter Luisa (Gianna Maria Canale) grows up not knowing her father and living in utter destitution.
Pietro gets out of jail. There is a schmaltzy but likable little scene between him and a woman he encounters when he realizes that, because of a doll that she had gotten from him years before as a child, that this is really his long-lost daughter. Lachrymose embraces follow. A chance encounter between Pietro and Renato leads the slimeball to attempt to blackmail the man. It's basically, give me money, or I tell your daughter and her fiancé' where you really were all those years. A scuffle ensues. Nazzari kills Gassman. But this time he is absolved of any crime by reason of self-defense. And it is a happy ending for all involved, except the now really dead Pietro. Good riddance, we say.
Nazzari is a convincingly noble sufferer. Canale inspires sympathy as the troubled daughter. Gassman is a skilled man-you-like-to-hiss. Riccardo Freda does a decent directorial job in this standard little genre piece that did not disappoint any of the audiences who went to see it and knew what they were getting.
A family man (Amadeo Nazzari) gets framed for murder and while he
spends the next fourteen years in prison, his wife dies and his young
daughter disappears. When he gets out he accidentally runs into his
now-grownup girl (mistaking her for a prostitute) but their chances of
living happily ever after are jeopardized by the girl's (Gianna Maria
Canale) romantic problems and the self-serving heel (Vittorio Gassman)
who framed him...
It's a great big pile of improbable hokum filmed in the then-popular "noir style" by genre director Riccardo Freda and another one "inspired by a true story". Luscious Gianna Maria Canale, a former "Miss Italy 1947" runner-up who lost to Lucia Bose, would go on to marry the director and become the reigning queen of Cinecetta peplum splendor. Gassman plays the same type of sleazeball he did in WHITE SLAVE TRADE and gets the same special billing ("with the participation of"). He actually makes a very hissable villain, an opportunity denied most Hollywood heartthrobs back then, the reason being that when they did play "against type" (like Tyrone Power in NIGHTMARE ALLEY), the public didn't care for it. Europe was different, however, and Vittorio's movies are a gas, man!
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