The Sunday Intertitle: Extraordinary

THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF SATURNINO FARANDOLA (1915) has everything you count want from a serial-style adventure, and more, EXCEPT —

Babelfish choked on this one, but I think it’s something like “The white man saves you. Here’s your horse. Goodbye!”

The intertitles are unaccountably plain. All the more disappointing in an Italian silent, where usually the title cards display spectacular design flair. Here, the most interesting element is the number plate, which is useless to the audience but presumably helpful to the editor (who can’t be expected to actually read the damned script, obviously).

Apart from this disappointment, the movie, directed by and starring Marcel Perez, heaps largesse upon us — his hero is adopted in infancy by apes (men in costumes with very visible seams, surrounded by real Capuchin monkeys to make the illusion all the more transparent), then joins a gang of adventurers, leading to encounters with sea monsters, a balloon-based gun battle, and a very modish anti-lion costume —

The resemblance to Melies is incomplete, since Melies would have had more consistent props, sets and costumes, I feel, and Melies didn’t make features. At 57 minutes, LE AVVENTURE STRAORDINARISSIME flies past, the lack of close-ups and camera movement scarcely seeming to matter (like Feuillade, Perez contents himself with a slow, uncertain pan once every hour or so). The Tarzan backstory is accompanied by all manner of racist attitudes, including a novel moment when slumbering Chinese guards are disabled by having their pigtails knotted together. Other things you won’t see elsewhere: a score of prisoners are embedded in barrels with just their heads sticking out. Saturnino rolls them to the river and drags them to safety upstream, using a rope which each man grips in his teeth; soldiers squat on top of balloons, taking pot-shots at each other, while cannons are fired from the baskets — miniatures, backdrops and full-scale live action all captured in a  single pass through the camera. Somebody show Gilliam!

13 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Extraordinary”

  1. I think it is: “White man, you are saved. Here is your horse. Goodbye!”

  2. I bet you’re right! BabelFish kept trying to tell me “salve” meant “excepted,” which I guess it can, as in the English phrase “all save one.”

  3. I’d like a lion-proof safari suit, myself. Would help handle our cat, Tasha the Terrible.

    “You know me, anything in a pith helmet!”

  4. Does everyone blogger I like have a cat? It seems to be a running theme. Unfortunately I’m allergic to them. Anyway, I’d want one who’d kill squirrels without compunction, and those are apparently hard to find.

  5. I’m allergic too, I break out in bloody slashes when Tasha is near.

  6. Christopher Says:

    ..and who hasn’t wanted to hover over blood thirsty savages in a Balloon and holler down I AM GOD!! HAHAHAHAHA..and drop shit on them?..

  7. AIP really put more effort into their credits than their movies, didn’t they? Love those cut-out airships.

  8. Randy Byers Says:

    This looks to be an adaptation of a novel by the French writer and artist, Albert Robida. It was a parody of Jules Verne and adventure fiction, amongst other things, and I think Captain Nemo even shows up in it. I read a section of it that was translated for an anthology of early French science fiction, and I found it hilarious.

  9. Facinating! The movie is certainly aware of its ridiculousness. No Nemo listed, but a Professor Fileas-Fogg turns up in a balloon (decades before Mike Todd decided that Fogg must and should take to the skies).

  10. Randy Byers Says:

    I just checked the credits on IMDB, and they do credit Robida. I had no idea this film existed, and I’m totally jealous that you’ve seen it! As Ferdinand Von Galitizien (if that really *is* his name) says in his IMDB comment, the title of Robida’s novel is “Voyage Très Extraordinaires De Saturnin Farandoul Dans Les 5 ou 6 Parties Du Monde Et Dans Tous Les Pays Connus Et Même Inconnus De M. Jules Verne”, which makes the debt to Verne explicit.

  11. Christopher Says:

    When Price and crew “go down with the ship” is classic.

  12. Randy, if you need help sourcing a copy, let me know.

    Christopher, it’s been too long since I saw the film, clearly!

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