The Sunday Intertitle: Double Dutch

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FILIBUS (one hundred years old this year) is Italy’s answer to FANTOMAS, and hence also a precursor to DIABOLIK, but excitingly, Filibus is a lady master criminal (mistress criminal?) and she not only swans about in a domino mask doing crimes, she drags up (mistress of disguise?). My copy had Dutch intertitles but I could follow it fine, because I discovered that Dutch is basically the same as English but with the words and letters all changed about.

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See?

Much of Filibus’s criminality is conducted via a dinky airship, which exists both as a double-exposed miniature (slightly translucent against its cloudscape backdrop, and as a full-scale version which the actors can faff about on, lowering Filibus to the scenes of her multiple infamies in a kind of bucket. It’s not as dignified as pulling up in a hansom cab but it has a certain panache. She also spends as much of her time taunting her stalwart (stoic, staunch, stiff) detective foe as she does burgling from above, even giving up half her loot in order to fiendishly implicate him in her banditry.

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My favourite thing was the hilarious “Egyptian cat statue,” an epic prop department fail which I wish I owned the original of. Here, Filibus, having drugged the detective (stubborn, stupid), positions him so that he will be photographed by the miniature camera hidden in the cat’s eye-socket as a security precaution. I know it looks like he’s being used as a ventriloquist’s dummy, or worse, but never mind that — dig that crazy cat!

Directed by Mario Roncoroni (don’t know him) and starring, I think, Cristina Ruspoli as the title character. Both were busy 1912-1916, then appear to have packed it all in.

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