Archive for August 29, 2020

Men without Legs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2020 by dcairns

In the troop of beggars we see in Capra’s POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, along with Angelo Rossitto, newspaper salesman and small actor, we have a guy with no legs, propelling himself about on a flat cart. I was curious to see what his other credits were, but the IMDb merely listed him as “Shorty,” and when I clicked on that, it said “Shorty is an actor” and gave POCKETFUL as his only movie. But now, as I meticulously fact-check this piece, I find that he’s vanished, perhaps reunited with his phantom lower limbs in some celluloid limb-o.

(The internet is a Heraclitian river or a Borgesian Book of Sand.)

Two more Shorties feature in THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY. One is a guy nicknamed “Shorty” because he is short, though not as short as Angelo Rossitto. He gets hanged. The actor’s name was Jose Terron and he only just died last year. Sorry, Shorty.

But some online sources misidentify Terron as the legless, alcoholic ex-soldier, walking Johnny-Eck-fashion with the aid of wooden blocks, who feeds Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) information. This guy, referred to as “half-soldier” by a sneering Angel Eyes, seems to be a Spanish amputee discovered by Leone on location, and nobody knows his name.

BUT — he has a filmography — I’m almost positive he’s also see among the limbless veterans in Cottafavi’s I CENTI CAVALLIERI. Same face, same lack of legs, same mode of ambulation.

A Spanish Civil War war veteran, or an accident victim, or what? We may never know. Unless Sir Christopher Professor Frayling has winnowed out the facts.

Damon Knight

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2020 by dcairns

Mark Damon, now a producer (MONSTER), then a rakishly handsome movie star big in Italy, stars in Vittorio Cottafavi’s last feature, I CENTI CAVALIERI (THE HUNDRED HORSEMEN, 1964), screened in Bologna in Techniscope and Technicolor, looking fantastic.

After an ennervating start (the traditional bickering lovers turned up to eleven, Italian style) this turned out to be really interesting. Cottafavi appears in Richard Roud’s cinema dictionary alongside Bava, suggesting one who presents as an amusing pictorialist, so it was a surprise to find him quoted in the festival programme describing his Brechtian intentions, and almost a bigger surprise to find them carried out in this jaunty peplum-type historical romp.

The Moors ride into a neutral Spanish town and take over, behaving like Nazis (they’re led by Dr. Mabuse, Wolfgang Preiss). Farmmboy Damon becomes a warrior, aided by his militaristic uncle, the mayor’s feisty daughter, a bandit gang led by a comedy dwarf (verfremdungseffekt!), and a wily priest (Gaston Moschin, of whom we needed more).

Well, there’s a lot of dumb comedy and action in this film, but also strange thoughtful moments. As a for-instance: when someone demonstrates a newly invented suit of armour, visor down, a priest speculates that the warrior of the future will be even more unseen, striking at a distance, with civilians, property, whole cities destroyed in this “clean” manner. And before the spirited Robin Hoodery gets going, we pay a visit to a spectacular castle (the scenery in this is Lean-worthy, animated by Cottafavi’s athletic camerawork) populated entirely by amputees, shut away in anticipation of war, lest the sight of their varied mutilations sap the peasants’ martial spirit. This skeptical attitude to war seems forgotten until the climax, another clangorous, Wellesian montage, suddenly plunged into monochrome with chilling effect…

Not as successful overall as DONNE E SOLDATI (the comedy too broad and not often funny — but arguably its true purpose is to disrupt, not amuse) this incredible bargain-bin EL CID is still fascinating and betrays an intellectual ambition utterly lacking in Cinecitta’s usual he-man spectacles.