Nights of Cabiria, The / Le notti di Cabiria (1957)

5.0 out of 5

Ever hopeful of a break, Giulietta Masina's lady of the night, Cabiria, manages to combine a cold, street-toughness with occasional flashes of loris-eyed naivety. Cabiria is aspirational yet practical. Nevertheless, she is bound by circumstances not of her choosing. Orphaned and poor, she has still managed to buy herself a little house.

However, this is not a film that is likely to to restore faith in humanity. Because, after all, this is the world of Federico Fellini and here, yet again, he cuts his muse no slack. Cruelly, as with Richard Basehart's Fool in La strada, a romantic connection represents a slim chance of escape. Once again, this proves to be a mirage.

A heartbreaking masterpiece on near enough every level, The Nights of Cabiria neatly précis the condition of a post-war Italian underclass while raising the question what really happens when faith and hope comes up against adversity. For, in a world stripped of illusions, hope, along with idealism, are too easily crushed under the wheels of reality.

Seven Men and One Brain / 7 uomini e un cervello (1968)

1.5 out of 5

Rossano Brazzi, star of South Pacific, produces, writes, directs and stars in this tepid and ill advised attempt at a crime caper. Indeed, under-utilising locations such as Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, this Argentinian and Italian co-production manages to fall pretty flat. This, however, is despite the involvement of talent such as frequent poliziotteschi helmsman Stelvio Massi. Here as cinematographer .

The idea of criminals learning an opera in order to rob an entire audience is sound enough. Except, for a film that attempts to play for laughs, this by-numbers comedy clearly just goes through the motions. As a result, it is all, very much, in the ballpark of excruciating. Lando Buzzanca is especially wasted. Indeed, only a perpetually disrobing Ann-Margret shines. Although, certainly not to the extent that she does, alongside Vittorio Gassman, in The Tiger and the Pussycat.

How We Robbed the Bank of Italy, Grand Slam, The Burglars or The Treasure of San Gennaro all represent better alternatives.

Men of Honour / Gente d'onore (1967)

3.0 out of 5

The men of honour are mobsters. They are to leave Sicily by fishing boat, but first must make an arduous, five-day trek, on foot, across the island. Unfortunately, for them, this is a march of death.

Clearly influenced by The Odyssey, Folco Lulli's sole directorial outing is similarly structured to Walter Hill's The Warriors. However, in practice, this is a far more languid affair.

Indeed, Riccardo Pallottini's cinematography is the real star here. His impressive panoramas punctuate poor decision making, scenes of inappropriately and inadequately kitted cross-country hiking and the insufferable whining of our foolhardy protagonists. The highlights of the film include some wonderfully realised scenes of a traditional wedding and witnessing our diminishing band of precious hoods attempting to traverse a gorge on a ramshackle, motorised, pulley system. The clearly signposted and tragically inevitable outcome of this particular misadventure proves to be somewhat Final Destination-esque.

Ivanhoe, the Norman Swordsman / La spada normanna (1971)

2.0 out of 5

Mark Damon is Ivanhoe in a fanciful tale that tries, fairly successfully, to re-imagine the Italian western as Medieval intrigue. So, here, let the swords and shields fool no-one. For, like countless, similar swashbucklers, Ivanhoe, the Norman Swordsman manages to squeeze further mileage from such a rich filone. There is even a lynching scene that could be cribbed straight from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Gunfights, here, of course, recast as swordplay and, besides a few appropriate cues, the soundtrack would also suggest such an affinity.

With minor supporting roles from character favourites Nello Pazzafini and Luciano Pigozzi, and the occasional slapstick diversion, the film provides a lightweight, if somewhat ahistorical, way to pass an unchallenging afternoon. Yet, for director Roberto Mauri, such fluff from the pen of Burial Ground and Nightmare City writer, Piero Regnoli, is all a far cry from the unmissable I mafiosi.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics