Did you happen to record Monty Python’s Flying Circus when it was shown on PBS back in the 1970s?
Do you still have the tapes?
Is there a TIME LIFE logo at the end?
If so, please write to me.
Another gem! Upon completion of Il disco volante, producer
Dino De Laurentiis hired Brass to direct the two shortest episodes of this wonderful
anthology film starring Mrs De Laurentiis, Silvana Mangano. This is a great example of
writing and storytelling — punchy, tight, imaginative, and humorous. (Why can’t
anyone write like this anymore?) And Alberto
Sordi is in top form in these five rôles. Americans don’t seem to know
Sordi. Well, suffice it to say that he was easily
equivalent to Peter Sellers, but perhaps more physical (and
not a real-life lunatic). He was discovered when he was still
a kid, at an Oliver Hardy-impersonation contest, and later gained
fame as Hardy’s voice in the Italian dubs — and anyone
who truly likes Laurel
and Hardy can’t be all bad, you know.
The fourth episode, “Luciana,”
by Rodolfo Sonego and directed by Mauro Bolognini, concerns
Alberto Sordi and Silvana Mangano who meet at an airport
after their spouses depart on a flight that immediately has
trouble and needs to return, but only after using up all its
fuel. While the plane spends the remainder of the day making
circles in the sky, Alberto and Mangano start to comiserate but
soon begin to fall in love, only to return to their unhappy
marriages once the plane lands again. It’s quite a
touching 40-minute story. The third episode, “I miei
cari” (“My Dear Ones”), inspired by a novella,
is a blistering nine-minute story of a hospital visit, with
a wife and mother-in-law nagging at Alberto for his shortcomings,
rather than offering support. Perhaps my favorite episode was
the second, “Eritrea,” written by Luigi Comencini
and Marcello Fondati. It’s a wonderful 40-minute
screwball comedy, with an onslaught of plot twists that will
have your head spinning. When it comes to sheer direction,
as opposed to writing, I give the first honors to the two
short Brass-directed episodes. (Or am I just being prejudiced?)
The opening act, “L’uccellino” (“The Little
Bird”), has Alberto Sordi as a madly jealous husband — jealous
of his wife’s pet birds. The writing alone isn’t funny.
The acting alone isn’t funny. Alberto’s facial
expressions alone aren’t funny. The music by itself
isn’t all that funny. Put all those elements
together, though, and this seven-minute sketch is a scream. The closing
act, “L’automobile” (“The Car”), is
an eight-minute sketch about a husband and wife filing a report
with the police about their missing Jaguar. The delivery by the
two leads makes an already funny script funnier. Apparently
realizing that nothing could improve upon the original, Brass
blimped the cameras and used the actual sound recorded on the
set in the final film. (The usual practice at the time, of
course, was to re-record all the sound later.)
QUESTION NUMBER ONE: “Eritrea” uses
a popular “twist” song that was also excerpted in
Chi lavora è perduto.
If you know what that song is, please tell me. I’m dying of
curiosity. ANSWER: “Amore twist”! Thanks to
Banca Dati del Cinema Mondiale for answering my
question!QUESTION NUMBER TWO: Who dubbed Silvana Mangano’s
voice in “L’uccellino”?
PERSONAL NOTE: The early 1960s were
truly a different world. I have only the vaguest recollections
of those times (I was four when this film was made), but this
film, just like Fellini’s La dolce vita, drives me
crazy because it really seems that I was there, but that I
can’t completely remember exactly when or where or how.
These two movies capture the period perfectly.
TECHNICAL NOTE FOR THE FEW WHO MAY BE
INTERESTED: A few shots seem to have been masked in the
camera, but the rest were masked in the lab at 1.85:1.
WARNING! The bootlegs available from
Italian shops in Canada — and at least some of the bootlegs
available through eBay — are incomplete! They cut
“Luciana” down from 40 minutes to 20! Beware!