Roberto Roberti, Mario Gargiulo

F.: Antonio Franco Martini. Int.: Gustavo Serena (Fra Diavolo), Tina Xeo (Grazia), Lido Manetti, Alfredo Martinelli, Enrico Vidali, Carlo Benetti, Marcella Sabbatini, Umberto Scalpellini, Mimi Dovia. Prod.: E.F.A. DCP.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Following a profitable and triumphant period of collaboration with Francesca Bertini (14 films between 1919 and 1922), the remainder of the silent era left little more than scraps for Roberto Roberti. The reason for this productive famine is not entirely clear: Sergio Leone blames the considerably less than idyllic relationship his father had with the Fascist regime (and he’s not alone in thinking that). In any case, Roberti’s return to cinema with Fra Diavolo (co-directed by Mario Gargiulo) sees him leave the sophistication of diva films behind to happily launch himself into a full-blown adventure film. With little historical accuracy, the film depicts the daring endeavours of Michele Pezza, the patriot/ bandit who opposed the Napoleonic occupation of the Kingdom of Naples at the turn of the 19th century. The film consists of a number of spectacular set-pieces and is fast-paced throughout, with patriotism taking a backseat to barricades in the streets, escapes over mountain peaks, women saved from the clutches of bad guys, castles blown sky-high with dynamite, disguises, shootouts to the death. The film also takes us through panoramic and beautiful landscapes, especially when depicting our hero’s incursions into the Apennine Mountains. Perhaps it is a conditioned reaction, but more than once in the film we notice decidedly Western connotations (however, historically speaking, it is also true that bandit films have always been an Italian subgenre more than happy to be influenced by the Wild West). In the end, the good guys win and we go home happy.

Andrea Meneghelli

Copy From

Restored by Cineteca di Bologna in 2020 at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, from a Brazilian tinted nitrate print