Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1913) di Fergus Hume. Scen.: Guido Brignone. F.: Luigi Fiorio. Int.: Lola Visconti-Brignone (Natacha), François-Paul Donadio, Domenico Serra, Ines Ferrari, Mary Cleo Tarlarini, Giuseppe Brignone, Giovanni Ciusa, Luigi Stinchi, Annibale Durelli. Prod.: Rodolfi Film. 35mm. L.: 365 m (frammento; l. orig.: 1318 m). 18 f/s. Col. (from a tinted nitrate print).
The last reel of Il tredicesimo commensale was found in the basement of a cinema that had been completely flooded – it had been kept in one of the few cans that remained above the water level. This wonderful fragment is the only part of the film to survive, but it enables us to imagine a work of extraordinary interest. It confirms the importance of Guido Brignone, who at the time was at the height of his long career, and of the Rodolfi Film Company, perhaps the only production company that in the period around 1920 attempted a real regeneration of the diva-film’s narrative and style. The plot, which we can deduce from contemporary newspaper reports, is quite close to a traditional English whodunit: the guests invited to the lunch at which the solution is to be revealed are all possible suspects. Using the mystery format to enliven a rather worn-out melodramatic formula seems to have been one of the trademarks of the Turin-based company, as can be gathered also from Il quadro di Osvaldo Mars. Flashbacks, subjective takes, alternate editing – all seem to be used in a tense and highly effective way, beyond the practice of contemplative lingering on a single frame that characterises much of Italian cinema up to 1920.