Sog.: dal romanzo L’Escadron blanc di Joseph Peyré. Scen.: Augusto Genina, Gino Valori. F.: Anchise Brizzi, Massimo Terzano, Antonio Cufaro. M.: Fernando Tropea. Scgf.: Guido Fiorini. Mus.: Antonio Veretti. Int.: Fulvia Lanzi (Cristiana), Francesca Dalpe (Paola), Fosco Giachetti (capitano Santelia), Antonio Centa (Mario Ludovici), Guido Celano (tenente Fabrizi), Cristina Olinto (capitano Donati), Cesare Polacco (El Fennek), Mohamed Ben Mabruk (Belkeir), Loris Gizzi (turista), Nino Marchetti (soldato). Prod.: Roma Film. 35mm. D.: 97’. Bn.
The most noteworthy Italian colonial film remains Genina’s 1936 film Lo squadrone bianco. The setting is Libya: a young lieutenant who has travelled to the colony due to disappointment in love is scorned by the strict captain, but following the death of the commander in a desert battle against the rebels (in a sequences of great visual elegance), he takes control of the squadron and leads it to victory. Returning to the fort, he encounters the woman, who has now come looking for him, but decides to remain where he is. Based on a novel by the Frenchman Joseph Peyré, the film features ‘lofty’, refined characters – soldiers rather than legionnaires, visiting tourists for whom the colony is a pleasant holiday destination. It is an example of cosmo-colonialism (the French complained that it was Italian who made the film), more a European film than an Italian one (the director is Genina, after all), and less about work than the individual and romantic need to escape.
Alberto Farassino, Fuori di set, Bulzoni, Roma 2000
After ten years of activity in France and Germany, Genina returned to Italian film production to shoot a colonial adventure film on location in Africa, which went on to receive great critical acclaim. The template is exotic adventure films like Ford’s The Lost Patrol (1934) and Duvivier’s La bandera (1935), not to mention Italian silent films like Genina’s own L’Esclave blanche (1927), and Camerini’s Kiff Tebbi (1928), which he co-produced. Genina and Tonti’s work in the desert is still impressive, as is the sound design, which layers voices, songs, music and anguished silence. The adventure in the desert is preceded and initially counterpointed by an urban section in elegant déco settings, which is redolent of earlier cinema. And while this provides a context for the film’s melodramatic aspects, it also highlights its remove from the rest of Italian cinema of the period.