Sog : dal romanzo Spartaco di Raffaello Giovagnoli Scen : Renzo Chiosso Scgf : Domenico Gaido Int : Mario Guaita Ausonia (Spartaco), Maria Gandini (Narona) Prod : Pasquali DCP D : 90’ Col
Film history is all about being a Doubting Thomas. For years we believed that Bartolomeo Pagano’s Maciste in the epic Cabiria (1914) set the tone for the new genre of the strong men or forzuti films, which orished in Italy in the late 1910s and early 1920s. In Maciste (1915), the first film that exploited him as a separate leading character, we identify with a girl who on a film screen sees the strong man bending an iron grill to liberate himself and his friend. But one year before Cabiria, exactly this scene of the hero bending iron with his bare fists had been a major moment in Spartaco ovvero il gladiatore della Tracia (Enrico Vidali 1913), a Pasquali production starring Mario Guaita aka Ausonia (1881-1956) as the legendary Spartacus, who rebels against the spoiled Roman patricians.
The Italian film journal “La vita cinematografica” praised Guaita for “the plastic beauty of his appearance, the attraction and at the same time the power and swiftness of his perfect body, his penetrating glance, and his perfect acting”. In American publicity he was described as “a celebrated Italian wrestler and fine actor, whose physique and finely chiseled face make him an extraordinary prototype of the ancient gladiator”. Actually, in Spartaco the camera is often focusing on Ausonia’s naked torso, his muscular arms and his stern look into the camera. Apparently, American distributor George Kleine was so smitten with the film, that he coproduced a second epic with Ausonia in 1914, Salammbo. Over the past years we had to do with a bad Dvd of the American version of the film, but luckily now a pristine nitrate print has been restored by the Cineteca di Bologna.