F.: Segundo de Chomón; Int: Berta Nelson (Blanche); Prod.: Itala Film
An important military secret, the innocent daughter of a general, an adventurer without scruples: using the same elements that in Ma l’amor mio non muore! produce a kind of romantic melodrama, Vittoria o Morte!, also from 1913, brings to the Italian screens a new type of woman – one that is far from the Borelli-style languor. Young Blanche will stop at nothing to save the honor of her father and take revenge upon the false admirer who deceived her, come hell or high water. The modern woman that Blanche represents dives from the airplane straight into the ocean, escapes fire and a shipwreck, faces neckbreaking car chases and is never afraid of using seduction to achieve her ends. By her side is millionaire Wilkinson, Prince Charming in step with modern times where the lure of nobility is replaced with a more pragmatic fascination with wealth; he is a charming sidekick, but decidedly secondary to the irresistible energy of his female companion. Fast-paced and full of adventure stunts, the film is enhanced by a number of truly spectacular scenes contrived by Segundo de Chomón, great “magician of special effects,” most notably in the panic-filled sequence of the burning of the ship. Camera movements follow Blanche closely through her adventures, often in airy exterior locations. A long shot of a clear sky this time is a background not to the final kiss but to the roaring take off of an airplane. The restored copy of Vittoria o Morte! was acquired by the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in 1992. The restoration was done by the Amsterdam Nederlands Filmmuseum, from an original nitrate imbibed print with intertitles, from the Holland Theater of the Jean Desmet collection.
Stella Dagna, Claudia Gianetto
The young countess Bianca Alberti is accosted by an aristocratic stranger, in reality a foreign spy who plans to steal certain secret documents which are in the custody of Bianca’s father. When she wakes up, having been drugged and robbed, she realises the deception and starts to pursue the spy, renting a biplane and jumping from it into the sea to reach the fugitive’s motorboat. But once on the boat she is overwhelmed, bound and gagged, and the criminal sets fire to the boat. Bianca manages to save herself and to continue the pursuit. In the end, thanks also to a gentleman who offers his help and love, she returns to her home country with the documents, thus saving her father’s honour. One of the rare films in which we can admire Berta Nelson in the leading role. The actress gives a convincing performance, flaunting her outstanding talent and athletic body in the course of the thrilling pursuit. The spectacular special effects of the great Segundo de Chomón, combined with the energy and charm of this littleknown and forgotten Italian actress, make Vittoria o morte one of the most surprising action films of all – not just the Italian – silent cinema.