Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 21:15


Mario Monicelli, Steno


Film Notes

Guardie e ladri is not just one of the finest Italian comedies of the 1950s, it is also a film that takes an unromanticised view of the working class (which is why it was loved by intellectuals such as Franco Fortini and Italo Calvino who distrusted populist rhetoric) and romps across the geography of Rome in its chase scenes. The original title was Tengo famiglia (I Have a Family), and the police officer and thief characters are two poor devils who are neither idealised nor pitied. The film’s angle coincides with Fabrizi’s deepest interest at that time. So it made sense that when Totò saw the screenplay for the first time, he exclaimed: “This is something for Fabrizi, not for me!” Indeed, the film’s tone is the same as a few others the Roman actor had starred in and co-wrote, with a combination of comedy and drama, from Emigrantes to Vita da cani and Una di quelle (One of Those).

Guardie e ladri is a transitional film for Totò, who in August of 1951 had announced that he wanted to leave theatre for the cinema. He measured himself for the first time against Fabrizi and played a nuanced character. It was also a transitional film for Steno and Monicelli, whose partnership began to come to an end. The film was also significant for how it was handled by censors, who hit it hard – and they would be even more vehement against  Totò and Carolina. But it was also a precursor, distancing itself from the comedies of the era and anticipating the bitter, social comedies of the 1960s. The progenitor of the new season, Big Deal on Madonna Street, another robber story (but this time with no cops), reuses Totò’s character as an expert safecracker, an aged and ‘aristocratic’ version of the character in this film.

Emiliano Morreale

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Piero Tellini. Scen.: Mario Monicelli, Steno, Vitaliano Brancati, Aldo Fabrizi, Ennio Flaiano, Ruggero Maccari. F.: Mario Bava. M.: Franco Fraticelli. Scgf.: Flavio Mogherini. Mus.: Alessandro Cicognini. Int.: Aldo Fabrizi (brigadiere Bottoni), Totò (Ferdinando Esposito), Ave Ninchi (Giovanna Bottoni), Pina Piovani (Donata Esposito), Rossana Podestà (Liliana Bottoni), Ernesto Almirante (padre di Ferdinando), William Tubbs (Mr Locuzzo), Aldo Giuffrè (socio di Esposito), Mario Castellani (tassista), Carlo Delle Piane (Libero). Prod.: Golden Film, Ponti-De Laurentiis. 35mm. Bn.