Cast & Crew
Maria, unhappy with the life of poverty she leads with her husband, Pasquale, a luckless opera singer, seeks the help of Alfredo, the wealthy director of the orphanage in which she was raised. At the same time, the owner of a 17th-century Neapolitan palace invites Pasquale to live there rent free in the hope of dispelling rumors that the place is haunted. Without telling his wife of the ghost legend, Pasquale accepts the offer, while Alfredo, anxious to be near Maria, secretly moves into a palace room connected to the couple's apartment by a hidden staircase. After Pasquale has seen Alfredo and mistaken him for the ghost, he finds a bundle of money dropped by Alfredo and concludes that the ghost wants to help him. Hoping to turn the palace into a boardinghouse, Pasquale rents a room to a dim-witted prostitute, Sayonara. Unaware that Pasquale thinks the money was left by a ghost, Alfredo tells Maria that her husband has no objection to sharing her so long as he is well paid. Outraged, Maria makes plans to leave with Alfredo. Pasquale is enraged to discover the true source of his wealth, and Maria is shocked to discover that Pasquale was unaware of her relationship with Alfredo. She disappears, and Pasquale confesses to her murder; but, after 7 months imprisonment, he is acquitted on the grounds that his crime was motivated by honor. Returning to the palace, he finds Maria waiting. Alfredo, upon seeing what he believes to be the ghost of Maria, tearfully confesses that he was responsible for getting Pasquale fired from several jobs. Taking advantage of the situation, Maria extracts from Alfredo a large donation to her memory, and she makes him promise to marry the forlorn Sayonara. Fortified by their new wealth, Pasquale and Maria move to Scotland and take jobs as domestics for an eccentric lord who lives in a castle inhabited by a headless ghost.
Francis De Wolff
Piera Degli Esposti
Luis Enriquez Bacalov
Piero De Bernardi
Tonino Delli Colli
Mario Van Riel
Ghosts, Italian Style
Written and originally produced for the stage by Eduardo De Filippo, Ghosts - Italian Style had already been filmed once (unsuccessfully) in 1954 with Maria Frau and Renato Rascel in the leads. Under the opening title sequence of director Renato Castellani's remake, the story of an optimistic newlywed couple is played out in stills as they progress from their marriage vows to the harsh reality of unemployment and grinding poverty in the big city. In desperation, Maria (Loren) appeals for financial help from Alfredo (Mario Adorf), a former lover who currently runs the Our Souls in Purgatory orphanage. Maria's husband Pasquale (Vittorio Gassman), meanwhile, has an inexplicable turn of good luck. He is offered - rent free - a 17th century castle. In fact, the owner even agrees to pay him to move in and fix it up. Of course, there is a catch. Pasquale must agree to a five year lease and an even stranger request: he must make an appearance twice daily on the 34 balconies of the sprawling mansion to prove that the place is inhabited. The rumor, of course, is that the palace is haunted and carries a curse. The former owner, a duke, hung himself after murdering his lover, a girl from the neighboring convent. Naturally, the palace's dark history comes into play once Pasquale and Maria move into their new residence with the idea of renting out rooms to struggling opera singers.
Despite the supernatural appeal of the title, this is not a comedy in the style of The Ghost Breakers (1940). Instead, Ghosts - Italian Style is a continental boudoir farce in which Sophia manipulates two hapless and ineffectual men to her advantage. One running joke has Pasquale believing that Alfredo, whom he first encounters hiding in a closet, is the ghost of the infamous duke. Another plot twist is introduced with the couple's first boarder, a "singer" named Sayonara (Margaret Lee) who is really a hooker. In due time, Maria begins to suspect that Pasquale is Sayonara's pimp. Yes, it's that kind of movie. The broad theatrical style in which it's played is better suited for the stage than the screen and the fact that the film was shot simultaneously in Italian and English is a liability, not an asset. The English version, which TCM is showing, does feature Loren and Gassman voicing their own lines but the rest of the Italian cast are dubbed which injects an awkward and unnatural rhythm into the proceedings that never sounds quite right.
There are some compensations. Loren looks gorgeous despite the fact that she was just recovering from a second miscarriage when filming began. The set design is striking, the music score by Luis Enriquez Bacalov is appropriately playful and there is a closing joke in which we finally see a real ghost - Marcello Mastroianni in a cameo as a decapitated officer, carrying his own head! Ghosts - Italian Style also reunites Loren with Vittorio Gassman, one of Italy's biggest stars, for the first time since their 1951 film Anna when Sophia was still a bit player.
When Ghosts - Italian Style opened in Italy, most critics unfavorably compared it to De Filippo's successful stage play. Gian Luigi Rondi wrote in Il Tempo: "That which in the text was deliberately left unspoken, is spoken, what was spoken, is shouted, and with the intent of making the plot more colorful, Castellani has actually painted it all in strong colors, mixing drama with hearty laughter, the tug of melodrama with puppet theatre. With devices and ploys that are totally superficial, obvious, without any moderation. The result, from a stylistic point of view, is more than debatable." Most critics agreed, however, that Loren was the sole bright spot in the film but it would be a long, dry spell until the actress appeared in a movie that was worthy of her talents - Ettore Scola's A Special Day in 1977, an intimate drama set during Mussolini's reign that was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Foreign Language Film. Loren's co-star in that, Marcello Mastroianni, also was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar®.
Producer: Carlo Ponti
Director: Renato Castellani
Screenplay: Adriano Baracco, Leonardo Benvenuti, Renato Castellani, Piero De Bernardi, Tonino Guerra, Eduardo De Filippo (novel)
Cinematography: Tonino Delli Colli
Film Editing: Jolanda Benvenuti
Art Direction: Piero Poletto
Music: Luis Enriquez Bacalov
Cast: Sophia Loren (Maria Lojacono), Vittorio Gassman (Pasquale Lojacono), Mario Adorf (Alfredo), Aldo Giuffre (Raffaele), Margaret Lee (Sayonara), Francis De Wolff (The Scotsman).
by Jeff Stafford
Ghosts, Italian Style
Released in Italy in 1967 as Questi fantasmi; running time: 120 min