Last Days of Mussolini


2h 6m 1974

Film Details

Also Known As
Mussolini: Ultimo Atto
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1974
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 6m

Synopsis

Film Details

Also Known As
Mussolini: Ultimo Atto
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1974
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 6m

Articles

Last Days of Mussolini - Rod Steiger in LAST DAYS OF MUSSOLINI on DVD


The NoShame DVD label has another intriguing Italian feature in Last Days of Mussolini. By 1974 at least two major films had been produced about the end of Adolph Hitler, but this is the first full account of Mussolini's ignominious finish. Rod Steiger gives a creditable, low-key performance as the Fascist dictator and Henry Fonda is also on hand to provide international appeal. Director Carlo Lizzani stresses authenticity: All of the events were filmed where they happened, even Il Duce's ignominious demise on a small road above lake Como.

Synopsis: Germany is collapsing as the Allies overrun the last Italian Fascist stronghold in the Po Valley. Benito Mussolini (Rod Steiger) has little opportunity to escape with his mistress Claretta Petaci (Lisa Gastoni) as both his Fascist supporters and his German 'friends' keep a careful watch on his movements. The pro-Fascist Cardinal Schuster (Henry Fonda) tries to negotiate a surrender, but Il Duce wants none of that: The partisans have already sanctioned Mussolini's execution upon capture, and the Americans want to put him on trial as a war criminal. The German watchdogs prevent Mussolini and Petaci from slipping through a Swiss mountain pass, leading to his capture by some clever partisan chieftains. But they are unclear on what exactly to do with the frightened man. Finally, higher-ranking members of the new provisional government dispatch Colonel Valerio (Franco Nero) to locate and execute Mussolini immediately -- to stem any notion that the Fascists can retain a position in the new government.

Last Days of Mussolini is an exciting story of a dictator's desperate attempts to elude his fate. Mussolini bargains and negotiates, all the while plotting to flee with his mistress and leave his Fascist cronies holding the bag. Benito breaks promises to his aides, to Cardinal Schuster and to the German commander assigned to 'protect' him. His final days are spent leading a ridiculous motorcade around Northern Italy, unable to shake his German monitors. After chaperoning Mussolini for days, the Germans surrender him without a fight to the first partisans they see.

Lizzani's show is politically complex. The few remaining Fascists are fanatics and lickspittles that persist in spinning fantasies about partisan defeats and growing popular support. The new provisional government is an unsteady coalition of socialist, communist and liberal factions. As most of the partisans have only now come out of hiding, no hierarchy of command has been established. The Allies under General Clark would like to capture Mussolini but don't want to offend the partisans, who want the despised dictator dead. Meanwhile, the German commanders have orders to keep Mussolini in power as long as possible.

The film touches on Benito's vain hope of contacting Winston Churchill, with whom he has exchanged letters about the communist threat in Italy. Mussolini seems to think that England will support his staying on as a way of stopping the spread of Bolshevism. Ironically, this detail links up with a relatively recent controversy alleging that Mussolini was executed by Churchill's secret agents, to prevent Il Duce from revealing that Churchill had offered him a separate peace. The agreement at Casablanca had proclaimed that any Axis surrender had to be unconditional. No credible proof of this claim has yet surfaced.

The script by Lizzani and Fabio Ptttorru doesn't excuse Benito Mussolini's record of brutality and war crimes. We see flashbacks to massacres of his political opponents and his foolish choice to align with Germany so that Italy 'won't be left behind.' Benito keeps his temper and throws no tantrums -- he knows that his options are almost all gone. Rod Steiger was reportedly shown films of Il Duce and told that the famous clips of the dictator 'overacting' in public appearances were not typical of his behavior. Steiger plays the man as weary and frustrated, and gives an excellent showing.

Last Days of Mussolini does shy away from inconvenient details. Franco Nero's brash, mission-oriented Colonel is a diversion from the woeful disorganization of the Italian authorities and the sometimes-violent excesses of the partisans. The movie avoids any depiction or mention of the shameful mob action that immediately followed: The bodies of Mussolini and his lover were dragged to a central piazza, hung upside down and mutilated.

In place of photos or news film of the lynching in Lake Como we're given a text scroll naming the signers of death warrant that legitimized the murder of Mussolini. Unlike the suicide of Hitler, Mussolini's messy execution offers an audience the violent closure of a revenge killing.

Henry Fonda's red-robed Cardinal appears only in a few scenes. It's a bit distracting to see a religious leader walk with the exact same halting gait as the gunman Frank of Once Upon a Time in the West. Lisa Gastoni is a standout. Her Claretta begins as a petty nuisance yet shows uncommon loyalty by refusing to desert Benito, even after he has deserted her. Franco Nero makes for a forceful hero; Luciano Pigozzi is a troublesome Fascist supporter. Familiar face Giacomo Rossi-Stuart gives his American commando a good shot, but comes off as an Italian, even when dubbed.

NoShame's DVD of Last Days of Mussolini lavishes excellent resources on a worthy film. The enhanced transfer captures the rainy beauty of northern Italy and the Italian dubbing for Steiger and Fonda is excellent. There is no English dub. A disclaimer card explains that the English track distorted the film's politics; we're guessing that the English translation softened the Allied role in the double-dealing. In any case, as the American version was half an hour shorter, the old dub track is of no use. The American and German characters speak in their proper language. NoShame's intelligent and thought-provoking original version is surely an improvement on the original American release.

Director Lizzani appears in a nicely edited interview to explain how he convinced Rod Steiger to underplay Il Duce. A trailer for the American version allows us to sample the awful original English dubbing job. In the insert liner notes, NoShame's steady contributor Richard Harland Smith contributes thoughtful essays on the film and the film's two American stars.

For more information about Last Days of Mussolini, visit NoShame Films. To order Last Days of Mussolini, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Last Days Of Mussolini - Rod Steiger In Last Days Of Mussolini On Dvd

Last Days of Mussolini - Rod Steiger in LAST DAYS OF MUSSOLINI on DVD

The NoShame DVD label has another intriguing Italian feature in Last Days of Mussolini. By 1974 at least two major films had been produced about the end of Adolph Hitler, but this is the first full account of Mussolini's ignominious finish. Rod Steiger gives a creditable, low-key performance as the Fascist dictator and Henry Fonda is also on hand to provide international appeal. Director Carlo Lizzani stresses authenticity: All of the events were filmed where they happened, even Il Duce's ignominious demise on a small road above lake Como. Synopsis: Germany is collapsing as the Allies overrun the last Italian Fascist stronghold in the Po Valley. Benito Mussolini (Rod Steiger) has little opportunity to escape with his mistress Claretta Petaci (Lisa Gastoni) as both his Fascist supporters and his German 'friends' keep a careful watch on his movements. The pro-Fascist Cardinal Schuster (Henry Fonda) tries to negotiate a surrender, but Il Duce wants none of that: The partisans have already sanctioned Mussolini's execution upon capture, and the Americans want to put him on trial as a war criminal. The German watchdogs prevent Mussolini and Petaci from slipping through a Swiss mountain pass, leading to his capture by some clever partisan chieftains. But they are unclear on what exactly to do with the frightened man. Finally, higher-ranking members of the new provisional government dispatch Colonel Valerio (Franco Nero) to locate and execute Mussolini immediately -- to stem any notion that the Fascists can retain a position in the new government. Last Days of Mussolini is an exciting story of a dictator's desperate attempts to elude his fate. Mussolini bargains and negotiates, all the while plotting to flee with his mistress and leave his Fascist cronies holding the bag. Benito breaks promises to his aides, to Cardinal Schuster and to the German commander assigned to 'protect' him. His final days are spent leading a ridiculous motorcade around Northern Italy, unable to shake his German monitors. After chaperoning Mussolini for days, the Germans surrender him without a fight to the first partisans they see. Lizzani's show is politically complex. The few remaining Fascists are fanatics and lickspittles that persist in spinning fantasies about partisan defeats and growing popular support. The new provisional government is an unsteady coalition of socialist, communist and liberal factions. As most of the partisans have only now come out of hiding, no hierarchy of command has been established. The Allies under General Clark would like to capture Mussolini but don't want to offend the partisans, who want the despised dictator dead. Meanwhile, the German commanders have orders to keep Mussolini in power as long as possible. The film touches on Benito's vain hope of contacting Winston Churchill, with whom he has exchanged letters about the communist threat in Italy. Mussolini seems to think that England will support his staying on as a way of stopping the spread of Bolshevism. Ironically, this detail links up with a relatively recent controversy alleging that Mussolini was executed by Churchill's secret agents, to prevent Il Duce from revealing that Churchill had offered him a separate peace. The agreement at Casablanca had proclaimed that any Axis surrender had to be unconditional. No credible proof of this claim has yet surfaced. The script by Lizzani and Fabio Ptttorru doesn't excuse Benito Mussolini's record of brutality and war crimes. We see flashbacks to massacres of his political opponents and his foolish choice to align with Germany so that Italy 'won't be left behind.' Benito keeps his temper and throws no tantrums -- he knows that his options are almost all gone. Rod Steiger was reportedly shown films of Il Duce and told that the famous clips of the dictator 'overacting' in public appearances were not typical of his behavior. Steiger plays the man as weary and frustrated, and gives an excellent showing. Last Days of Mussolini does shy away from inconvenient details. Franco Nero's brash, mission-oriented Colonel is a diversion from the woeful disorganization of the Italian authorities and the sometimes-violent excesses of the partisans. The movie avoids any depiction or mention of the shameful mob action that immediately followed: The bodies of Mussolini and his lover were dragged to a central piazza, hung upside down and mutilated. In place of photos or news film of the lynching in Lake Como we're given a text scroll naming the signers of death warrant that legitimized the murder of Mussolini. Unlike the suicide of Hitler, Mussolini's messy execution offers an audience the violent closure of a revenge killing. Henry Fonda's red-robed Cardinal appears only in a few scenes. It's a bit distracting to see a religious leader walk with the exact same halting gait as the gunman Frank of Once Upon a Time in the West. Lisa Gastoni is a standout. Her Claretta begins as a petty nuisance yet shows uncommon loyalty by refusing to desert Benito, even after he has deserted her. Franco Nero makes for a forceful hero; Luciano Pigozzi is a troublesome Fascist supporter. Familiar face Giacomo Rossi-Stuart gives his American commando a good shot, but comes off as an Italian, even when dubbed. NoShame's DVD of Last Days of Mussolini lavishes excellent resources on a worthy film. The enhanced transfer captures the rainy beauty of northern Italy and the Italian dubbing for Steiger and Fonda is excellent. There is no English dub. A disclaimer card explains that the English track distorted the film's politics; we're guessing that the English translation softened the Allied role in the double-dealing. In any case, as the American version was half an hour shorter, the old dub track is of no use. The American and German characters speak in their proper language. NoShame's intelligent and thought-provoking original version is surely an improvement on the original American release. Director Lizzani appears in a nicely edited interview to explain how he convinced Rod Steiger to underplay Il Duce. A trailer for the American version allows us to sample the awful original English dubbing job. In the insert liner notes, NoShame's steady contributor Richard Harland Smith contributes thoughtful essays on the film and the film's two American stars. For more information about Last Days of Mussolini, visit NoShame Films. To order Last Days of Mussolini, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger


ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002

From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965).

Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema.

It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines.

As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure.

Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie.

Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them.

by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger

ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002 From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965). Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema. It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines. As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure. Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie. Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them. by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1974

Released in United States 1974