In the late 1940s and early 1950s, film critics, international festivalgoers, and other studious viewers were swept up by the tide of Italian neorealism. Meanwhile, mainstream Italian audiences were indulging in a different kind of cinema experience: the sensational, extravagant melodramas of superstar director, Raffaello Matarazzo. These galvanic hits about splintered lovers and broken homes, all written by Aldo De Benedetti and starring mustachioed matinee idol, Amedeo Nazzari and icon of feminine purity, Yvonne Sanson, luxuriate in delirious plot twists and overheated religious symbolism. Four of them, each more unbridled and entertaining than the last, are collected here, chronicles of men and women on winding roads to redemption.
Four-DVD Box Set Includes: Chains After years of working mostly on comedies and literary adaptations, Raffaello Matarazzo turned to melodrama with this intense tale of a tight-knit working-class family shattered by temptation. There’s a touch of noir in Chains (Catene), in which the virtuous yet earthy Yvonne Sanson, as the devoted wife of a mechanic (Amedeo Nazzari), finds herself unwillingly drawn back toward a criminal ex-lover.
1949, 94 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Italian with English subtitles, 1.33:1 aspect ratio
Tormento Anna (Sanson) flees her home, where she has been victimized for years by her spineless father’s mean-spirited second wife, to be with her lover (Nazzari), an honest businessman yet to make his fortune. When he is accused of a murder he didn’t commit, the couple’s domestic tranquillity is upended, and a desperate Anna must rely on her cruel stepmother for support for her child.
1950, 98 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Italian with English subtitles, 1.33:1 aspect ratio
Nobody’s Children Bursting at the seams as it is with outlandish twists and turns, Nobody’s Children (I figli del nessuno) is only the first half of Matarazzo’s supersized diptych of melodramas, which chronicles the labyrinthine misfortunes of a couple torn cruelly apart by fate (and some meddling villains). When Guido (Nazzari), a young count, falls for Luisa (Sanson), the poor daughter of one of the miners who works at his family’s quarry, his mother and her nefarious henchman scheme epically to separate the two forever.
1952, 96 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Italian with English subtitles, 1.33:1 aspect ratio
The White Angel In The White Angel (L’angelo bianco), Matarazzo’s sequel to his blockbuster Nobody’s Children, the perpetually put-upon Guido and Luisa (the Italian director’s eternal star couple, Nazzari and Sanson) return for a new round of trials and tribulations. This time, the reversals of fortune are even more insanely ornate, a plot twist involving doppelgängers beats Vertigo to the punch by three years, and the whole thing climaxes with a jaw-dropping women-in-prison set piece.
1955, 100 minutes, Black & White, Monaural, In Italian with English subtitles, 1.33:1 aspect ratio