The Secret of Santa Vittoria
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Anthony Quinn, Anna Magnani, Virna Lisi. In the closing days of WWII, a worthless drunk becomes a small-town hero, by becoming the mayor and hiding a million bottles of wine from the Germans. Directed by Stanley Kramer. 1969/color/139 min/PG-13/widescreen.
The bestseller from The Great Impostor's Robert Crichton inspired this leisurely serio-comedy, which takes up where Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist left off--with the death of Benito Mussolini. The dictator's departure should come as good news for the hilltop town of Santa Vittoria, but new problems lay ahead (Federico Fellini favorite Giuseppe Rotunno shot the sun-drenched movie in Italy). Feeling betrayed by Il Duce, wine merchant Italo Bombolini (La Strada's Anthony Quinn) drinks his disappointment away to the consternation of his rolling pin-wielding wife, Rosa (The Rose Tattoo's Anna Magnani). Nonetheless, the townspeople like the "drunken, stupid clown," as Rosa calls him, enough that they appoint Bombolini mayor. To prepare him for duty, the college-educated Fabio (Swept Away's Giancarlo Giannini) introduces the new civic leader to Machiavelli, who wrote, "Things are never what they seem." When Fabio brings news that the Nazis plan to raid their wine reserves, Bombolini and Tufa (Sergio Franchi), a former soldier, heed those words and arrange to hide one million bottles in a Roman cave. Capt. Von Prum (Hardy Krüger) suspects subterfuge, and orders a search of every nook and cranny, while attempting to woo war widow Contessa Caterina (Queen Margots Virna Lisi). At 139 minutes, Judgment at Nuremberg producer/director Stanley Kramers Golden Globe-winning picture seems longer than necessary, but Quinn, Magnani, and Krüger provide just enough nuance to prevent their characters from slipping into caricature, and the films celebration of solidarity lends it an enduring appeal. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Nominated for 2 Academy Awards and winner of 1969 The Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Comedy.
Anna Magnani's performance in every scene is spellbinding. She simply steals the entire show with her masterful exuberance.
I can't say enough about this film. I believe Santa Vittoria is an under appreciated film and a lost gem by director Stanley Kramer, it certainly deserves a place in AFI's Top 100. This is one of both Anna Magnani's & Anthony Quinn's best screen performances.
Word reaches the hillside town of Santa Vittoria that its fabulous wine reserve is to be seized by the retreating German army. The newly installed mayor, viewed as a buffoon by his wife and the saner citizens of the town, is faced with saving the wine from the Germans. He proves that not all buffoons are the same; some have much more common sense than they appear to possess. The film is a brief clash of two cultures where the apparent underdog runs circles around its supposed superior.
This film has humor, tension, love, and a dash of evil as it occurs within the backdrop of war. Anthony Quinn, who plays the mayor Bombolini, does a superb job, even if you are not an Anthony Quinn fan. The film should leave you smiling at the end.
It is well worth including in your video library.
The movie trebles the book. Anthony Quinn was never cast better which is saying a lot, and with the combination of every member of the rest of the cast (mentioning Hardy Kruger who is excellent (though, in my opinion not as good as in "The Flight of the Phoenix), makes for the perfect movie.
This is a fun movie, not at all serious, downright silly at times, but all the better for it.
My favorite lines from the movie:
Town Priest: We don't have prayers to stop rain. We only have prayers to make rain.
Villager: You mean on Noah's Ark they prayed for more rain?
Priest: That was before organized religion.
Village: Poor Noah. He didn't have the church to help him back then, only God."
There are lots of great lines like this in the movie.