Koch Vision // 1950 // 75 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // November 19th, 2004
"You won't always have an axe in your hands -- you won't be so fresh then." -- Marco, threatening Alina when she defends herself against his attempted rape.
Okay, let's just get this out of the way: I can't see any reason for anyone to buy this DVD. I can't even recommend it for viewing if a stranger were to hand it to you along with a bag of buttered popcorn and a 64-ounce tub of soda. Koch Vision's regrettable "Cinema Sirens" series is a cleverly marketed, but poorly executed, collection of public-domain movies that feature early (and often forgettable) roles for actresses who later rose to fame due to their generous feminine appeal. This offering stars Gina Lollobrigida as a desperate wife with too many debts and a sick husband that she would do almost anything to save.
The movie opens on a ritzy casino that is just across the Italian border, in France. The manager, Giovanni (Amedeo Nazzari), is basically an honest man, but he works for a crooked owner whose bottom line is money, and lots of it. When Giovanni finds a suspicious lurker outside the casino, he clocks him and brings him inside only to discover that the intruder is Lollobrigida (as Alina), bundled in layers of clothes against the cold and snow. He apologizes for the cold-cocking and soon learns that she is part of a smuggling operation being run by the casino owner. She is taking the place of her husband, who is too sick to carry the fifty-pound load each member of the operation has to bear. She has little choice, since they desperately need the money in order to pay their debts and pay for her husband's medicine. Unfortunately for her, a former suitor named Marco (Otello Toso) is also part of the team. He wants Alina all to himself, and he sees this as another opportunity to convince her that he is the better man.
Her first operation goes well, so she asks for another opportunity and is welcomed back for another job. Marco, frustrated by her continued rejection, attempts to rape her, but she is able to fight him off. Giovanni takes pity on the beleaguered Alina and arranges for her not to go on the second smuggling mission, which enrages Marco. Eventually, Marco finds and confronts her husband, trying to make him believe that Alina is cheating on him, but the husband spits in his face and refuses his offer of cash in exchange for Alina. They fight, and when the weakened husband falls and knocks over a kerosene lamp, Marco leaves him to die in the subsequent fire.
At this point, the movie follows a fairly predictable progression until the happy ending, where Alina and Giovanni fight off evil and stand together in the fading sunlight. It's not a bad movie, per se, just formulaic and stiffly acted by all but a few of the principal cast members. The triangle of Marco, Alina, and Giovanni is played well enough by each of the actors, but supporting performances are laughably inept, including one throwaway performance by an elderly casino patron who is fleeced by a young temptress, then looks directly into the camera at the end of the shot as if to say, "Was that okay?" Although this was originally an Italian language film, the one and only soundtrack offered is an English dub, which further mars the overall acting effort. Again, principal roles are passing tolerable, but supporting roles are a parade of cheesy French accents (for casino patrons), stilted dialogue, and oddly matched vocal performances that don't seem to fit the characters. Of course, there is no attempt to match the lip flap of the original actors, which produces the clichéd effect of people seeming to speak for a few seconds after spoken dialogue is finished, or vice versa.
On top of this, image transfer is extremely soft (to the point of shapes bleeding into the background), covered with dirt and age-related wear, washed out so badly that the blacks are merely a dark gray, and so dark in certain segments that it's hard to even make out shapes, much less individual faces. The sound is equally atrocious, with loud hiss that is audiable even at the softest volume level. Turn up the sound at all, and you are greeted by a cacaphony of pops and skips on top of the oceanic roar of background hiss. The spoken dialogue and musical score are tinny, and the ambient noise and foley are over-loud and jarring. The transfer alone makes the movie torturous to watch. Not surprisingly, there are absolutely no extras with this release, and no alternate sound or subtitle tracks, which is a shame since the sound quality is bad enough to occasionally obliterate, or at least obfuscate, the dubbed dialogue.
The one bright light is that Alina is a starring role, so Lollobrigida does have the majority of screen time. Devoted fans may want to check the movie out simply for this reason, but she doesn't have many opportunities to be glamorous, other than a brief scene before the attempted rape when she lies down to sleep in some hay. (The DVD cover image, by the way, bears no resemblance to the layers of shape-concealing clothing that she wears in the movie.) Alina is a grim movie, and the title role is mostly a workhorse one that gives Lollobrigida an opportunity to show her talent and acting chops. Still, even completists will be horrified by the poor quality of this DVD. The caveat "buyer beware" has never been more appropriate.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Koch Vision
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated