CineSavant Column

Tuesday May 23, 2023



I got carried away with little music video clips, after last Saturday’s rediscovery of the Kessler Twins’ ’Scopitone’ in a better transfer. I looked up two other Italian items from European star Silvana Mangano, who made her big splash as a sex symbol in 1947’s Bitter Rice. It looks like she trimmed down her weight a bit for a hit 1950 Italo show called Anna, where she sang and danced to a monster Euro hit song El negro zumbón. Directorially speaking the little musical number is a mess — it cuts two takes together that don’t even begin to match. But Mangano‘s performance is minimalist-brilliant, ten years ahead of its time — all small delicate moves that are less dancing than bopping to the music — in her simple little beach outfit, Silvana seems VERY modern and ultra-stylish.



And that of course leads me to another Silvana Mangano music clip, from about 16 years later. She plays a movie star goaded into a little performance at an exclusive party, in the Luchino Visconti episode of the omnibus movie The Witches. This clip is also in a much-improved transfer.

The music is by Piero Piccioni, not Ennio Morricone, as I once thought. Visconti concentrates on Silvana’s dance moves. Much of the rest of The Witches is not as good, even an episode with Clint Eastwood. But here Ms. Mangano once again wins out with sheer stylishness: The Chalet dance in The Witches.



A new release from Flicker Alley merits our attention. 1927 was when the great Laurel & Hardy became a comedy duo, and the fact that copyrights have expired on most films from that year would seem to have prompted this two-disc collection of the first year of their official collaboration. That insight was gleaned from John McElwee’s Greenbriar Picture Shows article from May 15.

Flicker Alley’s notice describes the collected films as restored from copies found in multiple archives. Blackhawk Films and France’s Lobster Films partnered in the project, officially listed as Laurel & Hardy: Year One, The Newly Restored 1927 Silents. The tally is 13 short subjects and two earlier collaborations: Lucky Dog (1921), 45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926), Duck Soup (1927), Slipping Wives (1927), Love ‘em and Weep (1927), Why Girls Love Sailors (1927), With Love and Hisses (1927), Sugar Daddies (1927), Sailors, Beware! (1927), The Second 100 Years (1927), Call of the Cuckoo (1927), Do Detectives Think? (1927), Putting Pants on Phillip (1927), The Battle of the Century (1927), and Flying Elephants (1928).

I’ve only seen (and loved) Laurel & Hardy piecemeal, so this organized re-introduction to the duo will be a special treat. They are all silents, of course. Each has been given a musical accompaniment, from Neil Brand, Antonio Coppola, Eric le Guen, and Donald Sosin. The extras are extensive, including a commentary track for each picture. The street date is listed as July 25.

Thanks for reading, Glenn Erickson