MACISTE ALL’INFERNO (IT 1926)
(US: Maciste in Hell)
Score by: Teho Teardo & Zerorchestra
performed live by: Zerorchestra, Accademia Musicale Naonis & Riccardo Pes (cello)
“What was the first film in my life? I know my memory is accurate because the image of it has remained so deeply impressed on me that I have tried to recreate it in all my films. The film was called Maciste all’inferno. I saw it in the arms of my father, who was standing in the midst of a great crowd of people with his coat dripping wet, as it had been raining outside. I can remember a big woman with a naked belly, her belly-button, and great flashing made-up eyes. With an imperious sweep of her arm she created around Maciste – who was also half-naked and had a club in his hand – a circle of tongues of flame…” – Federico Fellini, Block-notes di un regista (1988)
Guido Brignone’s delirious Maciste all’inferno is now acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of Italian film history. This fantastic excursion into the supernatural is undoubtedly the best of the series of films starring Bartolomeo Pagano as the lovable strongman Maciste, who first appeared in the 1914 epic Cabiria.
Italian film historian Vittorio Martinelli, in the book Maciste & Co. I giganti buoni del muto italiano (Gemona, 1981), has perhaps best described the elements which have made this film a classic: “Maciste all’inferno [is] an extraordinary mixture of the fantastic and the grotesque, the gentle and the sentimental, the comic and the tragic. The gifted Guido Brignone, supported by special effects wizard Segundo de Chomón, successfully blended Dante and Méliès, Goethe and Fritz Lang, Gustave Doré and Alex Raymond, to produce a curious film which is still extremely enjoyable today. Maciste enchants because of its indefinable pastiche of Expressionism, comic strip, Mediterranean sensuality, and Gothic diabolism. In the middle of all this is Maciste, totally at ease, surrounded by a Barbariccia who reminds us of Dr. Caligari, a Pluto who reminds us of Mangiafuoco, two sexy devil ladies, and a great number of living dead who seem right out of a medieval print.”
Surely one of the most remarkable works of Italian silent film, for years this film was only available in variable reissue copies from the 1940s, with a soundtrack. (It even surfaced in New York in June 1931, in a sound version described in the New York Times as “inoculated with a synchronized music score and sound effects”.) These mutilated versions gave us only a vague idea of its exceptional original quality. In November 1992, after two years of research, the Cineteca di Bologna premiered its final restored version of Maciste all’inferno at its festival Il Cinema Ritrovato. Working mainly from two tinted nitrate copies, from the Danish Filmmuseum in Copenhagen and the Cinemateca Brasileira in São Paulo, plus safety prints from the Cineteca Nazionale in Rome and George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, almost all the original footage was restored, in the best possible visual quality, with the original tinting, as were the graphics and text of the original Italian intertitles. Though the two main source prints came from the same negative, they had many differences. The Danish copy was longer and of better quality, but was missing Chomón’s special effects, the most erotic scenes, some of the original graphics of the titles, and many of the intertitles. The Brazilian version was extremely fragmented and in fragile condition, but it did contain the erotic scenes in Hell.
The resulting restoration was one of LUMIERE’s first big projects, and one of its most successful. International audiences are now able to experience this entertaining film, and to see for themselves why Fellini often cited it as one of the films that impressed and influenced him the most. – <mc>Catherine A. Surowiec</mc> (Adapted from her text in The LUMIERE Project: The European Film Archives at the Crossroads, 1996)
The subsequent 2009 restoration by the Cineteca di Bologna and the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Turin includes the original intertitles that describe the underworld with Dantesque tercets, reconstructed using documents preserved at the Museo Nazionale del Cinema. The film was restored at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna. (2009 Cinema Ritrovato festival catalogue)
The music The importance of Guido Brignone’s Maciste all’inferno in the history of Italian cinema and the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death prompted the Zerorchestra to devise a new soundtrack for the film, involving Teho Teardo, one of the most original composers of music for film and theatre on the European scene. Teardo is from Pordenone, but Roman by adoption. In recent years, he has worked with directors such as Paolo Sorrentino, Gabriele Salvatores, Andrea Molaioli, and Daniele Vicari, to name but a few. In 2001 Maestro Teardo appeared at the Giornate, performing the live accompaniment to Teinosuke Kinugasa’s A Page of Madness (Kurutta Ippeiji, 1926).
The resulting Maciste accompaniment is a remarkable fusion of Teho Teardo’s innovative electronic sounds and the acoustics of the orchestra’s woodwinds, percussion, and strings. A challenge that creates a sound world between tradition and contemporaneity, and manages to find just the right balance in the score and the performing ensemble. Maciste, interpreted by Bartolomeo Pagano, finds his “voice” in the sound of the low brass of the Accademia Musicale Naonis, while Dante’s poetry is expressed with virtuoso mastery by the solo cello of Riccardo Pes.
Teho Teardo and the musicians of Zerorchestra have the task of ferrying, like Charon to Hell, this unusual, ambitious musical accompaniment to one of the great classics of Italian silent film. – Piero Colussi
MACISTE ALL’INFERNO (IT 1926)
(US: Maciste in Hell)
regia/dir: Guido Brignone.
scen: Fantasio [Riccardo Artuffo], based on L’Inferno, di/by Dante.
photog: Massimo Terzano, Ubaldo Arata.
spec. effects: Segundo de Chomón.
scg/des: Giulio Lombardozzi. cast: Bartolomeo Pagano (Maciste), Elena Sangro (Proserpina), Pauline Polaire (Graziella), Franz Sala (Barbariccia), Lucia Zanussi (Luciferina), Umberto Guarracino (Pluto), Mario Sajo (Gerione), Domenico Serra (Giorgio).
prod: Stefano Pittaluga, Fert-Pittaluga, Torino.
copia/copy: DCP, 98′ (da/from 35mm, 2306 m. [orig. l. 2475 m.], imbibito e virato/tinted & toned [Desmet process], 20 fps); did./titles: ITA.
fonte/source: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino, & Cineteca di Bologna. Restauro/Restored 2009.