(De Goudzoeker / GB: Prospecting for Gold / US: The Human Bridge)
Baldassarre Negroni? (IT 1913)

John Wood loves Kate Sampson; however, when he discovers her family is poor, he breaks off with her. Her father reproaches him, and Kate’s brother Sam soon finds gold and stakes a claim. Learning of the gold claim, John and his family of prospectors attack and set fire to the Sampson family buildings; the Sampsons and their friends flee, but the Woods follow and seize Kate and her father, while Sam escapes. Failing to get them to reveal the gold site (even though they once are buried up to the neck), John and his sister Lea go in pursuit of Sam. Desperate, Sam shoots and wounds Lea but then carries her to a friend’s cabin, where he cares for her. Once recovered, she is so grateful that she deceives her own family and allows Kate and her father to be freed. After another pursuit, the Sampsons trick the Woods and overwhelm them. In a showdown Sam demands that John fight him in a duel, but John, now remorseful, refuses to shoot him. The families rather improbably reconcile, John regains Kate’s affection, and Sam and Lea realize they are in love.
This story of a disrupted romance and a gold claim that provokes a bitter family feud is set in a landscape that is perfect for lots of horseback riding – often dry and flat, sometimes hilly and rocky, and at one crucial point marked by high cliffs. The film’s two parts each end in a spectacular scene, accentuated by tinting. The first scene involves the burning homestead from which the Sampsons and their friends escape by climbing out onto the roof and leaping to the ground. The second depicts, in a silhouetted extreme long shot, the Sampsons creating a human bridge between two cliffs that the father and both women slowly clamber over, after which those who formed the bridge are pulled up over the cliff edge. (The scene of the human bridge very aptly forms the basis for the 2017 Giornate souvenir postcard.) After all of the story’s violence, Kate’s acceptance of John’s remorse in the end may be hard to swallow, unlike the final “emblematic” shot of Lea and Sam in an embrace.

Richard Abel

cast: ? (Sam Sampson), Hesperia (Kate Sampson), Lea Giunchi (Lea Wood), Amleto Novelli (John Wood), Ignazio Lupi (Sampson, il padre di Kate/Kate’s father).
prod: Cines.
uscita/rel: 07.07.1913.
copia/copy: 35mm, 472 m., 24’46” (18 fps), col. (imbibito/tinted); did./titles: NLD.
fonte/source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection).