reason why, as a regular habit, I go carefully over the
monthly schedule for Turner Classics
Movies cable network, is because they will slip in, here and there, films
that are more than of passing interest, and that are real curiosities that more
people should be aware of.
the case this upcoming early Monday morning on March 17 at 2AM (1 AM Central) when TCM will broadcast the rarely seen 1948 Italian Neo-Realist
film Senza Pieta (Without Pity)
after a rare TV broadcast of the 1928 silent race film Scar of Shame.
While Scar of
Shame is also a rarity, it’s more available to be seen (it’s even on YouTube
HERE). However Senza Pieta is never seen anywhere. It’s hard to find, and, to my
knowledge, has never been released in any video format; and its neglect is unfortunate.
Made during the height
of the post-World War II Italian Neo-Realist genre, in which directors such as Roberto Rossellini and Viittorio De Sica, with films such as The Bicycle Thief, Umberto D and Open City, stripped away the phony
Hollywood inspired artifice and gloss common in European films of the time, for a harder, minimalist, more realistic approach towards
story telling, chronicling people struggling to survive a cruel and unforgiving
Pieta, which was directed by Alberto
Lattuada and co-written, during his early screenwriting years, by the great Master of Cinema, director Federico
Fellini (8 ½, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon,
Amarcord, etc), the film tells the
story of a black ex-army solider, Jerry, who’s gone AWOL after WW II, and has decided
to stay in Italy after, instead of returning home to face racism there. He then meets an Italian prostitute under strange circumstances – during the middle of
gun battle between gangsters, in which he’s wounded.
The two of
them fall in love, and try to make it, despite getting caught up with those same gangsters, and it all winds up, as you can imagine, not so happily, in an emotionally powerful
ending, though admittedly the symbolism is rather heavy handed.
It’s a film
that tries to be several things – a gangster film, a tragic love
story, while still being a Neo Realist film of the period. There is a hard
edged grittiness and grimy, matter of fact truthfulness. And the romance
between the black soldier and the broken down hooker fittingly avoids of any Hollywood
phoniness and fantasy (Then again back in 1948, the last thing Hollywood was making
were films about interracial romances).
the film’s characters themselves, their romance is doomed from the start, but
they find, at least, some small sense of happiness and peace when they are
central fascinating figure is the role of Jerry, who is played by, the now forgotten actor, John Kitzmiller, who I first wrote about three
years ago, on this site, and is still a subject of interest.
Born in Michigan
and a college graduate with a degree in engineering, Kitzmiller, no doubt, related to Jerry, since Kitzmiller himself, after fighting in Italy in the U.S. Army
during WWII (where he was awarded the Victory Medal), decided to stay in Italy, and eventually became an actor, appearing in over 50 films made mainly in
Italy, and a few in France, and the U.K. He even became the first black actor to
win the Best Actor prize at
the Cannes Film Festival, for the
film, Valley of Peace in 1957.
did not go well for Kitzmiller, who died relatively young at the age of 51 in 1965, due to cirrhosis of the liver, a condition almost always associated with
alcoholism. One can only surmise from this, that he never really found in Europe whatever happiness he
hoped to find away from the U.S.
So if you’ll be up late on Sunday night into Monday morning, check out Senza Pieta. It’ll be quite
a while before you have a chance to even see it again, and it’s worth your time.