…and native Roman architecture that I am and never having seen Meville Shavelson‘s The Pigeon That Took Rome (’62), which was shot in black-and-white Panavision (2.39:1) by the respected Daniel Fapp (The Joker Is Wild, One, Two, Three, West Side Story, The Great Escape)…being soft and susceptible I foolishly, unthinkingly and idiotically bought a $15 bootleg DVD of this all-but-forgotten comedy, which costarred Charlton Heston, Harry Guardino and Elsa Martinelli.
I was already annoyed about the DVD being advertised with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio, which apparently means the sides of the Scope image have been lopped off. Which is a huge fuck you to Fapp. HE to the guy who decided to present a 16 x 9 version: “If there was a God you would somehow suffer for this. Maybe you’ll suffer anyway. I hate you.”
And then I found a muddy looking, pan-and-scan clip from the film on YouTube, and my heart stopped.
One, the little kid (played by the native Italian child actor Carlo Angeletti (aka “Marietto”) somehow manages to sound like an American kid trying to fake an Italian accent. (Maybe Angeletti was dubbed,) Two, as he’s running toward his mother (Martinelli) across a field we see bullets from a German machine gun tear up the soil and the kid falls, presumably dead. Three, Heston comes upon the German soldiers who shot the kid and doesn’t shoot them with a .45 because they look too young. (“Give them to their mothers.” he tells Guardino.) Four, Heston and Martinelli come upon the groaning kid and discover “he’s all right,” as Heston says. So the young Germans missed him? Then why did the kid fall? What’s he groaning about — the dialogue?
From Bosley Crowther’s 8.23.62 review: “Forget Rossellini’s Open City and any other films you may have seen about the hardships and tensions among the people in occupied Rome during World War II. Conditions were tough, but everybody had a jolly, jouncy, topsy-turvy time while the Nazis were in control of the Eternal City — even the Nazis.” (Here’s the whole review.)
In short, I’d paid $15 to watch a side-cleavered WWII comedy that is clearly, obviously shit-level. All I have to look forward to is the Roman architecture. I hate myself.
Let’s hear it for the Brooklyn-born Melville Shavelson! — Bob Hope pally and screenwriter of several Hope films — The Princess and the Pirate, Where There’s Life, The Great Lover, Sorrowful Jones, The Seven Little Foys, Beau James. (He also directed the latter.) He also wrote Houseboat. He also wrote and directed The Five Pennies, It Started in Naples, On the Double, A New Kind of Love, Cast a Giant Shadow and Yours, Mine and Ours.