The main line is from Griffith , drawn delicately as to get a Sicilian mountaineerís vantage of the Risorgimento. The unification of a nation is the awakening of a conscience, namely the lanky, bearded shepherdís (Giuseppe Gulino), who must leave his young bride (Aida Bellia) to join Italian forces against the Bourbons. Heís crammed into a train compartment with patriots from other regions and classes, everyone seems to be speaking a different language; the wife is imprisoned back home, rescued from the firing squad by the amnesty, and joined by her beloved as the battalions clash at Calatafimi. Mussoliniís broadcasts occasionally echo amid the gunfire ("Donít think too much. Action is better"), still Alessandro Blasetti keeps the rolling forces of history human-sized -- Garibaldi figures glancingly at the head of a procession ("Simpatico!" somebody guffaws), the wife in the middle of the patriotic whirlwind scans the crowds for her husband. The landscapes and buildings are marvelously crumby, the dusky faces are out of Piero della Francesca, Blasetti assays it all with a technique that keeps refreshing the eye (rapid panning shots, studio lighting projected alfresco). The spacious, Italianate treatment can be followed ahead to Hustonís The Red Badge of Courage (three parallel columns of fighters climbing the mountain, each a different shade of gray), Fullerís Run of the Arrow (Garibaldi on horseback, seen eye-level above the bridge) and Leoneís The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (the dying soldier comforted surreptitiously on the battlefield). With Gianfranco Giachetti, Mario Ferrari, Maria Denis, and Ugo Gracci. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce