Extraordinary: Saturnino, Italy 1913

Le avventure straordinarissime di Saturnino Farandola
R: Marcel Perez (i.e. Marcel Fabre) / Luigi Maggi. B: Albert Robida (novel) / Guido Volante. K: Ottavio De Matteis. Ba: Decoroso Bonifanti / Enrico Lupi. D: Marcel Perez, Nilde Baracchi, Alfredo Bertone. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio. It 1913
Ital. titles
Print: La Cineteca Italiana

Released in four episodes: 1. L’isola delle scimmie 2. Alla ricerca dell’Elefante bianco 3. La regina dei Makalolos 4. Farandola contro Fileas-Fogg

“The story originates with a novel by Albert Robida written in 1879 as a pastiche of the works of Jules Verne. Part parody, part tribute, it’s full title was ‘The Extraordinary Voyages of Saturnino Farandola, in the Five or Six Parts of the World and in All Countries Known and Unknown to Mr Jules Verne’. Illustrated throughout by the author, it featured many of the characters from Verne’s novels, and was popular enough to be translated into French and Spanish. According to some sources, this film adaptation was, like the novel, originally released in serial form, consisting of eighteen two- and three-reel episodes. Sadly, we only have four left, which were restored by Lobster-Film in 1997 and screened in the feature-length form discussed here.

The star of Saturnino, Marcel Fabre, was a Spanish comic actor and ex-circus clown (real name Marcel Perez) well known in Italy for his character ‘Robinet‘, whom he portrayed in around forty films for Arturo Ambrosio‘s studio from 1910 onwards. Marcel makes an engagingly good-natured hero amidst the mayhem, hard to dislike despite Saturnino’s occasional lapses into animal slaughter, violence and racism; present-day viewers will have to make their own excuses for the toe-curling parade of ethnic stereotypes seen throughout Saturnino.

Fabre’s (uncredited) co-director, Luigi Maggi, made his mark with The Last Days of Pompeii in 1908, also for Ambrosio. (…) There’s a hint of the influence of Méliès in some of the more fantastical scenes here, but with a major difference: depth. Even with his later films, Méliès was still moving his players from right to left, as on a theatre stage. In Saturnino, though there are very few close-ups, many individual shots make effective use of perspective, with the actors emerging from or disappearing into the far distance. And even when this device is not used for dramatic effect, there is usually some kind of business happening in the background to add visual interest to expository scenes.”
The Devil’s Manor

>>> more films by Marcel Perez: Slapstick Italiano on this site