An Italian Western – hybrid style

508-nel paese dell'oro

Nel paese dell’oro
D: Alberto Collo, Oreste Grandi, Matilde di Marzio. P: Cines. It 1914
Print: EYE Filmmuseum (Desmet Collection)
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“In Italian western Nel Paese dell’Oro (1914) the star was not a gunslinger, but Toby the faithful dog, who helped to build barricades, did his level best to throttle the villain, and even rescued a lost tot from kidnappers and cold water, Rescued by Rover style. A canine who can.”
Pamela Hutchinson
Silent London

“This is an interesting film hybrid. The first reel tells a western story of thwarted romance, revenge, and rescue, apparently set in Mexico. The second reel begins years later, with the same characters now in modern-day Vera Cruz, and it looks more like a contemporary Gaumont thriller from Louis Feuillade or Léonce Perret. A missing intertitle makes the shift in time and place rather abrupt.
As a gold-mine owner, Marco Gallegos has grown rich while refusing to hire cowboy neighbors. One of these “lazy cowboys,” Alonzo, has long been in love with Gallegos’s daughter Matilde, and is upset when she falls in love with the newly arrived Giovanni Fargas. Rebuffed by Gallegos, Fedro and José persuade their friend Alonzo to join in an attack on Gallegos, Matilde, and Giovanni. Setting the miner’s house on fire, they kill Gallegos, beat up Giovanni, and Alonzo seizes Matilde. But Giovanni manages to track down the villains and, with the help of his dog Toby, rescues her. They then escape their pursuers by hiding in a cave. A few years later, in Vera Cruz, the married Giovanni and Matilde take their son to a zoo, run by a friend named Bark. Fedro and José, now working as zookeepers, recognize Matilde and kidnap the boy in revenge and carry him off on bicycles. After Giovanni fails to catch them, again it is Toby who pursues the villains and rescues their son, while one kidnapper dies falling into a ravine and the other drowns in a river.
The most striking part of the first half of the film is the siege of the Gallegos house, in which the camera cuts in closer and closer to Gallegos, Matilde, and Giovanni as they barricade the door and window, firing rifles at the attackers, and then are forced to flee as the fire rages through the walls. Also of interest is the scene of Giovanni, Matilde, and Toby climbing down into the darkened cave and then escaping through another opening. If the second half seems more conventional, despite a well-executed chase and leaps into a river, it does include an unusual close-shot of Fedro and José edging up the interior of a chimney (before kidnapping the boy) – probably with the actors crammed into a set on the floor and filmed from above by a slowly dollying camera.”
Richard Abel
Le giornate del cinema muto