DVD: Jester’s Supper, The / La cena delle beffe (1942)

November 7, 2015 | By


JestersSupper1942Film: Excellent

Transfer:  Good

Extras: Standard

Label:  One 7 Movies

Region: 0 (NTSC)

Released:  May 12, 2015

Genre:  Drama / Suspense

Synopsis: After being humiliated and losing his love, a former servant exacts cruel revenge on a pair of sadistic brothers in this vivid adaptation of Sem Benelli’s play.

Special Features:  Stills Gallery.




Sem Benelli’s play is a nasty little gem, compacting the cruel trickery and intricate plotting of an epic Shakespearean tragedy into something more modest in scale, but no less devastating.

Osvaldo Valenti is outstanding as Giannetto, a former servant who uses his unexpected Iago skills to ensnare Neri (charismatic and Flynnesque Amedeo Nazzari), his chief tormentor by getting him to participate in a foolish act of bravado that has him arrested and locked up as insane.

Only Giannetto is able to work the judges and sanction leniency and / or his freedom, but until there’s a favourable apology given directly to Giannetto, loutish aggressor Neri will remain strapped to a cross, tortured and verbally tormented by the former lovers wrangled for a visit by Gianneto.

Alessando Blasetti and Renato Castellani’s script is brisk and perhaps a bit too abrupt at the end – there’s a need for one more dramatic beat to hammer home the tragic end to every character in this sordid drama – but it’s told with power and efficiency from Blasetti, a skilled director who employs swerving camera moves and sharp editing.

Equally important to the drama is Giuseppe Becce’s smart score that augurs Giannetto’s own personal struggle as he quickly realizes he has no choice but to see through his full scheme. The scenes between Valenti and Nazzari in the dungeon are the most galvanizing, since there’s no common ground between the two rivals from differing classes; the only elements that join them are mutual hatred, and pretty Ginevra (Clara Calamai), the lover whom Neri stole from Giannetto’s arms with particular brutality.

Benelli’s play was also adapted into an opera by the author, set to music by Umberto Giordano, but it’s fair to say both The Jester’s Supper and many of the high caliber talent in the film are largely unknown in North America. One 7 Movie’s DVD is adequate – the transfer has visible compression, but at least it’s from a decent source print – but the stills gallery (manufactured from frame grabs) is a poor substitute for extensive bios on the cast & crew.

An isolated score would’ve been marvelous – Becce’s themes and lush variations are exquisite – but at the very least, the disc makes available a rare work by Blasetti. Besides Too Bad She’s Bad (1954), few of his films have been released in North America.

The Jester’s Supper is also of note in being one of several films starring Valenti, whose fascist associations ultimately cost him his life days before Italy’s liberation during WWII.

Valenti was executed by anti-fascist soldiers alongside his lover Luisa Ferida, both huge stars in the 1930s and 1940s, and whose final years were dramatized in the 2008 biography Wild Blood / Sanguepazzo, directed by Marco Tullio Giordana.

Ferida’s role as one of Neri’s jilted lovers is quite modest, whereas horror fans will enjoy an early performance by Calamai, one in which she raised eyebrows and the ire of censors when Neri tears off Ginevra’s top, exposing her bare bosom. While Calamai’s postwar output became infrequent, she appeared in Luchino Visconti’s film noir Ossessione (1943) and drama Le notti bianchi (1957), and made a final screen appearance in Dario Argento’s Deep Red / Profondo Ross (1975) as a very protective mamma.

Becce’s long film scoring career extended from Germany to Italy, and included several classic genre films, such as Fritz Lang’s Destiny (1921), F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light (1932), and Gustav Machaty’s Ecstasy / Ekstase (1933)



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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