1955’s Il bidone (aka The Swindle), Federico Fellini’s first flop and one of his greatest films, is released in a new high definition restoration as part of Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema series in a Dual Format edition.
In 1950s Rome, 40-something conman Augusto (Broderick Crawford) travels the countryside with his associates Picasso (Richard Basehart) and Roberto (Franco Fabrizi) preying on gullible peasants using an array of nefarious scams, including dressing up as priests in search of buried treasure. But after encountering his grown-up daughter, Augusto hatches one final scam in a bid to turn his empty, lonely life round.
1955’s Il bidone forms the centerpiece of Federico Fellini‘s ‘Trilogy of Loneliness’, book-ended by La strada (1954) and Le notti di Cabiria (1957), but was not well received by critics and audiences, who criticised the director for making fun of poverty and people’s faith.
One of the cruelest scams portrayed in Il bidone involves getting people living in hovels under the Claudius Aqueduct to hand over money for fake contracts for new apartments that don’t exist. But Fellini’s portrayal was too close to the bone for Italian cinemagoers, who were trying to forget their deep poverty in the years that followed World War Two.
Unlike the neo-realists who made social commentary about poverty, Fellini mixes the real with the imagined, and this film marks the beginning of his move towards surrealism and his ‘megalomania of decors’* as witnessed in 1960’s La Dolce Vita and beyond.
Because both Broderick Crawford and Richard Basehart spoke their lines in English, the film was dubbed afterwards. This allowed Fellini greater creative control in the editing stage, with the film’s standout scene being an elaborately orchestrated 20-minute party scene which took two weeks to film, using 10 time more footage than required. But it’s pure Fellini that – coupled with the beautifully poetic finale of despair and Nino Rota’s typically exuberant score – makes Il bidone one of the director’s truly great films and probably the darkest examination of human nature he ever attempted.
THE MASTERS OF CINEMA RELEASE
The UK 2013 Blu-ray release includes the following:
• New HD master, presented in 1080p.
• Optional English subtitles.
• Original theatrical trailer.
• Interview with Dominic Delouche, Fellini’s former PA and ‘lucky talisman’.
• Collector’s booklet.