Oscar 1958: Foreign Language Nominees–Year 3

In the third year of the foreign-language Oscar category, the five nominees were: “Mon Oncle” (My Uncle”) from France, which won, “Arms and the Man” from the Federal Republic of Germany, ” “The Road a Year Long” from Yugoslavia,” “The Usual Unidentified Thieves” (aka “Big Deal on Madonna Street”) from Italy, and “La Venganza” (“Venegance”) from Spain.

Mon Oncle

See long critique of Jacques Tati’s satirical  film in the Review section.

Mon Oncle
Mononcle poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The Usual Unidentified Thieves (Big Deal on Madonna Street)

The original title of Mario Monicelli’s landmark comedy is “I Solti Ignoti” (literally meaning “Persons Unknown”), but the better-known one is “Big Deal on Madonna Street” (aka “The Usual Unidentified Thieves”).

An all-star cast, headed by Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman, Toto, and Claudia Cardinale, elevates this comedy of amateur thieves to delightful buffoonery. A gang of hapless guys plots an elaborate heist into a pawnshop, only to be undone by a series of funny and unexpected circumstances and their own incompetence.

Extremely popular wherever it played, the movie has been imitated to death with a number of U.S. efforts (Alan Taylor’s “Palookaville,” among them), though none is as delectable as the original, black-and-white picture.

Arms and the Man

“The Devil Came at Night” was directed by Robert Siodmak, besy-known for his American film noirs in the 1940s (“The Killers”), upon return to Germany.

Arms and the Man
Arms and the Man (film).jpg

Based on a real-life case, set in WWII, this suspenseful drama concerns an investigator of a series of murders, who discovers that the killer is a member of the Gestapo, but the Gestapo covers up the evidence, and instead blames an innocent man.

The film was released under different titles, including “The Devil Strikes at Night,” “Nazi Terror at Night,” and “Nights When the Devil Came,” which is the closest to the German title, “Nachts Wenn der Teufel Kamm.”

The Road a Year Long

Directed by Giuseppe de Santis, this semi-documentary film tells the story of a Yugoslav village that tries to have access to thee sea, hoping it will end poverty.

The Road a Year Long
The Road a Year Long.jpg

Italian release poste

Though submitted as Yugoslavia’s Oscar entry, the film is dominated by Italian talent, including de Santis, who also co-wrote the scenario, and grand landscape cinematography by Pasqualino de Santis.

La Venganza (Vengeance)

The great Italian actor Ralf Vallone stars in this Spanish revenge drama, penned and helmed by Juan Antonio Bardem, about a man seeking vengeance against those who caused his own erroneous imprisonment.

Vengeance
La Venganza (1958 movie poster).jpg

Theatrical release poster