15 SEPTEMBER 1950, Page 10


CINEMA " Senza Pieta." (La Continentale).—" Mister 880." (Odeon, Marble Arch).

It may be that the Italians have set themselves too high a standard in the films they have been sending us since Open City brought a new and compassionate realism into the cinema. However it is, I was dis- appointed in the latest film of the kind, Senza Pieta, which sets its doomed lovers, Negro G.I. and blonde—very blonde—Italian tart, against the familiar background of post-war squalor and hopelessness. Some of the Italian hall-marks remain unblurred—the director's mar- shalling of crowds and deployment of open spaces, the cameraman'g touch with the live Latin faces of the minor players. But the story, and the casting of the leading players, are all too obviously aimed at the box-office, and I cannot entirely smother a lurking suspicion that it was British and American box-offices, especially, that were in mind.

One expects less from modest little American comedies, and I must say that I found far more pleasure this week in Mister 88o which 'brings a new twist to an old type Of story. It begins, like so many others, with acknowledgments to this and that United States Govern- ment department and shots of harassed public servants and their filing cabinets. But the counterfeiter who has the Treasury investigators baffled is a junk-dealer who spdcialises in one-dollar bills, made and passed one at a time, spelling mistakes and all, and even the concomi- tant love story laughs at itself a little. True, Mr. Edmund Gwenn plays the counterfeiter with rather too wffimsical a touch, and the film slithers down its final sequence into a treacle-tub of court-room senti- ment. But by then I had already been smiling amiably for more than an hour, and though a man may smile and smile and be a villain, he cannot smile at a film and not be grateful.