Ghosts–Italian Style

Gasser

Ghosts, Italian Style (1969)

     Although it only acted as distribution company, MGM managed to stamp its name prominently on the start of Ghosts–Italian Style, a film that is otherwise totally Italian. Filmed in Italy with an entirely Italian cast speaking English for the American release –thanks in large part to the Italian tradition of post-synchronized sound– the U.S. studio made its presence clearly known with the bringing of this flick to the states.

     Bearing a similar name to Divorce–Italian Style, this movie plays on similar tenants of near infidelity and the permissibility of honor killings and is equally fun. The picture opens on Sophia Loren as Maria and Vittorio Gassman as Pasquale who correspond from their respective rooftops and quickly fall in love. The opening credits are then used to portray the couple’s marriage and fall into poverty as Pasquale, an opera singer, loses his job.

     Desperate, Maria goes to the orphanage where she was raised to ask the president, who is in love with her, for help. It turns out this powerful and wealthy man, Alfredo (Mario Adorf) –who has turned the orphanage into a saint factory– has been anonymously giving money to Pasquale all along, but still would like Maria to leave her husband for him. Meanwhile, Pasquale has stumbled upon a mansion that is rent free and comes with the money necessary to move in. The reason, as you might have guessed, is because it is haunted and several tenants have died therein. Pasquale takes the home without telling Maria the trouble.

     On their first night in the home, Alfredo sneaks in to see Maria and hides in a wardrobe when Pasquale wanders in. During the scene, the wardrobe door creaks open on its own revealing a frigid and terrified Alfredo, whom Maria says she does not see, leading Pasquale to assume it is a ghost. Later, as Alfredo tries to exit the home in full view of Pasquale, he spills a briefcase of money and rushes out. Now, Pasquale believes he is a generous spirit. The story continues as Maria tries to fend off Alfredo’s advances while Pasquale continues to assume this man is haunting his house and giving him money. When the whole story comes unraveled, Pasquale murders his wife, or so we think.

     Ghosts–Italian Style contained nothing profound, but it was a wonderfully fun movie. Gassman is terrific as a nervous, bumbling idiot and Loren is wonderful as ever playing a gorgeous woman of modest income. Loren had a fantastic range in her physical looks. Despite how voluptuous she was, she could play down-and-out women as easily as high class ones, and she frequently did.

     Ghosts–Italian Style also offers a cute cameo at the end by Marcello Mastroianni, who starred in Divorce–Italian Style as well as opposite Loren on multiple occasions. He utters nothing more than a whistle, but his mere presence is worth a laugh.

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