THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF SATURNINO FARANDOLA (1913)
aka Le avventure straordinarissime di Saturnino Farandola, Zingo, Son of the Sea
Article 4312 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Marcel Perez
Featuring Marcel Perez, Nilde Baracchi, Alfredo Bertone
What it is: Whimsical action movie
A man who was raised by monkeys as a baby is rescued and has adventures all around the world.
For some reason, this movie really stands out in the era that it came from; I’ve gotten the impression that most full-length silent movies from this time frame aspired to a certain degree of seriousness, and this one is pretty light-hearted. So I’m not entirely surprised to find out that it was originally shown as four shorts (which I”m guessing were each about thirty minutes long), and that this feature was edited together from them, though it appears that a third of the footage was left out in the process. There are four distinct segments here; the first is in Oceania where our hero has to save the woman he loves from an evil oceanographer, the second is in the Orient and involves the recovery of a sacred white elephant, the third is in Africa and appears to involve the rescue of two princesses from cannibals (this sequence is missing quite a bit of footage), and the fourth is in America where the hero gets embroiled in the Civil war and faces off with a character from a Jules Verne novel who has gone evil. Weird elements abound; there’s a sequence involving a woman swallowed by a giant fish, scenes involving monkeys and men in diving suits marching off to war, a battle in the sky involving hot air balloons, and, unless I’m very much mistaken, there’s a hint of a plot to steal Niagara Falls (which, since it never is addressed again, may be me hallucinating). The monkey and gorilla suits are certainly nothing to write home about, and the movie is often hard to follow (possibly due to the missing footage), but the whole thing is so charmingly bizarre that I’m tempted to hunt up the novel that inspired this. There are fantasy and science fiction touches to the story as well. This may well be one of the most entertaining of the early silent features.