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FIVE GOLDEN HOURS (director: Mario Zampi; screenwriter: Hans Wilhelm; cinematographer: Christopher Challis; editor: Bill Lewthwaite; music: Stanley Black; cast: Ernie Kovacs (Aldo Bondi), Cyd Charisse (Baroness Sandra), George Sanders (Mr. Bing), Kay Hammond (Martha), Dennis Price (Raphael), Clelia Matania (Rosalia), John Le Mesurier (Doctor Alfieri), Finlay Currie (Father Superior), Reginald Beckwith (Brother Geronimo), Avice Landone (Beatrice); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mario Zampi; Columbia Pictures; 1961-UK/Italy)
“The wooden acting and lame comedy never registers.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer Hans Wilhelm comes up with a clever premise for this black comedy, but the wooden acting (especially Cyd Charisse) and lame comedy never registers. It’s the last film directed by Italian filmmaker Mario Zampi (“Too Many Crooks”/”Your Past is Showing”/”I Chose Love”), who died in 1963. For Ernie Kovacs, a popular television comedian at the time, he would appear in ten films, but this was his only starring role. In 1962, at the age of 42, Kovacs died in a car accident.

Aldo Bondi (Ernie Kovacs) is a good-hearted con artist, who is a professional mourner and pallbearer for an upper-class Rome cemetery. Aldo consoles widows during the funerals they attend for their spouses and manages to live off the wealthy widows by ingratiating himself to them and taking away their loneliness. Things take a turn for the worse when he tries his act on the beautiful but impoverished Baroness Sandra (Cyd Charisse) and lets his guard down by falling in love with her. To show off his skill as a bread-winner, Aldo gets involved in a complex swindle with three other widows. They give him money to invest in the New York Stock Market. The scam he pulls on them is based on the five-hour time difference between New York and Rome. Even though the offbeat scheme works, Sandra flees with the money.

Ashamed to face the widows, Aldo plans to kill them. But bungles the job. To avoid prison, Aldo feigns insanity and is placed in a mental institution. There he meets another con artist, Mr. Bing (George Sanders), who is also feigning insanity. When one of Aldo’s widows dies she leaves him her money if he recovers his sanity, but if he doesn’t she intends to leave her inheritance to a monastery. Aldo arranges to split the money with the monastery and returns to Rome. This time when he hooks up with Baroness Sandra, a widow six times already, he’s not so fortunate as before.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”