RELUCTANT SAINT, THE
(director: Edward Dmytryk; screenwriters: John Fante/Joseph Petracca; cinematographer: C.M. Pennington-Richards; editor: Manuel del Campo; music: Nino Rota; cast: Maximillian Schell (Giuseppe), Ricardo Montalban (Don Raspi), Lea Padovani (Mother), Akim Tamiroff (Bishop), Harold Goldblatt (Father Giovanni), Arnoldo Foà (Giuseppe’s father), Carlo Croccolo (Gobbo), Giulio Bosetti (Brother Orlando); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward Dmytryk; Columbia; 1962)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s based on the life of the early 17th-century Saint Joseph of Cupertino, known as the patron saint of pilots because of his miraculous levitations. He’s depicted as a bumbling near-idiot, who is a magnet for getting into jams. But his mind was an empty vessel filled only with the grace of God, which opened the way for his eventual sainthood. Incredibly enough, more miracles are attributed to this simple man than to any other saint. Edward Dmytryk (“Shalako”/”Bluebeard”/”The Young Lions”) directs this heartwarming inspirational religious biopic in a straight-forward manner with passion and no ulterior motives. It’s based on The Saint of the Satellites, a funny and touching though somewhat fictionalized semi-biography of Saint Joseph of Cupertino, written by John Fante and Joseph Petracca.
The off-beat casting has German actor Maximillian Schell playing the saint.
In 1623, in the poor village of Cupertino, Italy, the gentle but mentally challenged peasant Giuseppe (Maximillian Schell) is always in hot water and his long-suffering mother (Lea Padovani), whose husband is an unemployed drunken sot and of no help in running the household, has her in desperation pleading with her brother Father Giovanni (Harold Goldblatt) to take her idiot son into the local monastery to do odd chores as a lay person. At the monastery, Giuseppe proves inept in begging for alms and gardening, and the head of the monastery, Father Raspi (Ricardo Montalban), gives him one more chance to work in the stables. On a visit by the local Bishop (Akim Tamiroff), also a peasant, he takes a liking to Giuseppe and recognizes he has ability to relate to the animals and that even though he’s not literate he has the true calling for religion, and he orders those in the monastery to prepare him in his studies for the priesthood. After a series of remarkable events, Giuseppe is ordained a priest and when saying his first mass in his birthplace village he flies above the altar.
The film lost money, as its subject matter was a hard sell and never reached the reluctant viewer. Most thought they would be bored, but it turns out to be one of the better films Dmytryk made and is never boring.
REVIEWED ON 3/27/2007 GRADE: B+