Directed by Carmine Gallone [Other horror films: N/A]
I can’t say that I knew anything about this film before watching it, but I was vaguely aware of it’s existence. I didn’t know it was Italian, and I certainly didn’t know the plot or anything else about Malombra, but it was in a list of mine of every cataloged horror film, so I had apparently ran into it at some point.
For the longest time, I’ll admit that I thought the 1925 Maciste all’inferno was the oldest-existing Italian horror film, but I was mistaken, at least in my view. Though more primarily a dark melodrama (to be fair, what horror films from the 1910’s weren’t?), there are some interesting things in this early and admittedly muddled movie.
One of the primary themes is revenge after a young woman (played by Lyda Borelli) reads about the abuse another took from her uncle. That desire for revenge takes some time to reach its boiling point (it’s not entirely clear as the story sometimes moves at a quick pace, but I believe the ending takes place years after the initial reading of the diary), but happen it does, and there’s even a question as to whether or not Marina was possessed when engaging in said revenge (she called herself by another name multiple times, and as she wasn’t the most mentally-stable, it could go either way).
Borelli was as decent as you could expect from a rough movie like this. I certainly thought she showed a solid emotional range, though I do wish some aspects of her character had been expanded on. Same with Augusto Mastripietri, as I think there’s some questions as to exactly why he mistreated Cicelia, the woman who wrote the diary, to begin with. I don’t know if Amedeo Ciaffi’s character was that relevant, or that of his daughter’s, Consuelo Spada, but Amleto Novelli did have an aura to him (though again, I didn’t understand why things didn’t work out between him and Marina).
Through little fault of it’s own, Malombra’s preservation has suffered through some rough degradation. According to my understanding, a little bit of the story is missing, and you can sort of tell, as portions of the story seem somewhat ill-explained (for instance, I don’t know who called off Marina’s wedding, and why that’d cause her to snap, as she didn’t want to get married to the guy anyway), and I’m guessing some of that could be explained in a fuller version of the film.
It’s of little matter, though – even if such a version existed, Malombra would still be more a depressing melodrama with some dark ideas and ill intent thrown in before all else. I’m just personally glad that a version with the original Italian intertitled, and subtitled in English, exists, because otherwise, this obscure silent film would probably have never been seen by my eyes.
This isn’t the most interesting silent horror I’ve seen, but I deeply appreciate having seen it, as it showed me, personally, that Italy was playing around with the genre before I suspected, no matter how muddled this product turned out.
2 thoughts on “Malombra (1917)”