Genre: Drama/ Suspense
Director: Francesco Rosi
TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE
Despite it’s title, Illustrious Corpses AKA Cadaveri eccellenti is not a Poliziotteschi flick. It’s a serious movie. There are some heavy hitters in the cast: Max Von Sydow, Marcel Bozzuffi, Fernando Rey, and Charles Vanel among them.
Director Francesco Rosi lets you know his intentions right off the bat.
The first sequence is just brilliant. We see a man walking down a long hallway. It turns out that the man, who is quite old, is visiting one of the catacombs in Italy. Along the hall, corpses are propped up, still wearing the finery that shows they had distinguished careers, back when they were still alive. From the way that the old man, Judge Varga (Charles Vanel), ruminates over the corpses, we can see that he understands that soon enough, he will be just like them. I can’t really think of another sequence in movies that so clearly embodies a knowledge of mortality.
Soon enough, judges start getting killed. (Lovers of trash cinema be warned — we never see the killings — there is almost no blood, much less the gratuitous car chases, nudity, and sleaze so beloved by Poliziotteschi aficionados.)
Inspector Amerigo Rogas (Lino Ventura, in a magnificent performance) is called in on the case. Rogas is an intelligent man, patience and watchful. His superior, the Chief of Police (Tino Carraro) would like the crimes blamed on young agitators. Rogas is skeptical and follows the evidence.
Is it the mafia? Is the culprit a victim of a miscarriage of justice? Or is something else going on?
As the plot unspools, things get less and less clear and Rogas becomes more and more paranoid.
I must warn viewers of this web site, Illustrious Corpses does not wrap things up in a neat package. In fact, a lack of closure is part of the point.
What writer/director Francesco Rosi really wants to address is the corruption of society and how easily stability can be undermined.
One of the judges (Max Von Sydow) has an incredible speech about why a miscarriage of justice is an impossibility. He compares a judge giving a sentence to a Catholic priest giving communion. By virtue of his ordination, the priest turns wine into the blood of Christ every time. Similarly, a judge always gives justice, no matter how crooked he might be, by virtue of his appointment.
Obviously, Illustrious Corpses is not about cheap thrills. For that reason and because this is a web site devoted to Trash Cinema, I am only giving Illustrious Corpses three stars, although the movie is much better than that rating would imply.
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