Here’s an article I’ve just translated from an old copy of L’unita, about the obscure Salvatore Samperi film Beati i ricchi. Samperi’s not a man known for his comedies, and this one was made the year before he had his major commercial success with the Laura Antonelli-starring Malizia. But it sounds kind of fun…
The rich have their reasons…
Paolo Villaggio and Lino Toffolo in a strange story about currency smugglers
One of the brightest, busiest and most interesting authors of the Italian ‘new wave’, Salvatore Samperi, is making his fifth film. In the film Beati i ricchi, which he’s due to start shooting in a few days, he tells the story of two in-laws, one a traffic cop and the other a smuggler (played respectively by Paolo Villaggio and Lino Toffolo), who live in a hamlet on the Swiss border. The two are close friends, so much so that the former often goes along with the latter’s fraudulent schemes.
And it’s on the cops advice that the smuggler tries to export – with his brother in laws full knowledge – currency across the border. For a variety of reasons the scheme fails and the two men find themselves in possession of over two billion lire without knowing quite where it has come from. Some elders from the hamlet – anonymous buyers and sellers of capital – attempt to do everything they can to recoup the money, but without success because they have to keep their activities secret from the police. The two friends, meanwhile, overcome their conscience and scruples and hurry to spend the cash, buying appliances of all types and forms and moving their respective families to a luxurious hotel in the city. The most important thing, as they say, is to spend the money while they have it and to make their acquaintances as jealous as possible.
But, as in western films, the long standing harmony between the two ‘improvised’ billionaires begins to fall apart. It’s at this point, seeing this attrition, that the gang of rich people (among the interpreters of whom is Sylva Koscina) take the opportunity to tie up the two of them in an elaborate swindle, resulting in the return of their money. They arrive at a meeting in the mountain hut owned by the cop (it is he who has hidden the money), but in mysterious circumstances the house catches fire.
We won’t spill the climax, and it’s no surprise that there’s more in the pot of these two good-hearted devils. “I’m not cut out for satire, ” says Samperi in a press conference announcing the making of the film, “and for me, in fact, this is an attempt to work with the comic trend, both in terms of language and content. In reality, I want for the first time to hook a big audience; I believe I haven’t ever made a film for all audiences and believe this is the right time. It’s not that this is any less engaged; in fact I don’t think I have ever done a directly political film; similar to Losey, who wanted to do Modesty Blaise and, in my opinion, wasn’t at all misguided in his desire. I feel that every time you make a film it’s an enormous learning experience.”
Here’s the opening sequence: