Sunday, February 27, 2011

Robert’s Italian Job Part three: Il segno del commando

In 1992 Robert appeared in a remake of a famous 70’s Italian miniseries : Il segno del commando, where he played the leading role : an English literature professor, who has found a mysterious diary written by Lord Byron while he was in Paris, this finding involves him in the search of Il segno del commando to save his life.
These tv series remain a bit unknown in Robert filmography. I was lucky to watch it as I really liked it. However, I’m afraid to admit that I’m probably the only one who really liked it (and not just because of Robert!).

Main details

Produced by Mediaset, the main Italian commercial broadcaster, the series were intended for the French audiences : the agonizing French channel La Cinq. Again, it is a mystery for me if this series were ever broadcasted in France, as La Cinq went into bankruptcy and closed in 1992. I’m only sure that they were broadcasted in Italy, of course, in Mexico, and Romania, but maybe in some other countries. There are also two versions of this film : the “serial” version of around 180 minutes (in two episodes) and the “butchered” version of about 120 minutes.
It was filmed by Giulio Questi, from an original story by Giuseppe D’Agata (who has stated he didn’t like this remake), adapted by Questi’s longtime collaborator David Grieco. With an international cast: Robert Powell (excellent choice!) as Edward Foster the main character, the Italian cast : Elena Sofia Ricci, Paolo Bonacelli and Sonia Petrovna. The two latter appeared in D’Annunzio, as a matter of fact. The French cast was composed by Michel Bouquet (excellent actor, by the way), Fanny Bastien as the ghost, Alexandra Stewart and Maxime Leroux. Robert was dubbed by Cesare Barbetti, who also starred alongside Robert in D'Annunzio.
There is not much information about this on the net, mainly because of the popularity of the original show, to which this version will be always compared to in a very negative way. I think this series deserve a second chance, as to my humble opinion Robert’s performance was really good. But before getting into details I’m going to present the original story versus the remake.
The plot

As I haven’t seen the original, the information I’m giving is the one I’ve found here and there. The original Segno del commando was broadcasted in 1971 and kept Italian audiences in suspense for 5 days.

  • Original
Edward Foster, an English literature professor is translating a diary written by Lord Byron while he was staying in Rome. In the diary, Byron depicts a square, which the professor thinks it’s fictional.
He is invited to the British Council in Rome to give a conference. Before going to Rome, Foster receives the letter of Marco Tagliaferri, a Roman painter claiming that the square exists. In Rome, when Foster seeks for Tagliaferri, he meets Lucia, the painter model and then strange things happen: she disappears and nobody seems to know her, the diary is stolen and she left a medallion to him. He discovers that the painter Tagliaferri died 100 years ago as well as Lucia, his model and lover, and when he sees the painter’s self portrait he finds he resembles to him. Barbara, the secretary of the British Council attaché will help him to find the square, as he starts to think he is the reincarnation of Tagliaferri

  • Remake
Edward Foster, an English literature professor has found and is translating a diary written by Lord Byron while he was staying in Paris.
He is invited to the British Council in Paris to give a conference. In the diary, Foster finds a photograph of a square. In Paris, Foster asks for the square, but he is told it doesn’t exist. He eventually discovers that it is a painting of a certain Nicolas Barto. Before leaving to Paris, he mets a girl in the elevator and she passes out, then he finds out she has died. The ghost of the girl haunts him through Paris. In Paris, he discovers that Nicolas Barto was a painter who died 100 years ago and resembles to him. Foster discovers that Barto committed suicide because he couldn’t find the Comando (a medallion that makes the bearer immortal). Barbara, a reporter will help him to find the square, as he starts to think he is the reincarnation of Barto…

Well, in short that’s the plot. Both stories are similar, the names have changed, the geographical situation also (Rome becomes Paris), which explains why the names are different.
My opinion
It comes to me that the reason of its failure is that when you tackle a myth, don’t expect people to be kind with you! The original serial had (and still has!) a lot of fans so the remake was immediately rejected as the only people who knew the original were Italians, and the remake wasn’t even filmed in Italy. It’s a bit of understandable chauvinism.
I still don’t know why there were two versions. I came across with the short one and is really bad! I understand that many people find this remake as an insult if they only watch the short version (90 minutes). A funny detail concerning the alternate versions is that even if in Mexico I watched the long version it was also cut, as there are some nude scenes (of course the "butchered" version has all these scenes).
I insist, it’s a shame that this version wasn’t given a chance, because Robert Powell gave a powerful performance. His character, Edward Foster is a sad, embittered man because he has lost his wife in an air crash, which made him sank into alcoholism. This is important, because at one point the viewer could believe that in fact all the hallucinations about the ghost are the product of his alcohol consumption. Robert really has this look in his face of the man who feels sad and lost, and maybe there were circumstances that helped him to this composition as I’ve read in an interview (about his shyness):
He claims the shyness still lingers. 'I have major problems when I work away from home. Three years ago I worked in Paris for 16 weeks - the only foreigner involved in a film - so I was in a hotel while everyone else was at home. At night I would eat dinner in my room, because I was too self-conscious to walk into the restaurant by myself.'
Excerpt from an interview given to Angela Levin’s Daily Mail (London) January 10, 1995 “I fell for the blonde in Pan’s People but was so nervous that I asked the all to dinner”

The places
As a personal note, one of the first thing I did when I arrived to Paris was to find the places of the film, and I’m sure I had the same face of his character when he found the famous square where the Comando is hidden.
So here are the places:
Most of the locations were in the 1st sector of Paris, near the Louvre: the church where he finds a priest who can help him to find the square (Saint Germain l’Auxerrois), the bridge where he throws the knife that appears in his room after Barto’s descendant is murdered (Pont des arts). The famous square, but without the angel, is the Bourse de commerce de Paris. I thought the angel was the copy of the one in the St Michel fountain but I was wrong, I have no idea what was the model for this statue. And finally, the scenes at the airport were in the Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).

The old Paris commodity exchange. Sorry, pictures are not allowed inside, pity as it's a beautiful building!

The Church St Germain l'Auxerrois, behind the Louvre museum.

Robert in the Pont des arts, one of the most beautiful and romantic bridge of the city.

I leave you with some scenes of this film (in Italian and Spanish) and a site where I found some pictures.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Robert’s Italian Job Part 2: D’Annunzio

In 1985 Robert filmed in Italy D’Annunzio, about a period in the life of the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. He is young, handsome and his writings seduce women. The writer is married and has children, but entertains love affairs with the women who admire him. The film centers on the passion he had for Elvira Fraternati Leoni, who left her husband for him.
Hum! Again a Greek box!
So the plot sounds interesting, finally a film that offered to Robert the role of a seducer (and many love scenes!). In the film Robert looks so OHHHHHHHH MY GOD! SEXY! I just don’t have words, more than sexy! Handsome is so little to describe him! He looked gorgeous! However, his beautiful face and the presence of other Italian big names wasn’t enough to make a good film. The story goes nowhere, and that’s a pity, as I was so amazed to see finally Robert in the kind of role I wanted him to play!

I love the color of his hair
Robert appears almost in each scene of the film, but it was made in Italian, so Robert was dubbed and I don’t know if there’s an English version with his voice. To be honest I’ve seen it long time ago and didn’t understand it fully as my Italian is very poor! Sadly it’s not a master piece, but it made a good impression to me, mainly because of Robert.
I would have loved to know how was it for Robert to star this film in another language with Italian actors and director, I wonder how did they work together and why did he decide to make this film. Did he want an Italian career?
I leave you with a link to some scenes of this film :
 and a link to an Italian site with pictures of the film. If you’re keen in Italian check the reviews, alas, negative.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Robert's Italian job : Down there in the jungle

During his career, Robert Powell has starred in some Italian productions. Obviously, I don’t count The Italian Job (which is a pure and excellent British film, of course!), Robert started his Italian career with Jesus of Nazareth, which was a co-production ITC (UK) and Radiotelevisione italiana (Italy). After Jesus of Nazareth, Robert starred in 1977 the excellent Liliana Cavani’s Beyond good and evil, then in 1985 he starred the highly watchable D’Annunzio (where he looked gorgeous, with a magnificent beard!!), a year later he appeared in the regrettable Down there in the jungle, and then in 1992 he starred the underrated Il Segno del commando.
I’ve always wondered why he made so many Italian films. Many times he had said that British film industry was really bad and that Hollywood didn’t attract him. He preferred Europe, Italy is a sunny place, food is excellent, we all agree. But was he drugged, drunk or life-threatened when he signed for Down there in the jungle???????
Hopefully, this films is so hard to find, that let’s hope nobody had seen it! Sadly, I did! I’ve found a Greek copy on Ebay. The film is Italian, dubbed in English (with Greek subtitles). The film is about a group of tourists on a trip in the Italian countryside that found themselves in the middle of a dangerous jungle after the bus leaves them in the highway. All the characters are so stupid, the situations are so corny and the camera movements are so ridiculous that not even Quentin Tarantino would reproduce them! In a word, the film is bad! At least to me as I’ve recently found a comment about this film in the IMDB, which gives another view of the film :
I came across this little masterpiece on TV, late one night, by pure chance. No-one seems to have ever heard of it here in Italy. The plot is quite simple, during a bus ride in the Italian countryside a group of nine people get stranded along the highway (the bus has to stop because of a blown tyre and then departs without them). Their journey back to some inhabited place slowly becomes a magical adventure, where tamed woods become wild jungles and nothing is what it seems. The characters themselves, quiet, common people at the beginning, undergo a transformation that makes them very similar to those dark, cynical, mysterious characters in Hollywood 40es dramas set in Africa or Asia. Even their demeanor and their voices change, they all seem to have some dark secret in their past, all their good qualities and faults come out sharp, heroes and villains, coward husbands and misbehaving wives. They all have to come to terms with their past but at the end of the journey they will all be stronger, better persons. I strongly recommend it.
After I read that comment I felt a little stupid, for the mere reason that I just can't change my mind, I still think it’s a terrible film!! But I like to know there are differents point of views and that all of them are not negative.
For the first time, Robert plays a character that you just want to estrangulate! OK, I’m exaggerating, but he plays an irritating “know-it-all” professor. He dubs himself and his voice sounds like a bad imitation of Hannay’s archenemy Count Von Schwabing.
Robert seems to ask himself what he's doing down there in the jungle

In a few words, if What waits below was bad, this one is REALLY BAD. But thanks God, that’s all, Robert’s other films are quite decent. Sadly, not all of them are the masterpiece in which I would have loved him to star, but some are just great.
I leave you with a few scenes of this jewel so you can judge by yourself :

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A bit of Holby nostalgia

Just a few words of excuse, I wish I could post more often, the content is not a problem! Words without images or video are a bit less spectacular, isn’t it? I desperately need a roomy office, a scanner, video editing software and a LOT of TIME! Well, I promise soon I’ll bring more subjects.
For the moment, I just want to express again my astonishment about Robert’s departure from Holby. OK I didn’t realize at the time of my previous post that indeed Robert had already left Holby! Why the heck it wasn’t announced somewhere? What’s the purpose of all those Holby sites? Even the BBC's Holby City official site didn’t mention it! Such a shame! Every departure of important characters is announced, so why it wasn’t for Robert?? I’m so annoyed for that! Like none is interested about that? Even in the radio interview the animator hesitated whether it was Robert’s last episode or not!
Whatever! At least his character didn’t died! Maybe he’ll be come back as a guest star? I wish he didn’t! It’s a joke, but I have good reasons! Why? Because I follow Holby City through BBC Entertainment, the international BBC channel which is broadcasting at the moment Season 10 (so I have enough Holby for a while! and once he's off I won't pay for it!).
For all fans in the world, you can get  BBC Entertainment from your cable / satellite supplier, but you’ve lost Robert’s best episodes from Holby. As a matter of fact I have also lost them too, as BBC Entertainment schedules are awfully wrong and made me lose 4 episodes about Mark's drug addiction, which seemed to be very interesting. I’ve seen some bits of a terrible quality in Youtube and Robert’s performance is quite impressive, as usual.
I totally ignore the reaction in UK about this storyline, I would have loved to know, but I’m sure that people were more interested in the love stories and who has slept with whom… However, I’ve found in Wikipedia that this storyline was criticized as it was “unbelievable” as Mark (Robert’s character) didn’t have a “good reason” to fall into drugs. Well, to me which was convincing with the scene in which he takes coke for the first time is that Mark hesitated, and probably felt that he should do that as he never did it before. You know that feeling, when you think you have lose “something” during your youth. Just remember when the “dealer” couldn’t believe that he had never taken it before.
However, I totally find incredible the fact that he wasn’t that impressed to know that Donna used to take coke (and not the red one!). I mean, “in real life”, what would you do if you’re a consultant nurse (whatever that means) and you know that one of the nurses takes drugs? Fire her!

Sadly, I’ve lost all the episodes about what happened next!
And back to Robert’s departure, thanks a lot to Irina, who transcribed the radio interview for all those who didn’t listen to it. Although she put it in the comments, it deserves a post! Thanks!!
Steve Wright in the afternoon
BBC Radio
2011 Jan 25 Tuesday

- RRRRobert Powell, the British television, film and stage actor, is here! Well-known for his current TV role as Mark Williams in Holby City… which, I believe, he’s leaving. I’m not a huge fan of the show, he’s leaving though. Robert Powell! Have you been struck off?

- (laughs) No. I’ve been there for 6 years – that was 5 years longer than I ever anticipated staying. It just struck me that it was probably time to move on and go back to roots.

- Are you able to do that, say “Well, I think I’d like to leave”, and they say “Well, you’re in the middle of the plot, you can’t go yet…”

- No, we’ve got plenty of time, we work on 12 months contract, and about 6 months before the end of your contract there will come up a discussion as to whether you’re staying or going… and I opted to go, really.

- It’s a good regular work, though?

- Yeah, but you can’t do anything… I mean, I’ve always said it all my life – I possibly disobeyed the rules for the last 5 years – but you can’t take that as a way of living. You can’t work just for the money, you’ve got to have something else, otherwise you might as well do another job, really.

- You’ve done so much in your life, and the role that brought you to the fore, all those years ago, the Jesus Christ role – has it followed you around forever… I mean, clearly, as I just mentioned it!

- (laughs) YES, it has followed me around forever.

- In a good or a bad way?

- No, in a good way. I was doing an interview for another radio program, I finished and then somebody said, ‘oh, can you get 5 minutes more, cause I’ve got somebody in for a Sunday program’, and the guy came on and said, ‘can I talk to you about Jesus Christ?’ And I said, ‘well, it was THIRTY-FIVE YEARS ago…’

- Do you bristle sometimes, do you want to say ‘I did loads of stuff before that and I’ve done loads of stuff since…’?

- I possibly did when I was a little closer to it but now it’s unbelievably flattering that thirty five years later people remember it.

- I always do that –if Martin Shaw comes on , I say, “Right, let’s talk immediately about The Professionals” – I just do that to annoy people.

- (laughs) You talk about his hair - that what he would talk about, that would really make him happy. (both laugh)

- Anyway, from 22nd of March Robert is taking to the stage at Bath Theatre Royal, in “Jeffrey Bernard is unwell”, in the play Robert takes on the lead character – a journalist, whose life is devoted to alcohol, gambling and women. Now this was really from an era where journalists worked * for getting their stories and their leads in pubs.

- Yeah, indeed, I think there was a tradition for that… for people occupying bar’s stools for a very long time and being able to file a pretty good material as a result of it, because everybody was in there and anybody who knew anybody was in the pub… I think times are changed now, a little more strict, which is unfortunate.
- Describe how you see the character, in an actory kind of way for us…

- In an actory kind of way, Jeffrey Bernard is a man who is an alcoholic who spent whole of his life trying to kill himself through alcohol – as he called it, “a downhill struggle” – “reach for the ground”, it’s the title of his autobiography which I think is great. And he made it, but he actually lasted until he was about 67, before he managed to kill himself. He was a complete wreck…

- So you gonna have obviously make-up a little bit… you’ll have to look terrible…

- (laughs) Yeah… Going through what Keith Waterhouse has written in the play… and Keith was a friend as well, and another habitué of pubs and liked several bottles of wine… Going through what he has written, the man is a person who survived for a long time, he had four marriages, women found him irresistible, he was very attractive and the photographs of him are stunning - he looks like an actor. ** a girlfriend from Peter O’Toole from the Old Vic - and look what happened later – O’Toole ends up by playing him – brilliantly, I have to add. I never saw O’Toole play it but I can see it in my mind. I now go through the play desperately trying to commit it to memory – I have to shake off this shadow of O’Toole. .. Yeah, Bernard is a man who [felt] self-hatred which is an underlying thing with most alcoholics.

- He was a clever guy and a good journalist…

- He was a very good journalist and his column that he wrote for The Spectator called Low Life, which was really the personal anecdotes about his own, rather wretched experiences – but very very funny.

- You don’t see people like this anymore, do you?

- No, you don’t…

- And would they survive in a work place?

- No, they wouldn’t. I think they are other substances that you can use for stimulus but they’re not quite as obvious as alcohol. But I still think it’s probably… I gotta say I’m completely naïve ‘cause I discovered that it is far more widespread than I ever imagined. And people look at me with astonishment that I’m not aware of it.

- And the other thing is that you’re not a real doctor…

- (laughs) No, I’m not. ***

- Good luck with that.

- Thank you

- It’s 22nd of March, “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell”, Robert is the lead character, obviously, and it’s Theatre Royal in Bath. How long are you doing it?

- We’re going on the road for 11 weeks. So we’re coming to a theatre near you sometime in March, April or May.

- And possibly then it’s the West End, because it hasn’t been in West End for some time…

- That is an open book, you always keep that as a possibility. I mean, if it goes well enough, I would love to bring it further than 3 months.

- I’m still watching all the war shows you doing - could you just say, ‘in September ’39 Hitler finally invaded Poland”… in the voice?

- In September 1939 Hitler finally invaded Poland.

- See, how you can get better than that? That’s why we don’t get any work on history channel. (Robert laughs) You can see Robert’s final episode of Holby City tonight on BBC1 at 8 pm, today and you can see him onstage in “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell” at the Theatre Royal in Bath from 22nd of March. … Good to see you. Robert Powell!

- Thank you very much.

* can’t get the word here

** can’t get what exactly he says but it should be equal to “Have stolen”, “Nicked” or something.

*** I think there’s something else host says in addition which amuses Robert even more, but I can’t get it behind their laughing. )

Friday, February 4, 2011

Robert's strongest link

Some time ago, in 2008 , there was a special The Weakest Link with cast members of Casualty and Holby City challenging. I wanted so much to watch this! Thanks to someone who post it on youtube now we all can watch it!

Checkit by yourself! Robert should have won (somehow he did as the money raised went to his charities The Lords Taverners and Sparks. Watch it, Robert is soooo funny! The best bits of course are the eliminations.

Wrong answer, Robert!
 The best one : when the last Casualty member is outted by Robert and Duncan Pow, Robert is asked "Are you sure that Jesus would want?' and Robert replies that "Duncan is my best mate" that just so funny!