The Executioner (1963)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.

Original Title: El verdugo

/, 1963, Story and Screenplay by , , collaboration with Cinematography by Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by .

One of Luis Garcia Berlanga’s sharpest and most complex films, imagine if Elio Petri had made Divorce Italian Style, up there with Berlanga’s masterful Placido is terrific as an undertaker who falls in love with the daughter of an executioner (), a job that inspires him with pure dread. When his father-in-law’s application for an apartment in a new complex finally comes through, a bureaucratic error and the older man’s impending retirement threatens to prevent their keeping it until he comes up with the perfect solution: why not have Manfredi give up undertaking and become an executioner in his place? Our hero agrees very reluctantly, hoping to be assigned to cases that are pardoned and don’t require his having to actually put someone to death, but a work trip to a gorgeous seaside town doesn’t work out so well when it turns out that he might actually have to do the dirty deed. The complications that this pathetic hero gets himself into simply because he wants a wife and child speaks volumes about Berlanga’s opinion of his society, but as usual he puts across his excoriating social criticism with so much generous humour that it always feel like a lesson you receive with gratitude.

The Criterion Collection:  #840

Venice Film Festival:  In Competition

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