Ah, the joys of guilty pleasures. And the joys are many in Stanley Kramer’s THE SECRET OF SANTA VITTORIA. Based on Robert Crichton’s bestselling novel, the 1969 film stars Anthony Quinn as the bumbling wine maker Bombolini, who is elected mayor of his small Italian town as a joke and then must hide one million bottles of the town’s wine from the occupying Nazis.
The film runs too long for such a slight comedy, but with Quinn’s charismatic performance at the center, it’s hard to resist. Ernest Gold‘s Oscar-nominated score spices up the proceedings with a robust Italian flavor.
Over the opening credits, Sergio Franchi (who plays Tufa in the film) sings a beautiful Italian song as the camera pans from one Italian peasant to another. The haunting melody is later used as the love theme for Bombolini’s daughter, Angela (Patrizia Valturri), and the young student, Fabio (Giancarlo Giannini). The string melody during the bridge serves as the love theme for the Countess (Virna Lisi) and Tufa, while the cello countermelody is just as lovely as the main theme.
Gold adapts an Italian folk song, “Con lo Zigo Zigo,” for the theme of the town, first heard as the villagers learn of the fall of the Fascists. This theme will be softly combined with the pizzicato march accompaniment for the Germans as the villagers form a human assembly line to pass the bottles of wine one by one down the hill into their hiding place in the cave.
There is a lively march for Bombolini as he descends the water tower and is carried in triumph through the town on a cart with his role of Mayor awaiting him at the end. But my favorite moment comes as the last bottle of wine is relayed from one villager to the next as they run it down the hill accompanied by Gold’s joyous tarantella.
Gold’s music adds buoyancy and life to a charming film. FSM’s release of the LP re-recording is paired with Gold’s 1959 Oscar-nominated score to ON THE BEACH. Both scores—and films—are highly recommended.