Bob Hoskins plays Benito Mussolini....
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Okay, Mussolini and I is a four part television epic from 1985 about Mussolini and the battles of betrayal that he had with his family and friends during the turbulent years in Italy during the tail end of World War II.
The film directed by Alberto Negrin and written by Nicola Badalucco is divided into four parts. The first part begins in 1942 as the Allies have made dents into Hitler's stronghold. Il Duce (Mussolini) still believes there is a chance to win against the Allies. But he is warned by his foreign minister Count Galeazzo Ciano (played by Anthony Hopkins) that his chances of success are basically nil.
In Part two Galeazzo – who happens to be married to Mussolini's daughter Edda (played by Susan Sarandon) - goes on record denouncing Mussolini and gets a vote against Mussolini's rule at the Italian Fascist grand council. From here the King of Italy takes over power. Mussolini and his bunch of fascists are flown out of the country. Ciano now is considered a traitor to everything including Italy, fascism and Mussolini. He is flown to Germany where he meets with Mussolini and gravels enough to be forgiven…at least for now.
In Part three it is 1943 and Mussolini has gone back to Italy with the help of Hitler and established another fascist dictatorship. He is encouraged by his minions to set an example of Galeazzo. But he resists since Galeazzo is part of the family. However he does keep him in prison. Meanwhile Galeazzo is attempting to unearth his diaries with the hope that they will incriminate Il Duce. But before he can get any of his diaries Mussolini signs the papers to take him to court.
In Part four the end of the war is nearing and the handwriting is on the wall. But the fascists are still eager to make an example of Galeazzo. The story goes on....
The film is fairly well acted and written despite the casting of Hoskins who mopes around a lot and has none of the charisma that Mussolini had. The best performance by far is given by Anthony Hopkins who at least brings a good range of emotions to the roll as the embattled son-in-law of Mussolini. Sarandon is okay although she didn't then have much range. On a side note one casting guffaw is that Hoskins (who was born in 1942) plays the father of Sarandon (who was born in 1946).
The film builds good tension toward the last two episodes (Disc 2) but despite the highly charged subject matter the whole thing is not too compelling. It's also a tad bit long.
The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and the overall video quality is poor. The image often looks dull and has little clarity or definition. To some degree this may be the desired effect – since it does take place during the dark fascist years in Italy – but it still looks poor.
Much of the film is dubbed and it really affects the dramatics. The sound seems to be in Dolby 2.0 but there isn't much range in the soundtrack due, of course, to the dubbing.
The only extra is a trailer for a documentary on World War II, which comes up each time you pop in the disc. And too there is a Photo Gallery with about half a dozen photos. There should have at least been a brief synopsis on Mussolini and World War II.
While the story is good and the acting is okay Mussolini and I has an ersatz quality to it. Partly this is because of casting; Bob Hoskins and Susan Sarandon are wrong in the parts. The story also is not directed in a very compelling manner. The DVD is recommended with reservations mainly because of Anthony Hopkins - who is a good if not restrained. If you wish to rent it and see what it is all about – or just watch Hoskins sulk a lot as Il Duce then go for it.