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Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola, The

Entry updated 31 October 2022. Tagged: Film.

Italian silent film (1913). Ambrosio Film. Original title Le avventure straordinarissime di Saturnino Farandola. Based on the novel Voyages très extraordinaires de Saturnin Farandoul dans les 5 ou 6 parties du monde et dans tous les pays connus et même inconnus de M Jules Verne (1879 Librairie illustrée; 1880; rev 1883) by Albert Robida. Directed by Marcel Perez (as Marcel Fabre) and Luigi Maggi. Written by Guido Volante. Cast includes Nilde Baracchi and Marcel Perez. 77 minutes. Limited colour.

Sometime in the second quarter of the nineteenth century a ship is sinking: a baby, Saturnino Farandola (played by Perez when an adult), is put in a wooden box by his parents, as his only hope of survival. The box is washed ashore on a Pacific island, where Saturnino is found and raised by a group of intelligent monkeys (see Apes as Human). However, his lack of a tail is humiliating, so seventeen years later he leaves the island, rowing off on a fallen palm tree. Fortunately he is found and rescued by a passing ship and becomes a member of the crew. By the time the captain is murdered by pirates, Saturnino has made such a good impression on his fellows that he is selected as their new captain.

He meets and marries Misora (Baracchi). One day, whilst walking on the sea bed in diving suits, Saturnino is swallowed by a clam – much to Misora's amusement, until she is swallowed by a whale; which departs, leaving Saturnino distraught. The whale is later caught by fishermen and sold to a Melbourne aquarium. Whilst playing the piano in front of the whale's tank, the aquarium's director is surprised when Misora crawls out of its mouth. Her husband rushes to the aquarium, only to have the director threaten his life with a pistol – for he has fallen for Misora, and keeps her in the whale's tank. Saturnino returns to his island, here he trains the monkeys to fight, then invades Melbourne – Misora is rescued and the director eaten by one of his squid.

On learning of the huge reward offered by the King of Siam for the return of his missing sacred white elephant, Saturnino, Misora and their crew visit Bangkok. They are imprisoned twice by the treacherous Minister of Police (who has the elephant); they escape, firstly when Misora disguises herself as a colonel in the King's amazon army, and secondly when she hands out opium pipes to their guards (see Drugs). The next adventure has Saturnino and Misora journeying to the source of the Nile. Noticing a pair of women about to be eaten by the locals, they kill two passing bears and wear their skins, charging the cannibals whilst firing their rifles (the women are supposed to be queens of a local tribe, but are white; the cannibals are in blackface). Later, whilst Saturnino is killing lions in the spike-covered clothing he is designed (our hero is a combination of the noble savage and a Scientist), the three women are kidnapped by gorillas; however, as they speak the same language (see Linguistics) as the pacific monkeys, he is able to reason with the apes and they set their captives free.

The final story has Saturnino and Misora visiting the USA at the time of its Civil War. They fall foul of Phileas Fogg (of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, 1874), who is working with the South. He arranges for some Native Americans to kidnap Saturnino; fortunately a young woman from the tribe is smitten and frees him. Saturnino now sides with the North, devising chloroform bombs and a giant pneumatic vacuum device that sucks up enemy troops (see Inventions). Next comes the film's big set piece, a War in the clouds (see Alternate History; Transportation) between manned Balloons, many fitted with cannon. Misora is rescued by Saturnino and Fogg plummets to his death. The couple rejoin the crew (to one of whom the Native American woman shifts her affections) and they all return to the island where Saturnino was raised to celebrate.

As the source novel's title indicates – in English translation, "The Very Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnin Farandoul in the 5 or 6 Continents of the World and in All the Lands Known or Even Unknown to Mr Jules Verne" – this is a Parody of Jules Verne's Voyages extraordinaires. Thus most of the silliness is deliberate, though it is not clear whether having bears in Africa is a dig at Verne or a mistake. While Misora is sometimes a damsel in distress, at other times she is the one who rescues Saturnino and his crew, and she often fights side by side with her husband (see Feminism). The Extraordinary Adventures of Saturnino Farandola is an entertaining film, but is marred by the portrayal of indigenous people, particularly in the Siam and Africa sections (see Race in SF). Robida's "boy raised by monkeys" plot predates both Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (coll 1894) and Edgar Rice Burroughs's stories of Tarzan. [SP]


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