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Totò nella Luna

Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Film.

Italian film (1958; vt Totò in the Moon). Maxima Films/Variety Films/Montfluor Films. Directed by Steno [Stefano Vanzina]. Written by Sandro Continenza, Ettore Scola, and Steno, based on a story by Lucio Fulci and Steno. Cast includes Jim Dolen, Sylva Koscina, Richard McNamara, Sandra Milo, Luciano Salce, Agostino Salvietti, Ugo Tognazzi, Renato Tontini and Totò. 101 minutes. Black and white.

While mysterious Aliens, represented by animated circles resembling eyes or sound waves, try to sabotage all human attempts to travel into space, Scientists discover that only creatures with "glumonium" in their bodies can survive space travel. Though this is usually found only in monkeys, an Italian messenger boy and aspiring sf writer, Achille Paolini (Tognazzi), turns out to have glumonium because his zookeeper father raised him in the company of monkeys. When American agents visit Achille to recruit him for a Space Flight, he believes they want to buy the rights to his sf novel and eagerly accepts the offer; but his boss Pasquale Belafronte (Totò) tries to get some of the money by publishing the novel himself and agreeing to let Achille marry his daughter Lidia (Koscina). When Pasquale discovers the truth, he insists that Achille must agree to fly into space, but the man stubbornly refuses. Then, German agents directed by the scientist von Braun (Salce) kidnap Achille and Pasquale and plan to send them both into space on a secret flight; to prevent this, the aliens create "pod creatures", exact duplicates of Achille and Pasquale, to take their place. Through a series of mishaps, the real Pasquale and the duplicate Achille end up being launched in the Spaceship; the false Achille diverts the rocket, so that von Braun believes that the flight was a failure and resolves to never attempt additional ventures into space. Pasquale and the duplicate Achille then land on the Moon, where an alien says they must stay forever, so humans will never learn that space travel is possible. When Pasquale insists upon female companionship, the alien transforms the false Achille into a beautiful woman, which makes Pasquale willing to stay on the Moon while his own duplicate takes his place on Earth as the happy father-in-law of Achille, who has become a successful sf writer.

Since most space comedies simply contrive to place inept amateurs in spaceships and on other planets as novel settings for amusing antics, the unusual complexity of this film's plot commands attention, particularly because the film is a rare example of Recursive SF, filled with references to sf stories that feature outlandish Monsters or inaccurate science and at one point referencing the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). In addition, Achille's absurdly awful sf novel, featuring a "big flying cockroach", improbably ends up becoming a huge popular success, while the people of Earth seem content to be permanently barred from actual space travel. When one also considers the fact that the film's purportedly visionary sf writer is vehemently reluctant to venture into space himself, the film thus seems to argue that sf is not a harbinger of the conquest of space, but rather a substitute for it – a scenario that has arguably played out in real life, as the 1970s popularity of Star Trek and Star Wars accompanied a retreat from space initiatives beyond Earth's orbit. Still, while the film has interesting implications, it is not particularly funny and is rarely seen outside Italy. [GW]


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