St. John the Baptist Beheaded

Cesare Zavattini (The Bicycle Thief) cowrote this 1940 slapstick vehicle for the Italian comedian Toto, cast here as the garrulous, cowardly super of an apartment complex who's devoted to Saint John the Baptist. He vows to catch the thief who's been siphoning oil from the lamp in his little outdoor shrine, and one complication leads to another, culminating in a prolonged plate-throwing brawl. After three years on the screen Toto has beefed up his comic arsenal with various trademark gestures (cocking his head and flailing his arms like a chicken) and signature lines (“For the sake of Saint John!”), and aside from adding a note of pageantry, director Amleto Palermi basically leaves him to his own devices. 87 min.

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