Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Walls of Malapaga

(Italian: Le mura di Malapaga; French Au-delà des grilles (Beyond the Gates), Italy, France, 1950)

First, I have to say a word about VHS and box televisions. How quickly we get spoiled!!! Our odyssey through all 69 of the Best Foreign Film Oscars has to include a few VHS tapes, because they are only available in that format in the World’s Best Video Store, Movie Madness in Portland, or anywhere else. We feel lucky that MM has them at all. But I’ve been having trouble getting a VHS to play on our HD flat screen, so we have been looking at this and others on an old box we had in the garage. In its day, this TV was pretty close to top-of-the-line, but it sure is hard to watch it these days. And we don’t even have 4KHD yet.

Compounding our troubles is that all MM had was a truly awful print of this rare movie. The picture was hideous, and the sound track was abominable. To top it all off, the sub-titles were of the white-on-white variety. If the background at the bottom was white, the words were totally unreadable. Since neither Lee nor I speak Italian or French, the two languages here, we missed a good third of the dialogue.

We went ahead and watched it anyway. I’m sorry to say that it’s not really all that good. I was surprised, because it was directed by René Clément, and starred Jean Gabin, and I usually like both of them. But I’m glad to say that the English version is only 89 minutes. It tells the story of a Frenchman on the run after murdering his girlfriend. He washes up in Genoa, where he plans to turn himself in, but he never quite gets around to it. Instead he takes up with a Frenchwoman who is fleeing her abusive husband, who has tracked her down. So it goes on for a while, and then it just quits. He is arrested. I looked up Malapaga and all I could find is that it is Spanish slang for a deadbeat. Seems like a strange title. Oh, well, on to the next.