Maciste Goes to War: Maciste Alpino, 1916

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:50 PM
Green Room (New York Hilton)
Jacqueline Reich, Fordham University
During the war years, in which Italian cinema began the decline which increased to monumental proportions during the 1920s, both fiction and non-fiction films relating to the war populated Italian screens.  This paper examines Maciste alpino (1916), one of the best known and best received of the popular Maciste series of Italian silent cinema, in light of several factors: the growing nationalist movement that saw intervention in World War I as the means of creating political consensus; the sophistication and development of narrative, character and attractions in the Maciste series; its iconographic importance in relation to the non-fiction newsreels produced during the war, as well as other fiction films; and its relation to popular film genres such as comic serials and the emerging strongman genre.  Maciste functioned as a weapon in and of himself, a futurist mechanized man whose muscled body constituted its own fighting machine.  At the same time, through his humor, good will, and muscled physique be became a national symbol of Italian wartime might.  Moreover, archival documents reveal that the film was shown to soldiers fighting on the front not only as a form of entertainment and escape from the brutalities of war, but also as a cinematic training manual for guidance and inspiration.