Kino Eye: Sacco and Vanzetti

Submitted by AWL on 4 May, 2021 - 7:01 Author: John Cunningham
UK Sacco and Vanzetti protest

The front page of the 1927 Labor Defender (Solidarity 590) depicting the two anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti reminded me of director Giuliano Montaldo’s Sacco and Vanzetti, released in Italian and English language versions in 1971.

Arrested for their alleged part in a payroll robbery on 15 April 1920 in Braintree, Massachusetts, where a security guard and a paymaster were both shot dead, Sacco (played by Ricardo Cucciola) and Vanzetti (Gian Volontè) always professed their innocence. Their trial was, essentially, a rigged examination of their anarchist beliefs with a biased judge and various extremely questionable legal procedures, all prodded on by a hostile media. Despite a world-wide campaign to secure their release an appeal was denied and on 23 August 1927 the two men were executed by electric chair.

The film received a number of awards but the American version was censored: immediately before his execution Vanzetti simply says “I am innocent!” In other versions he uses what were recorded as his actual last words, “Viva l’anarchia!” On the fiftieth anniversary of their deaths, the Governor of Massachusetts issued a statement that the two men had been “unfairly tried and convicted”, but there was no posthumous pardon.

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