ⓘ Sacco & Vanzetti (1971 film)


ⓘ Sacco & Vanzetti (1971 film)

Sacco & Vanzetti is a 1971 docudrama film written and directed by Giuliano Montaldo, based on the events surrounding the trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two anarchists of Italian origin, who were sentenced to death for murdering a guard and a paymaster during the April 15, 1920 armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts.

The film stars Gian Maria Volonte as Sacco, Riccardo Cucciolla as Vanzetti, Cyril Cusack as prosecutor Frederick G. Katzmann, Geoffrey Keen as presiding justice Webster Thayer, Milo OShea as defense attorney Fred Moore, with Rosanna Fratello, William Prince, and Sergio Fantoni. The musical score was composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone with the three-part ballad sung by Joan Baez. The film is mainly shot in colour although it both starts and finishes in black and white, and also includes period black and white newsreels.

The film was an Italian and French co-production, shot on-location in Dublin, Ireland. It was released in separate Italian and English-language versions.


1. Cast

  • Rosanna Fratello – Rosa Sacco
  • Riccardo Cucciolla – Nicola Sacco
  • Claude Mann – Journalist
  • John Harvey
  • Armenia Balducci – Virginia
  • Cyril Cusack – Frederick Katzmann
  • Geoffrey Keen – Judge Webster Thayer
  • Pier Giovanni Anchisi – Member of the Defense Committee
  • Desmond Perry
  • Gian Maria Volonte – Bartolomeo Vanzetti
  • Valentino Orfeo
  • William Prince – William Thompson
  • Milo OShea – Fred Moore
  • Edward Jewesbury

2. Music

The films soundtrack was composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone with song lyrics by the American folk singer Joan Baez. For the lyrics of The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti Part 1, Baez makes use of Emma Lazarus 1883 sonnet The New Colussus the lines of which appear inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

The song, Heres to You, is sung at the end of the film. For the lyrics of Heres to You Baez made use of a statement attributed to Vanzetti by Philip D. Strong, a reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance who visited him in prison in May 1927, three months before his execution.

If it had not been for these things, I might have live out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for mans understanding of man as we now do by accident. Our words - our lives - our pains - nothing! The taking of our lives - lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler - all! That last moment belongs to us - that agony is our triumph.

Heres to You is also included in several later films notably in the 1978 quasi-documentary film Germany in Autumn where it accompanies footage of the funeral march for Red Army Faction members Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe who had committed suicide in prison.

The song also became known to a younger video game playing generation, due to its appearance in the Metal Gear Solid series where it was featured in Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, where it is featured within the latter games story.

The soundtrack was released in a downloadable format in 2005 featuring fourteen tracks:

  • Libertà nella speranza #2
  • La ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti, Pt. 3
  • Speranze di libertà #2
  • La ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti, Pt. 1
  • Sacco e il figlio #2
  • Nel carcere #2
  • Nel carcere
  • Speranze di libertà
  • La sedia elettrica
  • Libertà nella speranza
  • La ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti, Pt. 2
  • Sacco e il figlio
  • E dover morire
  • Heres to You

3. Reception

Roger Ebert described the film as one of the best of the year. Ebert draws particular attention to the way that Montaldo handles his courtroom scenes; a tricky area for any director but one which the director handles in an interesting and maybe even brand-new way. Ebert writes.

Despite his friends criticism that the film is just another left-wing, European blast at the United States, Vincent Canby, in a review for The New York Times, praises the film, if for nothing more than calling to our attention a terrible chapter in American history. Canby, however, dismisses the film as a simplication that takes the form of not particularly stylish political cartooning. This is especially true of the supporting performances he has gotten from Cyril Cusack as Katzman, the prosecuting attorney, and Geoffrey Keen, as Judge Thayer, the judge who presided at the trial and, under Massachusetts law, had the unfortunate right to rule on a second trial when new evidence was presented to him. They are blandly evil, cutout figures, as are all of the intimidated witnesses, bigoted observers and political opportunists who swarm across the film. Canby also decries the films soundtrack which he describes as absolutely dreadful with Baezs voice used to certify the movies noble intentions, but through the cheapest of means.


4. Awards

In May 1971, Sacco & Vanzetti was a competition entry at the 24th International Film Festival of Cannes where, for his portrayal of Nicola Sacco, Riccardo Cucciolla won the award for Best Actor. Also that year, Rosanna Fratello was awarded Best Young Actress by the Association of Italian Film Journalists for her portrayal of Rosa Sacco the wife of Nicola Sacco. In 1972, Morricone won from the Association of Italian Film Journalists the Nastro dArgento Silver Band prize in the division Best Original Score.