Starring: Andrey Mironov, Ninetto Davoli, Antonia Santilli
Director: Franco Prosperi, Eldar Ryazanov
Running Time: 100 mins
Unbelievable Adventures Of Italians In Russia (Невероятные приключения итальянцев в России/Una matta, matta, matta corsa in Russia) is a Soviet/Italian film about a group of Italians who, after hearing of a dying woman’s hidden treasure, travel to Leningrad to unearth the goods from underneath the lion statue. Unfortunately, there are loads of lion statues, and they must race against one another to get the treasure first.
You wouldn’t normally turn to the Soviet Union in search of great comedy, but with a little bit of flair and madness from the Italians, this film is an absolute riot. Despite being a complete mess from beginning to end, complete with one of the most haphazard stories you’ll ever see on the big screen, Unbelievable Adventures Of Italians In Russia makes up for all of that with an endless series of big laughs from start to finish, making for a properly entertaining watch throughout.
In all honesty, this is one of the strangest match-ups I’ve ever seen from a film. Both Italy and the Soviet Union’s film industries were booming through the 1960s and into the early 70s, but their styles couldn’t be more different, which is why this combination is such a strange one. With that in mind, however, this film manages to make the unlikely marriage work brilliantly, mixing crazy and chaotic Italian comedy with a good bit of darker, more deadpan Russian humour, making for a really unique comedic atmosphere that works a treat throughout.
With its premise taking cues from It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, the objective of this film is effectively to get its leading characters into as many ridiculous situations as possible, all the while seeing them battle against each other out of nothing more than petty greed and desperation for buried treasure, which is absolutely hilarious to watch.
Now, while the story doesn’t manage to keep things quite as smooth as could be the case (the chase for the treasure is really all over the place – and we have characters coming and going who knows where at pretty much every moment), the fact that the story allows for that many stupid situations that are simply so funny means that you can still sit back and enjoy watching the madness unfold before you.
The running joke comes from the character’s desperation to get to the treasure ahead of the others (by absolutely any means possible), but the best laughs come from how preposterous the situations that they get into are. Ranging from dangling a telephone box over the central river to a side-splitting sequence following the leads running from a lion (yes, a real lion) all over the city, there’s so much silliness here that you’d be hard pressed not to burst out laughing at some point.
And then there’s the added eccentricity of everything taking place in the middle of Leningrad. While this is a premise that Hollywood and many European countries have carried out successfully before, that odd marriage of the hard Soviet image – furthered by the setting – and the insane, loose comedic flair that really dominates the movie, makes for a really bizarre yet delightfully chaotic and haphazard atmosphere throughout.
Overall, I had a heap of fun with Unbelievable Adventures Of Italians In Russia. Its story may not have all that much to show, but it’s still a massively funny, non-sensical and bizarrely unique comedy, blending mad Italian flair with harder Russian vibes, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.