English Title: The Siege of the Alcázar
Original Title: Sin novedad en el Alcázar
Country of Origin: Spain
Studio: UFISA, Film Bassoli
Director: Augusto Genina
Producer(s): Carlo Bassoli , Renato Bassoli , Saturnino Ulargui
Screenplay: Pietro Caporilli, Alessandro De Stefani, Augusto Genina
Cinematographer: Alessandro De Stefani, Jan Stallich
Art Director: Francesco Izzarelli, Jan Stallich
Editor: Fernando Tropea
Runtime: 116 minutes
Genre: DE ÉPOCA/PERIOD FILMS
Starring/Cast: Rafael Calvo, Andrea Checchi, Maria Denis , Aldo Fiorelli, Fosco Giachetti
Volume: Spanish / Portuguese
The Siege of the Alcázar is based on an actual event that took place during the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, after the uprising by General Franco and after a failed military insurrection in Toledo, Colonel José Moscardó, locked up in a citadel along with a garrison and a portion of the civil population (around 1.800 people), refuses to surrender and give himself up to the Republican troupes of the legitimate Madrid government. The film recreates some of the more relevant episodes of the Republican siege which lasted from July to September and Moscardó’s resistance until the arrival of the Nationalist troupes.
The Siege of the Alcazar was among the most highly-acclaimed propaganda movies of the Franco regime as it celebrates one of the most famous feats in the struggle between Nationalists and Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. This film won the Mussolini Cup at the Venice Film Festival of 1940, and was critically praised even by Michelangelo Antonioni, who was suspicious of its fascist tendencies, maybe because, even as a propaganda film, it is an entertaining movie, and with special effects remarkable for the time – for example the excellent models used to simulate the bombing and blasting of the building.
From the start, Italian producers Renato and Carlo Bassoli, Spanish producer Saturnino Ulargui and director Augusto Genina had the backing of the Spanish government and of the official Italian film industry to work on the project. As such, no expense was spared in constructing the grandiose sets designed by Gaston Medin or in directing the crowd scenes, using numerous extras and shot between the Cinecittà studios and on location at the ruins of the citadel, with Italian, French and Spanish actors.
Moreover, Lieutenant Colonels José Carvajal Arrieta and Ricardo Villalba Rubio were brought in as military advisors to supervise the filming, as they had personally participated in the July uprisings.
The film exalts the traditional values of Francoist beliefs. The defence of the Toledo fortress is no less than the defence of the immutable concepts of nation, religion and family. All of these are present, not only in the main plot of the film but also in the different stories that are born of, and are developed around, the numerous characters within the walls of the citadel. Each one of these short tales alternates with the main storyline of the siege, adding touches of drama, action, suspense and even adventure, and thus catches the viewers’ eye on different registers.
Through the manipulation of history and the use of resources, including the mystical conversations between saints, those who lay siege to the citadel are considered, without exception, bearers of evil, while the rebels are turned into victims who, be it fighting or be it with resignation, valiantly accept and face their destiny. As such, the heroism of the soldiers of the citadel evidently contrasts with the brutality of the Republican soldiers.
This ‘Manichaeism’ later led Italian producer Renato Bassoli to propose an ‘updated’ version of the movie, modifying the scenes that represented the extreme cruelty of the Republican behaviour, even going so far as to eliminate any reference to Franco and to Italian participation in the conflict.