At the Exeter
Set your seenes in Raly during the war. Throw in a big gob of partisans some mean-looking German soldiery, sprinkle liberally with social significance, squalling infants, breast women, and peasants and you might have "Paisan" or "Open City." But in this case you have "Outery," and you have a very fine motion picture.
There is a new saint. "Outery" brings in the problem of rural social stratification to provide a running contrast to the battles, love affairs and brutalities. A rich family owns a foundry in the town, and uses wood to warm its hothouse pincapples while the proletariat freezes. The female leader of this clan, which doesn't like the Germans or the Fascists but is more afraid of the peasants than either of them, is vying for the affections of the partisan here with a poverty-stricken, soulful-eyed young lady.
Between better-than-average battle seenes and grave partisan conferences, the aristocrats are shown making merry, fleeing to Switzerland, flirting with German officers, aiding the underground, and worrying about gunfire's effect on their nerves. At least this rescues them from the black-and-white situation in which the rest of the cast finds itself.
But the incidentals are the best of all. Faced with scores of temptations to slip into patches or melodrama, the script escapes nimbly every time. Bits like the execution of a priest and the shooting game of the drunken German commandant acquire a power above their importance to the story.
Anna Magnani is notably absent from the cast, but there is good evidence that she is not the only actress in Italy. Lea Padovani mixes all the called-for emotions successfully in the role of the poor girl, while rich girl Elli Parvo manages to appear callous and concerned at the same time. Victoria Duse, as the angular hero, casts his lot with the good people at the required moment, and portrays the true heroic metamorphosis.
If you time your arrival at the Exeter just right, you can avoid all of "Woman Hater," which manages to pack more cliches per foot of film that any recent production. How J. Arthur Rank allowed his name to be affixed to this one is a mystery.