Released one year after the director's internationally successful La Strada, Il bidone continues with many of the same socially conscious, neorealist-inspired themes while minimizing the poetic realism and extravagant vitality, that is today known as "felliniesque", in favor of a more pointed political stance.
Il bidone fellini vostfr 1955 broderick crawford richard basehart g masina
In the country outside Rome, a group of swindlers dress up as clerics and con poor farmers out of their savings. Another scam in a shanty town is to pretend they are officials taking deposits for apartments. The proceeds are spent on flashy cars, champagne and prostitutes.
One member of the gang, Picasso, pretends to his faithful wife Iris that he is a painter, but after a New Year's Eve party among criminals she stops believing him. His conscience is pricked and he decides to quit. Another member, Augusto, meets his teenage daughter Patrizia who he has not seen for years, and his conscience is also awakened. However he is recognised in a cinema with her, arrested and jailed.
When released he forms a new gang to work the clergy scam among peasants. After swindling a large sum out of a farming family, he talks to their paralysed teenage daughter. Her plight touches him, and when the gang come to share out the gains he says he gave it all back. A row develops and he is battered to the ground. Stripping him, the crooks find he has concealed the takings in his clothes. On a snowy hillside, they leave him to a slow death.
Broderick Crawford as Augusto
Giulietta Masina as Iris
Richard Basehart as Picasso
Franco Fabrizi as Roberto
Sue Ellen Blake as Anna
Irene Cefaro as Marisa
Alberto De Amicis as Rinaldo
Lorella De Luca as Patrizia
Giacomo Gabrielli as Il Baron Vargas
Riccardo Garrone as Riccardo
Film critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a mixed review, calling it "a cheap crime thriller." He added, "For this film, which is often mentioned in estimations of the master's works, is notable as a false step in his movement toward the development of a type of story material ... But it contains some very strong Fellini phases and accumulations of moods that make it well worth seeing. And it is generally well played ... Broderick Crawford's performance as the swindler is heavy and sodden, with a particular flair for postured histrionics in the swindle scenes." The film also has a 100% rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes from 6 reviewers.
Venice Film Festival: Golden Lion, Federico Fellini; 1955.
Il bidone had a notable influence on Giuseppe Tornatore's 1995 film, L'Uomo delle Stelle — about a con man who defrauds Sicilian peasants with dreams of becoming movie stars in Rome.