Chance or causation.
The filmmaker Juan Manuel Chumilla-Carbajosa (Cartagena, 62 years old) bought at the beginning of 2020, a couple of weeks before the pandemic, about 200 black and white negatives in an old bookstore in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere.
Against the light he thought he made out Federico Fellini wearing a cowboy hat in a town in the West.
When he revealed them, he also found a stagecoach drawn by white horses, an actor dressed as a
, and a very young Terence Stamp waving from a car, in the middle of a set of gunmen.
Chumilla-Carbajosa, who studied at the Italian capital's Experimental Film Center and was in love with the Italian director's work, was quick to associate these images with the deleted sequence from Toby Dammit's final cut
shot by Federico Fellini in 1967. It is a 46-minute short that is part of the film
, a Franco-Italian co-production starring Terence Stamp.
The film tells the story of Toby Dammit, an attractive and sinister English actor who travels to Rome to receive an award and meet the producers, linked to the Vatican, who have hired him to star in the first Catholic western in history.
The film is very loosely inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story
Never Bet Your Head on the Devil
The new western is in the Spanish countryside
Chumilla-Carbajosa, director of films like
Amores que matan,
He had been obsessed since his student years with that Fellini film that some scholars consider one of his fundamental works.
His passion for the Italian filmmaker, of whom he keeps some original posters of his films, prompted him to document, as far as possible, that ghost sequence that was never included in the film and that constitutes the only approximation from Fellini to the western.
In the documentary search process, he turned to the journalist of the Italian Radiotelevision Leopoldo Santovincenzo, also an expert in the work of the Italian director.
They had a report on the filming, broadcast by RAI in November 1968, and some forgotten photographs that, in their opinion, seem to be the only testimonies of this unique Fellinian incursion into a genre that, in the mid-sixties, was experiencing a boom. of the
Fundamental titles such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
were shot in Almería
, but at the Elios studios in Rome
the permanent sets of a western town were erected, habitually used for this type of filming.
A moment during the filming of Fellini's western in November 1967 in the Western town built in the now-defunct Helios studios in Rome.
©Kinos Klan (Courtesy of Chumilla-Carbajosa)
“I have to make a very honest confession: those two days that I was in the studios where this western town is permanently built, I enjoyed them very much – I am envious of my colleagues who make these types of films.
I have shot, I would have ridden a horse if I had found one tame enough.
No, really, it's a very stimulating, electrifying environment, also because it takes you back to the origins of cinema, when it was truly a naive expression of popular facts that exalted the myth of friendship, adventure, mystery.
I had a great time, it's a pity that it is a very short sequence, which is inserted in my film when the protagonist is shown the set where he will have to shoot a western film”, Fellini said in the RAI report.
In the Italian film library and in an Indiana university they found two scripts, signed by Federico Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi, but the sequence in the town of the West did not appear.
However, it was reflected —with actors and scenery— in the filming plan, deposited in the State Archive.
The track then took them to New York, where Caterina Zapponi, a well-known jazz singer and daughter of the screenwriter who died in Rome in 2000 and with whom Fellini signed the scripts for Casanova and Roma,
, among other titles.
The artist, in the middle of a tour and pending the recording of an album, called them the following summer in Rome to search through the papers that she kept from her father.
Still wearing a mask, but vaccinated against the covid, they found one of the copies of the first filming script, which included Toby Dammit's passage through the Elios studios.
Terence Stamp, in the ending of 'Toby Dammit', inspired by a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Finally, after 26 days of filming and 46 minutes of editing, the sequence was cut from the negative and destroyed.
“Fellini eliminated all the material that he discarded.
Perhaps, by contract, the film had a specific duration and was longer or, simply, the editor or the scriptwriter advised him to delete it”, argues Chumilla-Carbajosa, who is preparing a feature film under the title The Devil, the Ferrari and the Lost
about the film and its avatars.
In parallel, the Spanish filmmaker negotiates with the Roman film library to hold an exhibition that brings together the photographs and the script forgotten for more than half a century.
The negatives found, coming from the liquidation of a photographic archive that the bookstore had just acquired and were unclassified, could be part of the still photo of the film, but, for the moment, the name of the author is unknown.
"We have ruled out the photographers who usually worked with the Italian director, they could belong to a press photographer who at that time was doing a report on the shooting," speculates the director from Cartagena.
"Most of the protagonists have passed away and we are still waiting for the version of Terence Stamp, 84, who lives in the United States."
Federico Fellini (right) during the filming of his western in Rome in 1967. ©Kinos Klan (Courtesy of Chumilla-Carbajosa)
Edgar Allan Poe officially entered Fellini's artistic life when the French producer Raymond Eger involved him in an episodic film inspired by his stories: “Fellini embarks on the enterprise without apparent enthusiasm, mostly seizing the opportunity to escape, once again , to his cursed project,
Il viaggio di G. Mastorna
, which had gone through endless tribulations and which, at that moment, was once again in pre-production”, says Chumilla-Carbajosa.
the directors Roger Vadim and Louis Malle also participate with two shorts.
In Fellin's version of Poe's story, the protagonist becomes an alcoholic English actor and on a permanent lysergic trip (psychedelia was also in vogue) who travels to the Italian capital to shoot the “first Catholic western”.
More than a star, Toby Dammit represents a ghost from glorious Hollywood on the Tiber who has arrived at the rendezvous out of time.
“The background is transformed into a
now corrupted and sinister, a twilight that soon becomes a long dark night.
The Devil that appears to Dammit is no longer a limping little man in a black suit, but has the appearance of a girl dressed in white.
And the fatal bet will take place on a collapsed bridge, in the darkness of the Roman countryside, aboard a brand new Ferrari donated to the actor by the producers of his film”, says Chumilla-Carbajosa.
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