With Kenneth Branagh's A Haunting in Venice in cinemas and Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the time seems right for Cinema Paradiso to explore La Serenissima's cinematic past.
There's nowhere quite like Venice. Emerging from a lagoon in 697, the city was built upon a series of islands, whose location enabled it to become a key trading port with Africa and the Middle East. Under their elected doges, the wealthy merchants erected palaces and churches and patronised great artists and musicians. Moreover, they created a wonder of the world whose fascination has endured through renaissance, revolution, risorgimento, and republicanisation.
History and Hercule
As the golden age of the Italian city state faded, the Republic of Venice was vanquished by Napoleon Bonaparte and found itself part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia from 1815. The Third War of Independence saw the realm liberated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and incorporated into the unified Kingdom of Italy, where it remained until the House of Savoy was replaced by an elected presidency in June 1946.
Throughout this entire period, Venice had been a favourite destination of both aristocrats and nouveaux riches making the Grand Tour. Many had been enticed by the paintings of Giovanni Antonio Canal, which can be seen in all their glory in David Bickerstaff's Canaletto and the Art of Venice (2017), which is part of the excellent Exhibition on Screen series. Even more tourists came in the age of mechanised transport. Film cameras were also drawn to the sights, with Lumière operative Alexandre Promio wielding the first in order to shoot Panorama of the Grand Canal, Seen From a Boat (1896). Half a century later, Harry Squire took a trip along the same waterway for This Is Cinerama (1952), a widescreen marvel that was co-produced by Merian C. Cooper, who had co-directed King Kong (1933). Among the other notable actualities filmed in the city are Ermanno Olmi's Venice, Modern City (1958), Pier Paolo Pasolini's Love Meetings (1964), and Peter Greenaway's Intervals (1969), an experiment in structuralism filmed on 16mm with a handheld wind-up Bolex that can be rented from Cinema Paradiso on Volume 1 of The Early Films of Peter Greenaway.
Films made Venice seem irresistible to travellers. But those who have been ferried round over the decades in gondalas and vaporetti have placed a growing strain on the infrastructure of the Floating City, which is now endangered by a combination of rising tides and crumbling masonry. Before you get that sinking feeling, however, documentaries like Duncan Bulling's Saving Venice (2020) suggest that the citizens have lost none of the ingenuity that had been their trademark long before a certain Leonardo Da Vinci came to work on Venice's defences in 1500.
Working albeit on a smaller scale, production designer John Paul Kelly was taxed with creating an authentic, but atmospheric setting for Kenneth Branagh's A Haunting in Venice. Following on from Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Death on the Nile (2022), this is the second screen adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1969 bestseller, Hallowe'en Party, after David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker had reunited for the fourth of their six outings as Hercule Poirot and Ariadne Oliver in Series 12 of Agatha Christie's Poirot (1989-2013), which is available from Cinema Paradiso on Collection 8.
In addition to changing the title to make it less of a holiday novelty, screenwriter Michael Green also relocated the story from the English village of Woodleigh Common to Venice in 1947, where Poirot (Branagh), is living in retirement with bodyguard Vitale Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio). However, he is persuaded by whodunit writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) to attend a séance at the home of retired opera singer, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), in order to prove that medium Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) is a fraud.
As the guests are cut off by a storm, Green was keen to generate a 'creepy crawly, throw-a-body-in-the-river kind of feel'. Indeed, he's quoted in the press notes as saying: 'We wanted to take advantage and use the inherent spookiness and the magic and lustre of Venice, to make an unimaginably terrifying Halloween night.'
In order to set the scene, Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos filmed at such iconic Venetian landmarks as Piazza San Marco and Ponte dei Sospiri, as well as Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, Campo San Samuele, the gardens of Palazzo Malipiero, Palazzo Grimani, Ponte Conzafelzi, Campo Santa Maria Nova, and San Giorgio Maggiore. There are also shots of the Canal Grande and the main harbour, Bacino San Marco.
Some interiors were shot at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory of Music and the Palazzo Ducale, the former Doge's Palace that is now the city's seat of government. Given the nature of the action, however, special arrangements had to be made for the the Drake home, for, as Kelly told House Beautiful magazine, 'It became very obvious, very quickly that we were going to have to build our world because people don't take very kindly to chandeliers smashing in their 500 year-old houses.'
An airfield near Reading was chosen as the site for the one-third-scale model of the palazzo that was supplemented by location footage, while a giant concrete water tank had to be constructed for the canal sequences. The interiors were erected on soundstages at Pinewood Studios, with each room being given a distinctive layout and colour scheme in order to create what Kelly called 'a labyrinthine world of confusion'. Despite adhering to the principles of Venetian architecture, Kelly also added some long corridors and secret passageways to sustain the air of mystery. As he concluded his interview, 'We wanted it to be a very pretty environment that didn't feel like your average spooky house. But at the same time, it was a house where the candles had been extinguished.'
Cinema Paradiso users will have to wait until December to gauge the efficacy of Kelly and set decorator Celia Bobak's contribution to A Haunting in Venice. But there are lots of other films with Venetian settings to keep them occupied in the meantime.
Bard Day's Night
Two of William Shakespeare's most problematical plays have connections with Venice. Over the centuries, each has succeeded in reinforcing a pernicious stereotype, although scholars have argued that this may well have more to do with changing interpretations than authorial intentions. Indeed, it's fascinating to see how film-makers have approached The Merchant of Venice (1596) and Othello (1603) and how, in depicting Shylock the Jewish moneylender and Othello the Moorish general, the various screen productions have reflected the times in which they were made.
Sadly, Georges Méliès's The Venetian Looking-Glass (1905) appears to have been lost forever. But Cinema Paradiso members can see Ermete Novelli as Shylock in Gerolamo Lo Savio's The Merchant of Venice (1910), as it forms part of the selection on the BFI release, Silent Shakespeare (2004). Despite it being their first four-reel production, Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley's The Merchant of Venice (1914), has also disappeared, which is a shame as the husband-and-wife team played Shylock and Portia, while famed New Zealand director Rupert Julian co-starred as Antonio the eponymous merchant.
Celebrated British stage actress Nelly Hutin Britton made one of her two screen appearances as Portia in Walter West's The Merchant of Venice (1916), which saw idol-in-the-making Matheson Lang debut as Shylock alongside Joseph R. Tozer's Antonio. Seven years later, Werner Krauss, Henny Porten, and Carl Ebert travelled to Italy to headline Peter Paul Felner's The Merchant of Venice (1923), which was the first feature-length version of a play that was staged 50 times in Nazi Germany between 1933-39. Yet no film adaptation was ever sanctioned by Joseph Goebbels's propaganda machine, although Krauss did reprise the role of Shylock in a notoriously anti-Semitic theatrical production in Vienna in 1943.
Three years earlier, Kinema Ramu and Serukalathur Sama's Tamil variation, Shylock (1940), had been released. But the postwar atmosphere meant over a decade passed before Michel Simon, Andrée Debar, and Massimo Serato essayed Shylock and Antonio in Pierre Billon's loose reworking, The Merchant of Venice (1953). Even Orson Welles struggled to get a production made. His 1969 short, The Merchant of Venice, with Charles Gray as Antonio, started out as a television feature. But funding issues led to Welles bowdlerising the text before two of the three reels were stolen, leaving only a soundless work print.
Produced as part of the BBC Television Shakespeare series, Jack Gold's The Merchant of Venice (1980) cast Warren Mitchell as Shylock, alongside John Franklin-Roberts and Gemma Jones. Perhaps more intriguing was Don Selwyn's The Maori Merchant of Venice (2002), which translates as Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Wenit and features Waihoroi Shortland as Hairoka (Shylock), Scott Morrison as Antonio, and Ngarimu Daniels as Pohia (Portia). Frustratingly, this has been rarely seen, but it is possible to rent Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice (2004). Despite changes to the text, this was, remarkably, the first cinema version of the play to be made in English during the entire sound era. Filmed in the Benedictine church of San Giorgio Maggiore, it sought to contextualise the plight of Shylock (Al Pacino) by showing how the Jewish minority was treated by the Christian population of 16th-century Venice.
The critics were divided over whether Radford succeeded in reclaiming the play from accusations of prejudice and many film and television versions of Othello have proved similarly polarising in exploring the racism and misogyny at its core. Hardly helping matters was the fact that most stage and screen adaptations until fairly recently resorted to blackface so that a renowned white actor could take the title role.
Owing more to Giuseppe Verdi's opera than Shakespeare's play, Mario Caserini's Otello (1906) cast Ubaldo Maria Del Colle as Otello, the director himself as Iago, and his wife Maria as Desdemona. When Franco Zeffirelli filmed the entire score in Otello (1986), the roles were taken by Placido Domingo, Justino Diaz, and Katia Ricciarelli.
Werner Krauss played the schemer coming between Emil Jannings and Ica von Lenkeffy in Dimitri Buchowetzki's Othello (1922). But this is currently as unavailable as Sergei Yutkevich's Othello (1955), which won the Best Director Prize at Cannes in casting future Oscar winner Sergei Bondarchuk (for War and Peace, 1966), alongside Irina Skobtseva and Andrei Popov. Micheál MacLiammóir and Suzanne Cloutier supported Orson Welles in The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1951), whose first act presents a rivetting vision of Renaissance Venice. As Welles revealed in Filming Othello (1978), the picture was made piecemeal in Italy and Morocco over three years, as funding became available.
Money was no problem for Stuart Burge's Othello (1965), which remains the only Shakespearean adaptation to have all four principals nominated for Academy Awards. In addition to Laurence Olivier's highly controversial Moor, Frank Finlay was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor as Iago, while Maggie Smith (Desdemona) and Joyce Redman (Emilia) went up against each other for Best Supporting Actress. Despite making discomfiting viewing for modern audiences, this version also afforded Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon their big-screen debuts.
Anthony Hopkins also blacked up for Jonathan Miller's Othello (1981), the BBC Television Shakespeare interpretation that cast Bob Hoskins as Iago and Penelope Wilton as Desdemona. However, the same year saw African American actor William Marshall take the title role in Franklin Melton's Othello (1981), alongside Ron Moody and Jenny Agutter. Trevor Nunn's Royal Shakespeare production of Othello (1990) followed suit, with Willard Parker in commanding form opposite Ian McKellen and Imogen Stubbs. Colin McFarlane voiced Othello in Nikolai Serebryakov's contribution to Shakespeare: The Animated Tales (1992), but the reviews were less enthusiastic for Oliver Parker's Othello (1995), despite the best efforts of Laurence Fishburne, Kenneth Branagh, and Irène Jacob.
Filmed in Venice, Harley Knoles's Carnival (1921) saw Ivor Novello made his British film debut in a story in which actor Matheson Lang plays Othello in Venice and becomes convinced wife Hilda Bayley is cheating on him. Herbert Wilcox's 1931 sound remake and Walter Reisch's Men Are Not Gods (1936) recycled the plot, which was best used by George Cukor in A Double Life (1947), which really should be on disc in this country as it earned Richmond-born Ronald Colman the Oscar for Best Actor and made him the first winner of the award for a role with a Shakespearian connection (pipping Laurence Olivier by a year for Hamlet, 1948).
By the way, Novello found himself in Venice again in Adrian Brunel's feature bow, The Man Without Desire (1923), as a nobleman who wakes 200 years after putting himself into a state of suspended animation following the death of his beloved. This is also worthy of a release, if only because it's so wonderfully odd!
A number of films have rejigged the Othello narrative, including Delmer Daves's Jubal (1956), Tim Blake Nelson's O (2001), Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara (2006), and Roschdy Zem's Chocolat (2016). However, we shall single out Basil Dearden's All Night Long (1962), a jazz reworking set in pre-Swinging London, with Paul Harris, Patrick McGoohan, and Marti Stevens in the Othello, Iago, and Desdemona roles. McGoohan also directed Richie Havens in Catch My Soul (1974), which was adapted from Jack Gold's stage musical and has been unfairly neglected down the years.
Libido on the Lido
To put it mildly, Giacomo Casanova (1725-98) led a colourful life. Born to an actress and a dancer, he spent time in holy orders before embarking upon his remarkable cross-continental career as a libertine, writer, jailbird, fugitive, spy, and librarian. And there's much more besides that the various films about him have hardly touched upon. It would take an epic mini-series to do him justice, although Dennis Potter packed plenty into the six episodes of John Glenister's Casanova (1971), which earned a BAFTA nomination for Frank Finlay, who would raise more eyebrows with Susan Penhaligon in A Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1976) and Another Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1977). These are also worth renting from Cinema Paradiso, if only to see what got TV clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse so hot under the collar.
A last-minute change of plan cost Bela Lugosi the chance to repeat his stage triumph in Alfréd Déesy's Casanova (1918), so the pioneering Hungarian director had to take the lead himself. The only actor to have played the lothario in the silent and sound eras is Russian Ivan Mosjoukine, who ran across Catherine II (Suzanne Bianchetti) in Alexandre Volkoff's Casanova (aka The Loves of Casanova, 1927) and Madame de Pompadour (Marcelle Denya) in René Barberis in Casanova (1934). Vittorio Gassman's Casanova also encountered Catherine the Great (Yvonne Sanson) in Riccardo Freda's The Mysterious Rider (1948), which was co-scripted by Mario Monicelli and produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Horror aficionados will also be clamouring to see Steno's Le avventure di Giacomo Casanova (1955), less for the prospect of Gabriele Ferzetti in the lead, but because it was written by Lucio Fulci and photographed by Mario Bava. What does it take to get a film released on disc these days?
There are two philanderers for the price of one in Norman Z. McLeod's Casanova's Big Night (1954), as tailor's assistant Pippo Popolini (Bob Hope) poses as Casanova in order to impress Francesca Bruni (Joan Fontaine). However, he's hired by the Duchess of Castelbello (Hope Emerson) to test the fidelity of her son's betrothed, Elena Di Gambetta (Audrey Dalton). Cue the man himself in the guise of a cameoing Vincent Price. This is a big miss on disc and there will also be those eager to see Arturo de Córdova in Roberto Gavaldón's Adventures of Casanova (1948), Marcello Mastroianni in Mario Monicelli's Casanova '70 (1965), Leonard Whiting in Luigi Comencini's Giacomo Casanova: Childhood and Adolescence (1969), Tony Curtis in Franz Antel's Casanova & Co. (1977), and Richard Chamberlain in Simon Langton's Casanova (1987). But there's always Leslie Phillips as Henry Newhouse ('casa nova', geddit?) in the BBC sitcom Casanova '73 (1973), which was scripted by the peerless Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.
Federico Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi received Oscar nominations for their adapted screenplay for Fellini's Casanova (1976), which also earned Danilo Donati the Academy Award for Best Costume Design. Donati and Fellini shared BAFTA recognition for their production design, which saw Venice recreated on a soundstage at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome. The opening Carnevale on the Canal Grande sets the tone for the amorous misadventures that keep separating Casanova (Donald Sutherland) from his beloved Henriette (Tina Aumont). Exploting the downside of living solely for the pleasures of the flesh, this underrated film makes for telling comparison with the Joe D'Amato trio of The Pleasure (1985), in which a masher in 1930s Venice introduces himself as Casanova; La Venexiana (1999), in which Casanova pops up in the form of Remigio Zampa, a puppet who comes to life to seduce writer Wanda Curtis; and Passion in Venice (1995), which D'Amato co-directed with Cameron Grant and which reveals why Juli Ashton and boss Anita Blond prefer the bedroom to the boardroom when seeking to close business deals.
After Gian-Carlo Scandiuzzi essayed a Casanova trapped inside a children's pop-up book in Mauro Borrelli's experimental offering, Goodbye, Casanova (2000), two studies of the legendary seducer appeared in 2005. Piazza San Marco, Palazzetto Pisani, Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel, and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco looked resplendant in Lasse Hallström's Casanova, which sees Giacomo (Heath Ledger) on a last warning from Doge Francesco Loredan (Tim McInnerney) and living a double life in order to make a good impression on feminist writer, Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller). The reviews were mixed and the film tanked, but the notices were more positive for Sheree Folkson's Casanova, a three-part BBC concision of a 12-volume memoir by Russell T. Davies that saw the ageing roué (Peter O'Toole) reminiscing from the Castle Dux in Bohemia about the exploits of his younger self (David Tennant).
An unlikely encounter occurs partway through Albert Serra's Story of My Death (2013), as Casanova (Vicenç Altaió) leaves behind a life of self-indulgence in order to travel east, where Dracula (Eliseu Huertas) awaits him in Transylvania. Echoes can be heard of the anti-hero's doomed fate in Joseph Losey's Don Giovanni (1979), which stars Ruggero Raimondi in the title role alongside Kiri Te Kanawa as Donna Elvira. What a shame nobody thought to release Carlos Saura's I, Don Giovanni (2009), which shows how the friendship between Casanova (Tobias Moretti) and fellow Venetian libertine Lorenzo Da Ponte (Lorenzo Balducci) led to composer Antonio Salieri (Ennio Fantastichini) introducing him to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Lino Guanciale).
Arthur Schnitlzer's novella, Casanova's Homecoming, informs Édouard Niermans's The Return of Casanova (1992) which stars Alain Delon as the womaniser struggling to seduce Elsa Lunghini's Marcolina. The same text has now inspired Gabriele Salvatore's The Return of Casanova (2023), in which Toni Servillo finds art imitating life, as he directs an adaptation in which Fabrizio Bentivoglio is forced to face the fact he's not the man he used to be in failing to induce a swoon from Bianca Panconi.
Just to prove that seduction isn't a one-way street, Marshall Herskowitz's Dangerous Beauty (1998) reflects on the fate of Veronica Franco (Catherine McCormack), the Cinquecento courtesan who helped save Venice during a war with the Ottoman Empire, only to be accused of witchcraft by the Inquisition. It says much for the gender bias of history that her life and writings have received a fraction of the attention accorded to Casanova.
A Dramatic Turn of Events
Turning to dramas, Paul Czinner's Escape Me Never (1935) opens in Venice with widowed single mother Elizabeth Bergner disguising herself as a schoolgirl in order to get a free meal at the home of a wealthy English couple. Griffith Jones and Sebastian Shaw play the sibling sons of a famous composer who were played by Errol Flynn and Gig Young in Peter Godrey's 1947 remake, which starred Ida Lupino in the role that had earned Bergner an Oscar nomination. Each version has its merits, so why is neither on disc? Come on, Hollywood, how about releasing a few more oldies on this side of the pond, such as Martin Gabel's Henry James adaptation, The Lost Moment (1947), which sees publisher Robert Cummings come to Venice to acquire the letters that a famed poet had sent many years before to Agnes Moorehead, only to fall for her pianist great-niece, Susan Hayward. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Vanessa Redgrave, and Joely Richardson took the roles in Julian Landais's remake, The Aspern Papers (2018), which opted to use the title of the 1888 novel.
Postwar French titles are also rarities on disc in the UK, which deprives us of the chance to see guilty pleasures like André Cayatte's The Lovers of Verona (1949), in which Serge Reggiani and Anouk Aimée get to know each other while working as stand-ins for a film of Romeo and Juliet that is shooting in Venice. Made the same year, Henry Cass's The Glass Mountain has British composer Michael Denison write an opera for the world famous La Fenice stage that is based on his wartime experiences in the Dolomites with partisan, Valentina Cortese. Luckily, he has an understanding wife in Dulcie Gray, but decency is in short supply in 'The Tale of Giulietta', a vignette from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffman (1951) that sees Hoffmann (Robert Rounseville) go to Venice and fall for Giulietta (Ludmilla Tchérina), a courtesan who aims to steal his reflection for Dapertutto the magician (Robert Helpmann).
A possessive director tries to make new wife Lucia Bosé a serious actress by starring her in a drama about Joan of Arc. However, it flops at the Venice Film Festival in Michelangelo Antonioni's The Lady Without Camelias (1953). One of the most ravishing films produced in postwar Italy, Luchino Visconti's Technicolor marvel, Senso (1954), draws on Camillo Boito's novella to pit Contessa Livia Serpieri (Alida Valli) into an affair with Austrian lieutenant Franz Mahler (Farley Granger) during the Third Italian War of Independence in 1866.
Designed to cash in on a dance craze, Robert Rossen's Mambo (1954) centres on impoverished Venetian Silvana Mangano, whose dreams of becoming a dancer are boosted by Shelley Winters inviting her to train in Rome. But she can't forget casino croupier Vittorio Gassman or wealthy aristocrat Michael Rennie. Although much of the action of Jean Negulesco's Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) takes place in Rome, Prince Dino de Cessi (Louis Jourdan) has a reputation for taking girls to the Floating City for romantic trysts and Maria Williams (Maggie McNamara) is determined not to become one of his 'Venice Girls'.
Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn), an unmarried secretary from Akron, Ohio has no illusions about a holiday romance in David Lean's Summertime (1955), another Technicolor masterclass (courtesy of Jack Hildyard) that was based on Arthur Laurents's play, The Time of the Cuckoo. Between excursions to the islands of Murano and Burana and falling backwards into a canal, however, Jane feels drawn to antique shop owner, Renato de Rossi (Rossano Brazzi), only to discover that he's already married with children. Gianni Di Venanzo's photography may be monochrome, but Joseph Losey's James Hadley Chase adaptation, Eva (1962), also makes evocative use of the city. While in Venice for the filming of his first novel, Welsh author Tyvian Jones (Stanley Baker) finds himself competing with director Sergio Branco Mallone (Giorgio Albertazzi) for the attention of set assistant Francesca Ferrari (Virna Lisi), while also being intrigued by prostitute Eva Olivier (Jeanne Moreau), who thinks solely of money.
Despite the pairing of Marcello Mastroianni and Faye Dunaway as a racing driver and fashion designer who fall in love while in Venice, Vittorio De Sica's A Place For Lovers (1968) is considered one of the worst films of the decade. Few had kind words either for Enrico Maria Salerno's The Anonymous Venetian (1970), which turns on the reunion of dying musician Tony Musante and his ex-wife, Florinda Bolkan. Equally dismissed was Alan Bridges's superfluous remake of David Lean's Brief Encounter, which was made in the same year that Richard Burton and Sophia Loren reunited in Venice for De Sica's The Voyage (1974), a more favourably regarded drama that was adapted from a Luigi Pirandello short story about a widow who grows close to her brother-in-law.
While staying at the Grand Hôtel des Bains on the Lido in Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella, Death in Venice (1971), ageing composer Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) cultivates a friendship with a Polish mother (Silvana Mangano) because he has become obsessed with her adolescent son, Tadzio (Björn Andrésen). However, his obsession comes at a mortifying price. Pasqualino De Santis's BAFTA-winning Technicolor photography is sublime, but the darker side of the production is uncovered in Kristina Lindström and Kristian Petri's potent documentary, The Most Beautiful Boy in the World (2021).
Another amour fou unfolds in Tonino Cervi's Portrait of a Bourgeois in Black (1978), as piano teacher Senta Berger becomes jealous when former lover Stefano Patrizi gets engaged to Ornella Muti rather than her own son. Having met in Paris, teenagers Thelonius Bernard and Diane Lane try to reach Venice in George Roy Hill's A Little Romance (1979), as they have heard the legend that anyone who kisses in a gondola beneath the Bridge of Sighs as a church bell tolls will be in love forever.
It's a pity such a delightful drama isn't on disc, but there's easy access to softcore trifles like Tinto Brass's The Key (1983). Set in Fascist Italy, this erotic saga centres on the diaries and photographs that Venetian art teacher Frank Finlay hopes will rekindle the spark with his wife of 20 years, Stefania Sandrelli. Brass returned to the era in Black Angel (aka Senso '45, 2002), which updates the Visconti classic to the Second World War, as Anna Galieni, whose husband works for the Ministry of Popular Culture, travels to Venice to meet her SS officer lover, Gabriel Garko.
More tasteful titillation is on offer in Mauro Bolognini's La Venexiana (1986), an adaptation of a 16th-century play that has Jason Connery arriving in Venice after it has been blighted by plague and receiving a warm welcome from both Laura Antonelli and Monica Guerritore. Numerous landmarks are on show and Venetophiles might also recognise the Excelsior Hotel, which stood in for the Long Island resort to which Noodles (Robert De Niro) takes Deborah (Elizabeth McGovern) for a little privacy in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America (1984).
When artist Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson) honeymoons in Venice with fellow Bloomsbury Group member, Ralph Partridge (Steven Waddington), in Christopher Hampton's Carrington (1995), she bumps into writer Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce), who just happens to love them both. Eager to escape her controlling Aunt Maude (Charlotte Rampling) in Iain Softley's take on Henry James's The Wings of the Dove (1997), Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter) accepts an invitation to leave 1910 London and travel to Venice with American socialite, Milly Theale (Alison Elliott), and her companion, Susan Stringham (Elizabeth McGovern). Get your I-Spy books out to tick off the Basilica dei Frari, the Squero di San Trovaso, the Ponte della Pescheria, Campo Santa Maria Formosa, and the Ponte della Salute.
In 1833, novelist Georges Sand (Juliette Binoche) and poet Alfred de Musset (Benoît Magimel) relocate to Venice to avoid the disapproval of his family in Diane Kurys's Children of the Century (1999). However, De Musset's drug use leads to an introduction to Dr Pietro Pagello (Stefano Dionisi), who turns Sand's head. If this is filmed in the classical style, Mike Figgis's Hotel (2001) parodies the Dogme95 ethos, as documenarist Salma Hayek comes to Venice to chronicle Rhys Ifans's updating of Thomas Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. The film folk treat the staff at the Hotel Hungaria very shabbily, but they have a guilty secret of their own. Equally experimental is Robert Dornhelm's The Venice Project (1999), which was shot in three weeks and edited in a tearing hurry to screen at the last Venice Film Festival of the millennium. Sadly, this cameo-filled curio has barely been seen since, as it flits between 1699 and the present to trace the history of the palazzo that impoverished siblings Dennis Hopper and Lauren Bacall are desperate to keep in the family.
John Curran's adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil (2006) accompanies bacteriologist Walter Fane (Edward Norton) and London socialite Kitty Garstin (Naomi Watts) on their honeymoon to Venice, while a beautiful friendship is imperilled in Julian Jarrold's take on Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (2008), when Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson) persuades Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) to join Oxford friend Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw) and his sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell), on a Venetian visit to their father, Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon), and his mistress Clara (Greta Scacchi).
The fishing port of Chioggia takes centre stage in Andrea Segre's Shun Li and the Poet, as bartender Zhao Tao forges a friendship with exiled Yugoslavian fisherman Rade Serbedzija. Also released in 2011 was André Téchiné's Unforgivable, which merits a UK disc release as its views of Venice are simply splendid, as crime writer André Dussollier makes an unusual deal with estate agent Carole Bouquet over a house on Sant'Erasmo Island, only to become too distracted (and suspicious) to work.
Returning to the 1850s, Richard Laxton's Effie Gray (2014) reveals how Euphemia (Dakota Fanning) accompanies aesthete husband John Ruskin (Greg Wise) to Venice while he researches his seminal tome, The Stones of Venice, and has to fight off handsome guide Raffaelle (Riccardo Scarmacio). Things don't go smoothly either in the City of Sighs for aspiring film-maker Julia (Honor Swinton Byrne) in Joanna Hogg's The Souvenir (2019), as her drug-addicted boyfriend, Anthony (Tom Burke), chooses their dream holiday to confesses to having stolen some jewellery from her flat. By contrast, Nick Nolte is disappearing into the fog of Alzheimer's in Til Schweiger's Head Full of Honey (2018), so 10 year-old granddaughter Sophia Lane Nolte (who is actually Nolte's daughter) takes him on a trip to Venice to revisit the place where he met his late wife. Have your hankies ready.
As one might expect, the majority of light entertainments set in Venice are romcoms - although Robert Wiene, who is primarily known for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920), directed a pair of long-neglected operettas set in the city, Venetian Nights (1933) and A Night in Venice (1934). Hobart Henley's The Big Pond (1930) set the ball rolling, as chewing-gum heiress Claudette Colbert gets sweet on tour guide Maurice Chevalier, while in Mervyn LeRoy's Tonight or Never (1931), Venetian opera singer Gloria Swanson's cold technical style develops a new warmth after she falls for admirer Melvyn Douglas (who was making his screen debut). Cary Grant was the first-timer in Frank Tuttle's This Is the Night (1932), as he heads to Venice with wife Themla Todd on a trip that she was supposed to be taking with lover Roland Young while Grant was javelin throwing at the Los Angeles Olympics. His friend, Charles Ruggles, tags along and hires actress Lila Damita to play his new wife.
Complications also arise in Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise (1932), which sees gentleman thief Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) poses as a baron in Venice and join forces with pickpocket Lily (Miriam Hopkins) to fleece perfumier, Mariette Colet (Kay Francis). However, love gets in the way in a sublime screwball that includes choice sight gags involving binmen in gondolas and a the essentials of opera. Francis would return to Venice later in the year to steer reckless sister Florine McKinney away from an unsuitable suitor. In her absence, however, Neapolitan lawyer Ronald Colman has an impulsive fling with shopgirl Phyllis Barry in King Vidor's once-acclaimed melodrama, Cynara.
Ballet brings Jenny Peachey to Venice in Paul Merzbach's Napoleonic confection, Invitation to the Waltz (1935), which was the only film made in her native Britain by Lilian Harvey, the singer who found fame in a string of musicals in Weimar Germany with Willy Fritsch. Considering the extent of her fame in Europe, it's surprising that Harvey has been airbrushed out of British screen history. She made three films in Hollywood around the time that Fred Astaire was first paired with Ginger Rogers.
They are at the peak of their powers in Mark Sandrich's Top Hat (1935), as dancer Jerry Travers (Astaire) follows model Dale Tremont (Rogers) to Venice, where she mistakes him for Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton), the husband of her friend, Madge (Helen Broderick). St Mark's provides the backdrop for the rooftop terrace duet to Irving Berlin's 'Cheek to Cheek', while a piazza was erected on an RKO soundstage for the ensemble number, 'The Piccolino'.
Production designer Van Nest Polglase's Art Deco sets echoed the interiors seen in dozens of so-called 'White Telephone' films that were produced in Italy in the 1930s. Some had Venetian settings, like Giuseppe Adami and Giacomo Gentilomo The Carnival in Venice (1939), in which tobacco factory worker Toti Dal Monte helps daughter Junie Astor become a singing sensation so that she can marry a count. But there were intimations of neo-realism in Francesco Pasinetti's The Canal of the Angels (1934), which follows a boy's discovery of his mother's adultery. After the war, Pasinetti tried to convince the Allies that his city should be the home of the Italian film industry, as the facilities in Rome had been founded by Benito Mussolini's Fascists.
One of the few films made in wartime Germany to still be in circulation, Josef von Baky's Münchhausen (1943) stars Hans Albers as Baron Hieronymous von Münchhausen, who arrives in Venice with Isabella d'Este (Ilse Werner), whose princely brother, Francesco (Werner Scharf), challenges him to a duel. Having won easily, the baron leaves hurriedly in a balloon with Christian Kuchenreutter (Hermann Spielmans), which flies them to the Moon. Also made during the conflict, Carlo Campogalliani's Il bravo di Venezia (1941) stars Rossano Brazzi as a 16th-century bandit laying low in the studio of the artist, Veronsese. This was one of a number of period swashbucklers set in the city, including Luigi Capuani's The Executioner of Venice (1963), which turns on the efforts of scheming 17th-century Grand Inquisitor Rodrigo Zeno (Guy Madison) to unseat Doge Giovanni Bembo (Feodor Chaliapin, Jr.) by accusing his son, Sandrigo (Lex Barker) of treason.
The great Dino Risi was also a regular visitor for a number of comedies, including Venice, the Moon and You (1958), with Alberto Sordi as a gondolier struggling to resist the charms of visiting female tourists; Telefono bianchi (aka The Career of a Chambermaid, 1976), which chronicles Agostina Belli's bid to become a star during the 'white telephone' period of Italian film-making; and The Forbidden Room (1977), which pairs Vittorio Gassman and Catherine Deneuve as the owners of a spooky house with hidden secrets.
Mostly shot in Palazzo Soranzo Van Axel, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's The Honey Pot (1967) is based on Frederick Knott's play, Mr Fox of Venice, which reworked Ben Jonson's 1605 satire, Volpone. At the heart of the machinations is the affluent Cecil Fox (Rex Harrison), who hires struggling actor William McFly (Cliff Robertson) to play his personal secretary while pretending to be dying in order to play a vengeful practical joke on three former paramours when they visit him at his Venetian abode:
the penniless Princess Dominique (Capucine); fading film star Merle McGill (Edie Adams), and Texan millionairess Mrs Lone Star Crockett Sheridan (Susan Hayward), who is accompanied by her canny nurse, Sarah Watkins (Maggie Smith).
Confusion also reigns in Mark Herman's farce, Blame It on the Bellboy (1992), as three men with similar sounding names check into the Hotel Gabrielli: milquetoast clerk Melvyn Orton (Dudley Moore); hitman Mike Lorton (Bryan Brown); and banker Lord Maurice Horton (Richard Griffiths). Dispensing the mixed messages is bellboy Bronson Pinchot. Norman Jewison's Only You (1994) also ponders 'what's in a name', as the moniker 'Damon Bradley' has loomed large in the imagination of teacher Faith Corvatch (Marisa Tomei) since she was 11. So, when she finds out that fiancé Peter Wright (Robert Downey, Jr.) had a school friend of that name, she impulsively flies to Venice to meet him.
Romance is also in the air in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You (1996), as Joe Berlin (Allen) tries to woo married art historian Von Sidell (Julia Roberts) while holidaying with daughter Djuna (Natasha Lyonne), who falls for a gondolier. While we're in a musical mood, let us also point you in the direction of Martin Coombes's Opera Australia rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers (1990), which follows the Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro (Robert Gard and Graeme Ewer) to Venice in order to determine which of newlywed siblings Marco (David Hobson) or Giuseppe Palmieri (Roger Lemke) is heir to the throne of Barataria.
Allen's locations include the Gritti Palace in Campo Santa Maria del Giglio, Campo Santo Stefano, Campiello Barbaro, and the Rialto fish market. But Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis are too intent on patching up their marriage to take in the sights in Rob Reiner's The Story of Us (1999). No sooner do they start feeling better about themselves, however, than they become lumbered with stereotypical American tourists, Lucy Webb and Bill Kirchenbauer. Released the same year, Silvio Soldini's Bread and Tulipsis one of the loveliest Venetian films, as it follows Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta) in her hitch-hiking bid to get away from her cheating spouse. Respite comes in the form of charmer Fernando Girasole (Bruno Ganz) and his eccentric acquaintances. But Cinema Paradiso users will have to content themselves with Lewis Gilbert's take on Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine (1989), which has much the same vibe.
Another alternative is Lone Scherfig's Italian For Beginners (2000), the first Dogme95 film to be directed by a woman, which culminates in Danish bakery assistant Anette Støvelbæk inheriting money and taking her language classmates to Venice. They have markedly more fun than newlyweds Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy in Shawn Levy's Just Married (2003), as one thing after another goes wrong after they arrive in Venice, with his disinterest in the sights proving as much a problem as the third-wheel persistence her childhood friend, Christian Kane.
Italy is on the itinerary in Andy Cadiff's Chasing Liberty (2004), as presidential daughter Mandy Moore goes AWOL and Secret Service agents Matthew Goode, Jeremy Piven, and Annabella Sciorra follow her from Prague to Berlin and Venice, where Moore claims that she and Goode are penniless honeymooners and coaxes gondolier Joseph Long into inviting them to stay with his mother, Miriam Margolyes.
Despite taking the David Di Donatello and Nastro d'Argento prizes for Best New Director, Valerio Mieli's romcom, Ten Winters (2009), failed to reach the UK, despite the splendid views of Venice and Moscow and the chemistry between Slavic literature specialist Isabella Ragonese and the dogged Michele Riondino. The Queen of the Adriatic also figures prominently in David Frankel's One Chance (2013), as Port Talbot's very own Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts (James Corden) goes on an opera course in Venice and gets to sing for Luciano Pavarotti (Stanley Townsend).
Fresh from the Madagascar trilogy (2005/2011/12), Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (John DiMaggio), and Private (Christopher Knights) fetch up in Venice in Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith's Penguins of Madagascar (2014) and team with an animal alliance known as 'North Wind' to confound Dr Octavius Brine (John Malkovich). More feathers are ruffled in Nick Bruno and Troy Quane's Spies in Disguise (2019). Having been accidentally turned into a pigeon, agent Lance Sterling (Will Smith) relies on tech-savvy scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) to outsmart master criminal Killian (Ben Mendelsohn), while keeping out of the clutches of H.T.U.V. (Honour, Trust, Unity, and Valour) operative, Marcy Kappel (Rashida Jones), who follow Sterling to Venice convinced he's a traitor. Newlyweds Pico Alexander and Maria Bakalova also discover that the City of Masks has another face in Dean Craig's The Honeymoon (2022), as their dream trip is ruined by best man Asim Chaudhry and amorous mobster Lucas Bravo.
This might not be currently on offer, but Cinema Paradiso users can double up with Book Club (2018) and Bill Halderman's sequel, Book Club: The Next Chapter (2023), which joins Vivian (Jane Fonda), Diane (Diane Keaton), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) on an bachelorette getaway to Italy before Vivian ties the knot with Arthur (Don Johnson). However, taking a Venetian detour between Rome and Florence, the quartet are left stranded when their luggage is stolen at the railway station.
Thrills and Chills
Thrillers and adventure films have been exploiting exotic locations since the silent era. Second unit crews were dispatched to shoot the landmarks and vistas, which were then used for cutaways or back projections for action staged in the studio. As one of the most photogenic and topographically unique places on the planet, Venice has frequently been chosen as an atmospheric setting.
A background crew went to the Alps to capture footage for David MacDonald's Snowbound (1948), a fascinating wartime thriller that was based on the Hammond Innes novel, The Lonely Skiier. Dennis Price plays a scriptwriter who agrees to spy on the residents of a ski chalet for film director Robert Newton. However, he's unaware that Greek resident Herbert Lom is a Gestapo agent based in Venice. The postwar city also provides the setting for Ralph Thomas's Venetian Bird (1954). There are hints of Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) in a story that brings private eye Edward Mercer (Richard Todd) to Venice to reward the partisan who had saved Allied airmen during the war. He's informed that Renzo Ucello (John Gregson) died for his country. But the police believe he's alive and plotting to assassinate a prominent local politician.
Somewhat forgotten within the Graham Greene canon, Mario Soldati's The Stranger's Hand (1954) was written by Giorgio Bassani and Guy Elmes from a short story in which Richard O'Sullivan plays the son of MI5 agent Trevor Howard, who is kidnapped by Yugoslavian spies in Venice. A rather more famous agent has made three trips to the Lido, starting with the finale to Terence Young's From Russia Wth Love (1963), which sees Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) posing as a maid to gain entrance to the room where James Bond (Sean Connery) and Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) are staying.
Confusing a double-taking pigeon, Roger Moore's Bond drives a gondola through St Mark's Square in Lewis Gilbert's Moonraker (1979) before throwing Chang (Toshiro Suga) through the stained glass clockface of the tower and discovering that Hugo Drax (Michel Lonsdale) is using a Murano glass factory to produce vials for a nerve gas. Daniel Craig's 007 also fetches up in Venice in Martin Campbell's Casino Royale (2006), where he gets in a shootout after following Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to a money drop and causes a renovated building to start sinking by shooting its flotation devices.
Assisted by some cutting-edge CGI, the Palazzo Pisani Moretta stars in this sequence. But you'll just have to imagine the scenery in André Versini's Mission to Venice (1964), as this James Hadley Chase thriller is not currently on disc, even though Errol Flynn's son, Sean, stars as a private eye who rumbles a spy ring while searching for a missing husband. You'll also have to take out word for the spectacle on offer in Jerry Thorpe's The Venetian Affair (1967), which sees journalist Robert Vaughn and ex-wife Elke Sommer get drawn into a conspiracy after an American diplomat blows himself up in Venice. In one of his final roles, Boris Karloff as an academic with a peace plan, is apparently not deemed sufficient reason to make this available. But Fred Astaire as a retired British spy has also failed to make Alf Kjellin's Midas Run (1969) a cult classic, even though he enlists the help of sidekick Anne Hayward and American author Richard Crenna to stage a Venetian heist to trap criminal mastermind Adolfo Celi.
Cinema Paradiso can promise you some globe-trotting fun in Basil Dearden's The Assassination Bureau (1969), which tracks Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg) and Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed) from Vienna to Venice, where the reporter and women's rights campaigner realises she's fallen in love. Laura Gemser essays another journalist, who comes to Venice to research an article on snuff films in Joe D'Amato's Emanuelle in America (1977). By contrast, Sylvia Kristel comes to the city solely in search of pleasure in Francis Leroi's Emmanuelle in Venice (1993), as she uses a secret scent to pass on her sensual secrets.
Joining the list of Venetian unavailables is George Lautner's Le Guignolo (1979), which sends newly sprung jailbird Jean-Paul Belmondo on a mission with fellow con artist Mirella D'Angelo to locate a microfilm containing a formula for an oil substitute. If this feels far-fetched, what about 18th-century playwright Carlo Goldoni (Vincent Spano) and composer Antonio Vivaldi (Wojciech Pszoniak) turning detective to solve a murder during the Carnevale in Etienne Périer's Rouge Venise (1989). Much more credible is Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). When father Henry (Sean Connery) goes missing while searching for the Holy Grail, Indy (Harrison Ford) goes to Venice with Dr Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) and meets with Austrian art expert Dr Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) to discover a secret catacomb beneath the Campo San Barnaba library in which Henry had last been seen.
The rat-infested tunnels lead to a shipyard that's the scene of a thrilling speedboat chase. But the sequence was filmed at Tilbury Docks in Essex rather than the lagoon. There's no mistaking the genuine article in Dante Spinotti's camerawork in Paul Schrader and Harold Pinter's unsettling adaptation of Ian McEwan's The Comfort of Strangers (1990), however. Holidaying couple Colin Mayhew (Rupert Everett) and Mary Kenway (Natasha Richardson) enjoy spots like the Hotel Gabrielli and the Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore before things take a sinister turn after they are taken up by the seemingly friendly Robert (Christopher Walken) and his wife, Caroline (Helen Mirren).
Anne Parillaud gets hyper during a gondola trip after being treated to a holiday in Venice with boyfriend Jean-Hugues Anglade in Luc Besson's Nikita (1990), while Simon West's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) sees Manfred Powell (Iain Glen), the leader of the Venice-based Illuminati, seek the help of Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) to complete 'the Triangle' before an imminent solar eclipse.
Carlo U. Quinterio's Night Train to Venice (1993) puts author Hugh Grant in peril from Malcolm McDowell, as he travels by the Orient Express to deliver his manuscript on the rising Neo-Nazi tide. Having shot scenes in the Hôtel des Bains for The English Patient (1996), Anthony Minghella returned to Venice for The Talented Mr Ripley (1999), which has Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) living in the city when Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow) becomes suspicious after noticing that he has in his possession a pair of rings belonging to Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), who had supposedly left Italy after breaking up with her by letter.
Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), and Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran) join forces to recover Leonardo Da Vinci's blueprints of Venice's foundations after they are stolen by The Fantom in Stephen Norrington's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Midway through a Venice heist to steal $35 million of gold bullion from the gangsters who had snatched it weeks earlier, inside man Steve Frazelli (Edward Norton) betrays crew leader John Bridger (Donald Sutherland) and his oppo, Charlie Crocker (Mark Wahlberg), in F. Gary Gray's The Italian Job (both 2003). Orphaned brothers, Bo (Jasper Harris) and Prosper (Aaron Johnson), run away to Venice rather than be separated by their uncaring aunt in Richard Claus's take on Cornelia Funke's novel, The Thief Lord (2006), and they join a band of street urchins controlled by the masked leader, Scipio (Rollo Weeks).
On 1 September 2001, American spy Nick Nolte disappears with some vital information and asks old friend Juliette Binoche to arrange a meeting in Venice with his estranged daughter, Sara Forestier. However, the murderous John Turturro latches on to their plans in Santiago Amigorena's A Few Days in September (2006). An unwelcome stranger also drives the action in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Tourist (2010), which is a remake of Jérôme Salle's Anthony Zimmer (2005). Venice replaces the French Riviera, as Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) tries to put Scotland Yard inspector John Acheson (Paul Bettany) off the trail of crook Alexander Pearce (Johnny Depp) by cosying up to lookalike stranger Frank Tupelo (also Depp) on the train to La Dominante, where she keeps up the ruse at the Hotel Danieli.
This is actually a combination of the Palazzo Pisani Moretta, the Palazzo Dandolo, and the Palazzo Querini Benzon. Regular visitors will also recognise the Marciana National Library, Piazza San Marco, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the Palazzo Loredan, Fontego dei Turchi, and Villa F, which is situated on Giudecca Island, which the locals call 'Spinalonga'.
The backdrops are mere pixels in Paul W.S. Anderson's The Three Musketeers (2011), which sees Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich) dupe Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans) when they go to Venice to steal Leonardo Da Vinci's airship plans. While we're on the subject of adept fakery, the Venice seen in Ademir Kenovic's The Secret Passage (2004) was erected on a soundstage in Luxembourg. It's the real thing in Ron Howard's Inferno (2016), however, which follows The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009) in bringing Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) and Dr Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to Venice to search for clues in the works of Dante Alighieri that will help them track down maverick scientist, Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster).
The Campo di Santa Maria Formosa, Fondamente Nuove, and the Arsenale di Venezia are among the places pressed into service in Jon Watts's Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), as Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is taking a class trip to Venice when the Water Elemental attacks and he has to adopt his superhero guise to repel it. Meanwhile, in Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (2023), Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) follow Grace (Hayley Atwell) to Venice, where a convocation is discussing the fate of a rogue AI system known as 'The Entity'.
Moving into horror, Loredana Padoan headlines Carlo Campogallini's The Devil's Gondola (1946), which centres on a serial killer during the Venetian Republic era. While this is unlikely to ever become available, Cinema Paradiso can offer in Aldo Lado and Vittorio De Sisti's Who Saw Her Die? (1972), which sees grieving parents George Lazenby and Anita Strindberg launch an investigation after their daughter is drowned in Venice. The perils of water are also made clear in Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973), a chillingly evocative adaptation of a Daphne Du Maurier story that brings John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) to Venice after the accidental drowning of their own child. While he works on the restoration of a 12th-century church, she meets a pair of English sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania), who claim to have the clairvoyant powers to put her in touch with her daughter.
In Ted Kotcheff's Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (1978), Jacqueline Bisset and George Segal arrive in Venice to meet chef Stefano Satta Flores, only to find him face down in a tank of lobsters in his own kitchen. This should undoubtedly be on disc, as should Ugo Liberatore's Nero Veneziano (aka Damned in Venice), which was released the same year and centres on blind teenager Renato Cestiè coming to suspect that sister Rena Niehaus has conceived the Son of Satan in the Venice hotel she has converted into a brothel.
So, for that matter, should Augusto Caminito's Nosferatu in Venice (aka Vampire in Venice, 1988), in which Professor Christopher Plummer comes to finish off Klaus Kinski, who was last seen at the Carnival in 1786. Donald Pleasence plays a Catholic priest and the same year saw him turn copper in Ruggero Deodato's Phantom of Death in order to conduct an investigation into the crimes being committed around Venice by Michael York, a pianist with a rare ageing condition that warps his mind.
While we're on ghoulish matters, why not try National Geographic: Is It Real?: Vampires/Vampires in Venice (2010) ? The latter is particularly compelling, as it follows Italian forensic anthropologist and CSI specialist Matteo Borrini on a quest to discover the truth about the 'Shroud-eater', who supposedly spread plague in Venice in 1575. There's certainly more evidence for this legend than the urban myth perpetuated in Danny Lerner's Shark in Venice (2008), which does exactly what it says on the tin, as Stephen Baldwin comes to the city to find out what happened to the father who has disappeared on a boat trip. Complete with sinister 'businessmen' and hordes of hidden treasure, this is good old-fashioned exploitation nonsense. We'd like to say the same about Álex de la Iglesia's Venicephrenia (2021), but we can't currently offer this macabre tale about a group of young tourists from Madrid, who find themselves in the wrong neighbourhood of Venice when a serial killer takes murderous exception to their presence. Maybe a DVD label out there will take a punt?
Top Hat (1935)1h 36min1h 36min
Convinced that dancer Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) is married to her best friend, model Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) flees to Venice and agrees to marry Italian fashion designer, Beddini (Erik Rhodes). However, Bates the valet (Eric Blore) poses as the clergyman and Jerry uses a gondola trip to explain things.
Venetian Bird (1952)1h 31min1h 31min
Adapted by Victor Canning from his own novel and filmed at Pinewood and on location in Venice, this involving thriller follows private eye Richard Todd to the backstreets of the City of Masks to reward a war hero. But the police believe that John Gregson's partisan has faked his death in order to operate in the shadows.
Senso (1954)1h 56min1h 56min
Despite supporting the cause of the Risorgimento, Venetian countess Alida Valli becomes besotted with Farley Granger, a lieutenant in the occupying Austrian army who had sent her cousin, Massimo Girotti, into exile for staging a protest at the La Fenice opera house.
Summertime (1955) aka: Summer MadnessPlay trailer1h 36minPlay trailer1h 36min
Having saved for years for the trip of a lifetime, middle-aged secretary Katharine Hepburn is reluctant to let a romance with charming antique shop owner Rossano Brazzi get in her way. Hepburn did the tumble into canal herself, with repeated takes leaving her with a lifelong eye infection.
Eva (1962)Play trailer1h 44minPlay trailer1h 44min
In Venice to watch the filming of his bestseller, Welshman Stanley Baker becomes obsessed with prostitute Jeanne Moreau, who knows that he has claimed his late brother's book as his own and continues to occupy his thoughts even after he marries production assistant Virna Lisi.
Death in Venice (1971) aka: Morte a VeneziaPlay trailer2h 5minPlay trailer2h 5min
Tormented by memories of furious arguments with his friend, Alfred (Mark Burns), Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) develops a fixation with Tadzio (Björn Andrésen), a blonde Polish teenager, who is in Venice with his mother (Silvana Mangano) and sisters. Cholera hits the city, as the ageing composer comes to recognise the futility of his infatuation.
Don't Look Now (1973)Play trailer1h 46minPlay trailer1h 46min
Struggling to cope with the accidental drowning of his young daughter, Donald Sutherland becomes distracted while restoring a Venetian church by a small figure wearing a red coat similar to the one belonging to his lost child.
The Comfort of Strangers (1990)Play trailer1h 40minPlay trailer1h 40min
Initially, tourists Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson are grateful when Christopher Walken assists them when they get lost in Venice. But his unsettling anecdotes about his father begin to jar and they try to give him the slip, only to be welcomed into his home by his seemingly gracious wife, Helen Mirren.
The Wings of the Dove (1997)Play trailer1h 42minPlay trailer1h 42min
Delighted to be asked to accompany American heiress Alison Elliott to Venice, Helena Bonham Carter becomes frustrated when admirers Linus Roache and Alex Jennings begin paying court to Elliott in order to get their hands on her money, as she doesn't have long to live.
Dangerous Beauty (1998)1h 47min1h 47min
Veronica Franco (Catherine McCormack) agrees to her mother's suggestion to become a courtesan because she will be able her to continue with her education in 16th-century Venice. However, war with the Ottoman Empire and a brush with a spurned poet have a dramatic impact on Veronica's reputation.