Mussolini: The Untold Story (TV Mini-Series 1985– ) Poster

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Well worth the time
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews26 June 2009
This review is based on the DVD release that has it on two double-sided discs, and comes with no extras. I do not know much about the real events, so I can't say if this is an accurate account or not. This takes us through over two decades, starting in 1922. It is a tale of love and hate, rise and fall, life and death. From the very beginning to the ending... a well-chosen and memorable final image... this is engaging. The plot is good and well-written, as is the dialog. This is excellent, in the way of its characters... thoroughly developed, credible, and it doesn't try to include a greater amount than it can do justice to. Most of the drama comes from the interactions and relationships, not from the visuals. The acting is all marvelous, and the roles are well-cast. Downey Jr. is instantly accepted as the young and energetic Bruno, Byrne as the more serious Vittorio, Mastrantonio as the strong-willed Edda, Julia is charming as ever as Galeazzo, and last but by no means least, C. Scott adds tremendous depth to the part of Benito himself, in his portrayal. The score is fitting. This has nice cinematography and editing, if neither are beyond what we've seen from other mini-series. It was an interesting choice to cut in actual footage from the time. Of course, you can tell, still, it's reasonably well added in. In spite of what the cover and this site both suggest, this is about five hours and twenty minutes long... I suppose the other count is with commercials. The violence is not excessive or graphic. Sexuality is tasteful and not gratuitous. Language is infrequent. This has disturbing content, and is not for children. I recommend this to anyone who wants a presentation of the history of Mussolini, the man and the family, in the time before, during, and until the end of, the second World War. 7/10
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An Evil Man Who One Could Occasionally Empathize With
theowinthrop17 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There is a very good chance that if Benito Mussolini had been a trifle more conservative and less egocentric he might have died in power in Rome some time in the 1950s, leaving the running of Fascist Italy in his surviving son's hands. He would have been somewhat like his opposite number in Spain, Francisco Franco, who died still running Spain in the 1970s. But Franco was lucky - his country was too weak to give military assistance to a demanding Adolf Hitler after it's bloody civil war, and Franco's Spain was across the Pyranees from the nearest German troops in France. Italy did have the Alps between it and Germany, but after 1938 the Austrian Anschluss brought the Germans to the border of Italy. Mussolini would have been forced to give a pro-Nazi neutrality to Hitler.

But Mussolini would have only himself to blame for what happened. He had far too grandiose ideas for his country. Italy was a cultural hub in Europe. In terms of real military power it was nothing. It's heyday of military power was in the Roman Empire. There was a momentary change in the 1860s under Garibaldi's army, but they were fighting to unite Italy. After 1870 the Italian army became a joke again - in 1896 it achieved an unenviable status in European history as the first colonial power to be defeated totally in a war by a "third world" country (Abyssinia - modern Ethiopia).

This situation continued in World War I where greed for territory made the Italians join the Allies. They proceeded to lose battles for nearly two years. So despised were they by their French, British, and American Allies, that when they walked out of the Versailles conference the three others ignored them until they came back on their own.

Mussolini came to public attention at this time, and he had larger international support than certain people later wanted to admit. Italian politics was pretty corrupt, and many non-Italians (like Austin Chamberlain and Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw) actually admired Mussolini as the strong man who would shake Italy into it's proper position in the world. To an extent they were not wrong. Mussolini did some repair work on the effectiveness of Italian life (the phrase was, "he made the trains run on time"). With the aid of some associates, his son-in-law Count Ciano and Air Marshall Balbo, he improved the aviation industry and Italian diplomacy. He also would demonstrate some wisdom - he would be the first person to question the business honesty of Ivar Krueger, the crooked Swedish "Match King".

But he was ruthless suppressing dissent - he did arrange the murder of Matteotti, the Socialist politician, in 1924. It almost caused his regime to fall, but he was able (barely) to weather it. He kept confronting Balkan states over territories that he felt were Italian by right. His belligerence would continue over the years. Sometimes the effect was actually not so bad: When Austria was nearly toppled by a Nazi coup in 1934, Mussolini sent his tanks to the Austrian border as a warning to Hitler not to move. It worked (the only time Hitler blinked in the 1930s). Mussolini, to his credit, tried to continue this policy with British and French support, but those two countries failed to take him up on it. After he was roundly condemned in 1935 for invading Ethiopia (and so avenge the 1896 humiliation), he found more in common with Hitler, and this basically doomed him.

Italy's military ineptitude kept making it's allegiance a millstone around the neck of whoever was "lucky" enough to join them. Besides Ethiopia, Mussolini invaded Albania and Yugoslavia (and it helped delay the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941, thus helping bring about the defeat of the Nazi invasion). The Italian navy was smashed at Taranto by the British air force (an attack the Japanese noted, and used as a model for the attack on Pearl Harbor). The African colonies fell to British troops (alleviating some of the gloom of the British defeats of 1940-42). In 1943 Mussolini was overthrown in a palace coup. By 1944 he was freed by Otto Skorzeny, Hitler's favorite special agent, and set up in northern Italy as head of "The Republic of Salo". It was a temporary success for Il Duce. When the Nazis fell, so did he. Instead of that image I suggested at the start, he died in April 1945, shot by partisans, and hung upside down in a square in Milan.

This film does point out some favorable or partly favorable aspects to Il Duce. He did stimulate the country (far more than most of the politicians of the teens and twenties). He had mistresses, but he was a family man, with a daughter and two sons (one of whom was killed in Ethiopia). His daughter loved Ciano, and when the Count was involved in the palace coup (and subsequently captured by the Nazis), Mussolini did not interfere with his execution. Raul Julia does very well with his performance as Ciano, a weak man who gradually found he had to speak out (in his posthumous diaries) about the evils he saw. And in showing the emotional turmoil that Il Duce faced, George C. Scott does open up some sympathy for the dictator - but not much. His daughter never forgave him for not saving her husband.

I think the thing about Il Duce is that no matter how much evil he did, and how many people he killed, he was a family man. Hitler was not, and Stalin barely was. So he seems slightly more approachable to us than the others. It does not excuse his evil, but it slightly waters it down. This series managed to do this quite well.
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Great Film
Raynedog12 July 1999
If you are lucky enough to be able to locate this film, it is well worth the effort.

I found it accurate (to a point) and one of George C. Scott's greatest works. This film did not receive the acclaim it should have. It must be seen to be appreciated.
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Raul Julia was marvelous
gattocinese9 November 2003
This miniseries has stayed with me long after I saw it. I was thinking about actors who never got rid of their local accents but were still great actors. Raul Julia was one of them. He could have played Count Ciano way over the top here, but he didn't. Yet he was so moving as Mussolini's conniving, but very human son-in-law. I hope you're doing well wherever you are, Raul.
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Big Screen Impact
Red"V"28 June 1999
If you can find this anywhere, watch it. An excellent cast, featuring George C. Scott and Raul Julia, propel this engaging and often historically-accurate tale of one of the Twentieth Century's most influential men. Memorable production values.
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This Is A Five & a Half Hour Program and Not Seven
mysubs17 July 2007
Although it says here it is a seven hour title, I disagree. I recorded the series when it was broadcast in 1985/6, in the USA on a Betamax system, and it was five and half hours long.

I also recorded it in 1989 here in the UK on a VHS system.

The DVD is exactly the same running time today and is exactly the same program scene by scene.

Unless it was drastically cut by one and half hours before it was originally broadcast,I cannot see how it was seven hours long.

All three programs are exactly the same running length.

This does not detract from the program which I think is an excellent portrayal of a man who was corrupt, immoral, and blinded by his own power and ideology.

The acting by George C Scott and Raul Julia is superb,who demonstrate the differences between the two men.

Although not always historically accurate, it does provoke thought about WWII not just from the usual UK/USA & Germany angle, but to the situation in Italy which was still only a country 50 years old and full of conflict after the results of the 1st world war.

I would recommend this to any person interested in a different aspect to troubled period.
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George C Scott triumphs as Ill Duce
deanofrpps23 September 2006
Duce - Duce - Duce the crowd screams as the little giant struts out to give the faithful a tough face. George C Scott best known for playing the invincible George Patton on the silver screen has the mannerisms and the facial expressions of the sawdust caeaser who led Italy into a disastrous war and brought about his own downfall.

One of histories great ironies lies in this: Had the Deuce avoided WWII which the Germans really didn't want him involved in anyway, he might have had the acclaim for glory that he vaingloriously sought.

The film presents with a degree of historical accuracy the terrible end to which Italy and its Deuce came as a result of the quest for glory. It comes as a shock that the Anglo-Americans would bomb Rome. Count Ciano lolling on the beach at Lido as the flying fortresses zoom over exclaims, "The Pope lives here." This film is an excellent warning for our time which has produced a new pied-piper. This one claims to personally talk to God. The Deuce at least had the good graces to be an atheist.
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The inside story of the rise and fall of Fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
wynne-130 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
During the later part of his career, the great actor George C. Scott turned to television for artistic opportunity, if not fulfillment. One such undertaking was his take on the colourful Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini.

Scott was the right age to play Mussolini in his later years, but is less convincing in the earlier part of this massive two-disc, six hour miniseries. On the other hand, try to find an actor who could convincingly complement Scott for the earlier parts of the story, especially when George is the star name that sold this program in the first place.

There are similar hurdles to get over in order to really enjoy this miniseries for what it is: an American take on a distinctly Italian subject. Despite a first-rate small screen director in William A. Graham (the "other" Billy Graham, he will tell you, with good humour), the production has a bargain basement look to some of its scenes. Even those involving European locations. The background artists also look less than enthusiastic, as if they didn't know why they are doing whatever they are supposed to be doing in any given scene.

BUT--and here is just one man's opinion, George C. Scott is worth seeing in almost anything. Seeing the actor who won an Oscar (and famously refused it) for playing General George S. Patton take on the opposite side of the military coin, as it were, is fascinating. Especially since Scott is best remembered for playing Patton. Was he trying to show his virtuosity as an actor? Was he trying to eradicate the public's pigeon-holing him as one of the U.S.'s most famous warriors?

Given that it was around this time that Scott resurrected Patton in the so-so TV movie THE LAST DAYS OF PATTON, it seems likely he was simply looking for a good role.

MILD SPOILER BELOW! Whatever his reasons, Scott is magnificent as Il Duce, at times despicable (as in his treatment of a female English journalist which would fit right in with current headlines involving men who abuse their power) and at other times tender and loving towards his family.

Scott is limited at times by the production values and especially in the scenes when he is supposed to be younger, but even medium Scott is great Scott, in my books. Scott is well-supported by some big names: Lee Grant as his long-suffering wife, the luminous Virginia Madsen as his mistress, and as his three oldest children, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Gabriel Byrne and, surprisingly and effectively, Robert Downey, before he added the "Jr." to his name. Raul Julia also shows up as Duce's son-in-law, count Ciano, but he pales in comparison to Anthony Hopkin's performance in the same role for another Mussolini miniseries also made in 1985.

The bottom line here is while MUSSOLINI: THE UNTOLD STORY is not in the same league as, say, THE WINDS OF WAR and its even greater sequel WAR & REMEMBRANCE, it is still the canvas upon which the reviled Italian dictator's life is painted by one the 20th-Century's most powerful actors. How much you like Scott will influence how much you like this miniseries. And were it not for these ground-breaking miniseries in the first place, we would likely still be stuck in the old-style weekly series format, emphasizing one main plot per week, instead of allowing room for multiple story arcs and deeper characterizations, which are the norm today.
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true account not revisionist son was there need a copy vhs
lmoll110 April 2004
a pity more credit not given this was an excellent true account a george c scott was great. war is tragic but after knowing 10 people in close circle of the truth vittorio mussolini version is accurate. raul giulia gabriel byrne lee remick are the best one can only hope to see this on vhs but i believe no copy exsists since a bias against this film is everywhere.George c scott was one of the best character actors and he more of the biographical truth type (patton)he would not do a portrayal that is false.Lee Remick is as serious as they come and in this film most who knew the duce's wife would say it is 99% accurate anyone who can get a copy (vhs) would have an excellent piece of history and those who were on the world stage changed the world as the moment and for centuries to come
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An Italian American's Perspective
captainjosephbrown11 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Being a descendant of a Black shirt, I felt compelled to watch this film. I was pleasantly surprised, at how the movie made me feel. After further research about IL Duce I see that Mussolini was a good man on the side of tyrants whose legacy will be forever tainted because of a poor choice in allies. This movie tells of Mussolini's life from the point of the "March on Rome". The movie gives us a picture of Mussolini behind the propaganda. We see him interact with his wife and children and we get to see the life of Il duce close up. My favorite scene is when Benito fires the train conductor for being over three hours late, with the line, "Finished you will never work here again." I also loved how the movie showed Mussolini's unfortunate fall from being the strong man of Italy to a mere puppet of a Nazi puppeteer. I found this piece to be very accurate minus the ridiculous rape scene, which I found out never occurred and in some versions of this movie was cut out. I give 10/10 excellent Saluto Il Duce and to hell with Hitler!
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Il Duce
bkoganbing9 November 2016
I guess playing George Patton a very strong authoritative figure qualified George C. Scott to play another. Seeing Scott out there as a strutting peacock he really captures the charisma and the appeal that was Mussolini. In America we're getting set to have a taste of that right now. Highly appropriate I'm writing this review after Election Day 2016.

Mussolini, newspaper editor came to power after total Italian disillusion with World War I and their participation in it. Probably most in Italy felt they should have stayed out. They started as an ally to Germany and Austro-Hungary with the Central Powers. Then overnight they switched sides and fought a bloody war of attrition for three years. A post war depression with a lot of parliamentary politicians unable to solve an economic crisis and Italy was in the mood to listen to anyone promising prosperity and stability.

How stable? Italy was a kingdom ruled by the House of Savoy. King Victor Emanuel gave Benito Mussolini the seal of office and as Prime Minister he ruled for over 20 years under those auspices. Another war removed him though the Nazis tried to prop him up.

With the trappings of democracy Mussolini ruled as dictator with a dummy parliament and reserved unto himself the title of Il Duce. Just like his chum Adolph Hitler appropriated Der Furhrer for himself.

Unlike Hitler who was an aesthete and maybe impotent, Mussolini liked living large. Married with a family, his wife played by Lee Grant here he had one voracious appetite for the opposite sex. There is a famous story of how he raped a famous American correspondent, most likely Dorothy Thompson which is reenacted here. Did this past election ever bring that one to the forefront of my viewing memories.

In the end all Mussolini had was his mistress Clara Petacci or I should say the last and most well known of them. Virginia Madsen plays Clara exactly as she was a rather naive and stupid groupie. Take note of Robert Downey, Jr. playing Bruno Mussolini, a favored younger son, a chip off the old block who was killed in World War II.

Still the main feature of Mussolini: The Untold Story is a fascinating and compelling performance by George C. Scott. As Il Duce Scott is the real deal. And instructive in light of an uncertain future America faces.
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difficult to watch
MartinHafer19 July 2005
It is not surprising that the life of Il Duce is depressing and awful--he was a brutal, evil little man after all. However, after watching it I was kind of wondering WHO the intended audience was. After all, you might have noticed that many of the worst monsters of the 20th century have been so rarely portrayed on film. While there have been a few films that talk about Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin and Pot Pot, the lives of such evil men are rarely the sole focus of movies. Probably because the public has no interest in finding out about the real-life stories of these men--we ALL know they are scum! Instead, this has been more the domain of documentaries on the History Channel--and I think that's where these characters should remain. I don't want to see them humanized or explore their motivation (except perhaps in a psychological/sociological sense). And this is the heart of the problem with this movie. Benito Mussolini was scum--he cheated on his wife, was violent to those around him and was an inflated blow-hard. Not exactly something I want to see on the big screen or in a TV movie.
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Good Cast in a bad project
JoeB13131 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Some real top notch talent in this film, including George C. Scott, Robert Downey Jr. and Raul Julia, playing members of Mussolini's inner circle. The problem with this movie is that it downplays Mussolini being one of history's most truly evil characters. He invented Fascism, for crying out loud.

Some of the liberties they took, from having Mussolini bravely meeting his death (he didn't!) or the made up scene of him raping a reporter (he didn't), are dramatic license, but the biggest problem is downplaying how he became Hitler's partner in crime. Hitler is a minor character in this film.

I guess the biggest problem is that it makes Mussolini sympathetic, when the man deserved no sympathy. He was at best a guy who facilitated evil and at worst, an active participant.
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Not many Italian actors, and the harrowing Dorothy Thompson scene
safenoe11 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It's funny how the victors not only write history, but they also star as the enemies. Witness the number of WW2 movies where Americans or Brits play Germans, and Mussolini: The Untold Story is no exception. I think Roberto Benigni should star as Mussolini in a remake, as a way of proving that his Oscar win for Life is Beautiful was no fluke in the minds of many commentators if you know what I mean.

One scene disturbed me. It was when Mussolini brutally raped American journalist Dorothy Thompson (played by Deborah Norton who was superb in Yes, Prime Minister) on his office desk, with two guards standing outside looking very uncomfortable. I wondered how Mussolini was able to get away with this crime. But I later learned this incident never happened in real life.
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