Last Days of Mussolini (1977)




Director:  Carlo Lizzani. 

Starring:  Rod Steiger (Benito Mussolini), Lisa Gastoni (mistress Claretta Petacci), Franco Nero (Colonel Valerio), Tom Felleghy (Allied Commander), John Stacy (Allied Commander), Dwight D. Eisenhower as Himself (sits before US, UK flags), King Victor Emmanuel III as Himself (wears helmet), Benito Mussolini as Himself (in car with Hitler), Lino Capolicchio (Pedro), Henry Fonda (Cardinal Schuster), Adolf Hitler as Himself (in car with Mussolini), Carlo Longhi (Partisan), Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (Allied Commander).

ad-hoc execution of Mussolini

Italian with English subtitles.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

An Italian captain says he must go north to Merano.  Milan will have to be abandoned.  April 25, 1945.  The Allies are asking for the unconditional surrender of the Italian forces.  Germany is going to surrender its troops in Italy.

Flashback.  Mussolini and his crew are very nervous.  In three or four months the war will be over.  The need is to go farther north.  They decide to go to Como.  Mussolini's mistress, Claretta Petacci, still believes that her lover will win the war.  Cardinal Schuster is trying to arrange an end to the fighting.  He, however, is told that Il Duce has left.  He has run away.

The Americans want Mussolini alive.  American Captain Donati and twelve men go to Como.  Mussolini is thinking that maybe he can get his whole government into Switzerland.  At the same time he thinks about handing himself over to the Americans.  His wife calls him.  She is only a kilometer away.  But Mussolini is leaving.  The Germans stop him saying that he cannot go without their escort.  Mussolini refuses at first but finally does agree to let the Germans follow his small convoy.  Claretta Petacci follows behind them in another car.  They are headed to Grandola Pass.  There are black shirts in Grandola that will escort Mussolini into Switzerland.  Mussolini and his group are able to give their escort the slip.  They stop at a hotel from which they can later take a path to walk into Switzerland. Claretta joins Mussolini.  The Germans find them and pull up around the hotel.  Mussolini learns that the Swiss have denied him permission to enter their country.  He says it might be best to wait for the Americans. 

An Italian officer from the south in the secret service of the Rome government has contacted the Como Liberation Committee and has been given their authorization to arrest Mussolini.  They they will turn Mussolini over to the Allies.  The plan is for US Captain Jack Donati to fly him to Siena to Allied Headquarters.  They are anxious to get Mussolini as soon as possible. 

Mussolini talks with the man who promised him Black Shirt support.  But it turns out that there are only twelve Black Shirt youths at the service of Mussolini.  The dictator is very angry when he realizes that he will have no real support.  Two hundred German soldiers arrive.  The decision is made to leave Como.  As their convoy of 30 trucks and 300 men head toward Switzerland on a narrow mountain road, they are stopped by the 52nd Garibaldi Partisan Brigade.  German Lt. Fallmeyer speaks with the partisan leaders.  He negotiates a deal with them that his Germans will be allowed to go through but that any fascists will be left behind with the partisans. 

The Italians are alarmed at the news.  They want to hide Mussolini.  He is given a German soldier's overcoat and a German helmet and gets in the back of an army truck filled with German soldiers.  He takes up the position farthest from the rear of the truck.  The partisans search the trucks and suspicion is aroused when a checker sees Italian army pants underneath a German overcoat.  The partisan walks to the rear of the truck and looks at the man who has his head down.  He says to the man, Benito Mussolini, wake up.  Mussolini hears the words he has dreaded:  "I arrest you in the name of the Italian people." 

American Captain Donati is  still looking for Mussolini.  But Mussolini has been  taken to a small village in the mountains.  His mistress is desperate to rejoin her lover.  To throw off the Americans, partisan forces tell them that Mussolini has already been shot. 

April 27, 1945.  Town square, Dongo.  Orders have been given to execute Mussolini.  The job is given to Colonel Valerio.  The rush is on to get to the dictator before he falls into the hands of the Americans.  Valerio is able to find out where Mussolini is staying.  He and a small group of his men travel to the small village where Mussolini and now Claretta Petacci are staying in a private home.  There is talk by some that Mussolini should be transferred to Milan.  But Valerio does not want to take the chance of Mussolini being taken by the Americans.  Valerio tells those around Mussolini that he will take the dictator and his mistress to Como.  As they head down from the mountains, Valerio has the car stop by a villa gate.  He tells the two prisoners to get out of the car and he then forces Mussolini against the stone wall around the villa.  Claretta Petacci tells Valerio not to shoot Mussolini and she struggles with him for his automatic weapon.  In the struggle the Colonel's automatic weapon fires killing Claretta.   Valerio then opens up with his weapon on Mussolini who slumps down dead. 


An o.k. movie.  The movie felt as though it was a bit long.  I was wondering when the hell were they going to kill this miserable fascist dictator.  Of course, what I was waiting for was the execution scene.  I did not know how Mussolini and Claretta were actually killed and I was very curious to find out.  So this kept me going through the machinations of the various groups trying to capture or keep Mussolini.  The death of the fascist and his mistress makes the movie worth watching.  I was a little disappointed that they did not show what an Italian mob did to the corpses of Mussolini and his mistress.  They were hung upside down on meat hooks in Piazzale Loreto (Milan). 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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