"Scugnizzi" are the often homeless street kids of Naples we have seen portrayed in numerous films made in Italy since World War II such as Rossellini's Naples episode of PAISAN and Comencini's PROIBITO RUBARE. This film combines the social inquiry of a latter-day neorealist film with the levity of an MGM Rooney/Garland "let's put on a show" musical. That levity, however, unlike with MGM, admits of a tragic edge, and the film even incorporates the story of a boy who is killed by the Naples mob.
Leo Gulotta plays Fortunato Assante, a two-bit actor who is pressured into putting on a show with the kids in a Neapolitan boys' reformatory. The real-life tragedies and horror stories of the boys and their families are blended into and intercut with the stage show at the San Carlo Opera House that is the result of all their efforts.
The elaborate musical and dance tableaus depicting the sadder aspects of Neapolitan poverty are really very appealing and wonderfully directed by Nanni Loy (who gave us THE FOUR DAYS OF NAPLES and MI MANDA PICONE.) They are the highlight of the film. The choreography and singing are uniformly excellent. One of the pieces evokes the "sweeping away the drug paraphernalia" fantasy sequence of Rosi's THREE BROTHERS.
The beautiful little kid that sings the uneasy solo that always makes him sick is actually dubbed by an adult female soprano! I wanted to believe it was his own angel-voice! It is nevertheless one of the most moving parts of this very special movie which has, sadly, never been shown commercially in America.