Sacco & Vanzetti (1971 film)

Sacco & Vanzetti (Italian: Sacco e Vanzetti, French: Sacco et Vanzetti) is a 1971 docudrama film written and directed by Giuliano Montaldo, based on the events surrounding the trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two anarchists of Italian origin, who were sentenced to death for murdering a guard and a paymaster during the April 15, 1920, armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts.

Sacco & Vanzetti
Sacco e Vanzetti Italian poster 1971.jpg
Italian film poster
Directed byGiuliano Montaldo
Screenplay byFabrizio Onofri
Giuliano Montaldo
Ottavio Jemma
Story byGiuliano Montaldo
Fabrizio Onofri
Mino Roli
Produced byArrigo Colombo
Giorgio Papi
StarringGian Maria Volonté
Riccardo Cucciolla
Cyril Cusack
Rosanna Fratello
Geoffrey Keen
Milo O'Shea
CinematographySilvano Ippoliti
Edited byNino Baragli
Music byEnnio Morricone (score)
Joan Baez (songs)
Jolly Film
Theatre Le Rex S.A.
Distributed byItal-Noleggio Cinematografico (Italy)
Compagnie Française de Distribution Cinématographique (France)
Universal Marion Corporation (US)
Release date
16 March 1971
Running time
121 minutes

The film stars Gian Maria Volonté as Vanzetti, Riccardo Cucciolla as Sacco, Cyril Cusack as prosecutor Frederick G. Katzmann, Geoffrey Keen as presiding justice Webster Thayer, Milo O'Shea as defense attorney Fred Moore, with Rosanna Fratello, William Prince, and Sergio Fantoni. The musical score was composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone with the three-part ballad sung by Joan Baez. The film is mainly shot in colour although it both starts and finishes in black and white, and also includes period black and white newsreels.

The film was an Italian and French co-production, shot on-location in Dublin, Ireland. It was released in separate Italian and English-language versions.



The film's soundtrack was composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone, with song lyrics by the American folk singer Joan Baez. For the lyrics of "The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti Part 1," Baez made use of Emma Lazarus' 1883 sonnet The New Colossus, the lines of which appear inscribed on a bronze plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.[1]

The song "Here's to You" is sung at the end of the film. For the lyrics of "Here's to You"[2] Baez made use of a statement attributed to Vanzetti by Philip D. Strong, a reporter for the North American Newspaper Alliance who visited Vanzetti in prison in May 1927, three months before his execution:

If it had not been for these things, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life could we hope to do such work for tolerance, for justice, for man's understanding of man as we now do by accident. Our words—our lives—our pains—nothing! The taking of our lives—lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler—all! That last moment belongs to us—that agony is our triumph.[3]

"Here's to You" is also included in several later films, notably in the 1978 quasi-documentary film Germany in Autumn where it accompanies footage of the funeral march for Red Army Faction members Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Jan-Carl Raspe, who had committed suicide in prison.

The song became known to a younger video game-playing generation, due to its appearance in the Metal Gear Solid series (both in Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, where it is featured within the latter game's story).[4]

The film soundtrack was released in a downloadable format in 2005 featuring fourteen tracks:

  1. "Speranze di libertà"
  2. "La ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti, Pt. 1"
  3. "Nel carcere"
  4. "La ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti, Pt. 2"
  5. "Sacco e il figlio"
  6. "Speranze di libertà" (#2)
  7. "Nel carcere" (#2)
  8. "La ballata di Sacco e Vanzetti, Pt. 3"
  9. "Libertà nella speranza"
  10. "E dover morire"
  11. "Sacco e il figlio" (#2)
  12. "La sedia elettrica"
  13. "Libertà nella speranza" (#2)
  14. "Here's to You"


Roger Ebert described the film as "one of the best" of the year. Ebert drew particular attention to the way that Montaldo handled his courtroom scenes: "A tricky area for any director, but one which the director handles in an interesting and maybe even brand-new way." Ebert wrote,

[Montaldo] has already made us aware of the crowds surging outside the courthouse, and in the [contemporary newsreel sequences on the] streets of world capitals. Then, inside the courtroom, he stays away from the conventional straight-on shots of the observers. Instead, the people on the other side of the railing are seen in angular long-shots, so that when outbursts and commotions take place, the courtroom railing itself acts like a police line and the crowd seems to yearn against it. Without ever making too much of a point of it, Montaldo visually equates the inside and the outside action, and it works.

With regard to the historical accuracy of the film, Ebert considered the film to be

...sometimes accurate, sometimes biased and sometimes even fictional in its telling of the story, but no matter. The versions of the 'truth' in the Sacco-Vanzetti case are so various, anyway, that a factual retelling would probably be beyond the capabilities of a feature film. Sacco and Vanzetti are beyond being helped by any film, for that matter, and the purpose of this film . . . is more to alert us to how law can be used as a blunt instrument of politics [than other contemporary films of the day].[5]

Despite his friends' criticism that the film was "just another left-wing, European blast at the United States," Vincent Canby, in a review for The New York Times, praised the film, if for nothing more than calling "to our attention a terrible chapter in American history." Canby, however, dismissed the film as a simplification that

...takes the form of not particularly stylish political cartooning. This is especially true of the supporting performances he has gotten from Cyril Cusack as Katzman, the prosecuting attorney, and Geoffrey Keen, as Judge Thayer, the judge who presided at the trial and, under Massachusetts law, had the unfortunate right to rule on a second trial when new evidence was presented to him. They are blandly evil, cutout figures, as are all of the intimidated witnesses, bigoted observers and political opportunists who swarm across the film.

Canby also decried the film's soundtrack, which he described as "absolutely dreadful," with Baez's voice "used to certify the movie's noble intentions, but through the cheapest of means."[6]


In May 1971, Sacco & Vanzetti was a competition entry at the 24th International Film Festival of Cannes where, for his portrayal of Nicola Sacco, Riccardo Cucciolla won the award for Best Actor.[7] Also that year, Rosanna Fratello was awarded Best Young Actress by the Association of Italian Film Journalists for her portrayal of Rosa Sacco (the wife of Nicola Sacco).[8] In 1972, Morricone won from the Association of Italian Film Journalists the Nastro d'Argento ( Silver Band ) prize in the division Best Original Score.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Watts, Emily Stipes. The Poetry of American Women from 1632 to 1945. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977: 123. ISBN 0-292-76450-2
  2. ^ Baez, Joan. "Here's to You". Joan Baez Lyrics. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  3. ^ Sacco, Nicola; Vanzetti, Bartolomeo (2007). The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti. London: Penguin. p. l. ISBN 978-0-14-310507-7.
  4. ^ "TwitLonger — When you talk too much for Twitter". 2012-05-01. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 November 1971). "Sacco and Vanzetti". Reviews. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (7 October 1971). "Sacco and Vanzetti (1971) Film: A Moving 'Sacco and Vanzetti': Lawyers' Statements Have Current Validity". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Sacco e Vanzetti". Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  8. ^ Lancia., Enrico (1998). I premi del cinema. Gremese Editore. ISBN 88-7742-221-1.

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