|| The cast, which also includes Richard Basehart and Giulietta Massina (reunited
after ’La Strada’) is uniformly excellent. Broderick Crawford gives one the best
performances of his career; multi-layered and subtle, his portrait of a selfish man
facing the emptiness of his life is superbly realized.
To many people the films of Fellini are an obnoxious blend of tiresome episodes filled with ugly characters and extreme symbolism. Others find these same elements to be a magical universe filled with the forces influencing an individual's fate. They appreciate the revealing caricatures, lively costumes and sets, and extenuating sounds that create a poetic vision. The latter camp will find much to entertain themselves with in THE SWINDLE, a film similar to its predecessor, LA STRADA, in its depiction of a man who goes through life almost blind to its wonders and with little pity for other humans. Crawford plays a petty thief who teams up with Basehart and Fabrizi to swindle poor people. Fabrizi is the first to back out of these schemes--not to redeem himself but to go on to "better" things. Of the three, his character is the least sympathetic because his acts of thievery are done so casually. In a moment of enlightenment, Basehart forsakes this lifestyle to return to his wife Masina who, as in LA STRADA, looks on the events with her large round eyes. She is the direct opposite of the soulless Fabrizi. This leads Crawford to assemble another bunch to assist in his operations. In the touching final scenes, Crawford is dressed in a bishop's robes in order to execute a scheme when he is approached by an invalid, Blake, who takes him for the real thing, bending down to kiss his hand. Crawford finally feels remorse for his deeds, realizing that he has been taking advantage of people who are driven by pure faith. But by this time it's too late for him to repent. His associates are unsympathetic to his change of heart and stone him to death. A very dark vision that isn't always pleasant to look at but is nonetheless fascinating. The film did not get a US release until 1962.