The two wizards of the ball is a good work by Mariano Laurenti, among the most hilarious and best filmed of the historical period, a perfect parody of the world of football, of spoiled presidents, of alleged magicians, of city rivalries and of fans who follow their favorite team. A parody of an environment that in the 1960s and 1970s lived on the prowess of Mazzola, Riva, Rivera, but also on the legends of coaches such as Helenio Herrera and Heriberto Herrera.
We come to the plot, which is quite flowing, even if in the end it undergoes an unusual noir-sentimental turn. Ciccio Ingrassetti is the manager of Schiapp di Pizzusiccu, called by the boss Umberto D’Orsi to take care of the company football team, even if he doesn’t understand anything about football. For this he follows to the letter the invitation to “hire a magician from Milan” to solve football problems and returns to Sicily after having put the shabby fortune teller Franco under contract, known as the magician KK Ciccio understands the misunderstanding when it is too late, he sets to study football and tries to teach Franco how to train a team. The comedy of misunderstandings produces an interesting comic part that is remembered for the episode of the corrupt referee (Tiberio Murgia), the incomprehensible tactics lesson and the sweet retirement in the large hotel in Taormina. At one point the team begins to win one game after another, because Tonino, a center forward with an unstable character, falls in love with a Swede (Karin Schubert) and leaves the mayor’s daughter (Paola Tedesco), who didn’t let him live in peace . The finale sees the derby with Ghiandinedda’s team and the kidnapping of Tonino, organized to make Schiapp lose. Franco enters the field as number 13, discovers he is a champion, because he scores four goals and makes the team win. Complicating a linear plot we have a stereotyped sentimental story that makes us admire two beauties like Paola Tedesco and Karin Schubert, not yet famous, but above all representing the keystone for a daring conclusion to the film.
The Two Magicians of the Ball is a great success with the public, it costs only one hundred million and collects one billion. Despite everything, cultured criticism destroys it, as is customary for the works of Sicilian comedians. Just mention the Milanese newspaper The night: “But who gave him the license to make those two laugh? Reckless manipulators of jokes that in the mouth of anyone else would make you blush with shame, have also added to their intense career these so-to-speak unpublished roles “(from Alberto Castellano and Vincenzo Nucci – Life and entertainment of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia – Liguori, Naples 1982). Paolo Mereghetti is less caustic, granting one and a half stars, defining the film as an “impertinent mockery of the charisma of coach Helenio Herrera, then at the peak of popularity”. The two wizards of the ball has some analogy with the contemporary The president of Borgorosso Football Club (1970) by Luigi Filippo D’Amico, played by an irresistible Alberto Sordi, another farce modeled on the characteristics of the magician Helenio Herrera.
In any case, it is a film that represents the world of football well and is even credible during the filming of the fake matches. Among the characters we remember Dino Cassi in a quick appearance in the role of a hotel porter, Enzo Andronico is the mayor of the town, Tiberio Murgia the referee Concettino Lo Brutto (irony on Concetto lo Bello), Umberto D’Orsi a credible commenda Milanese, Lionello a plastered centre-forward from a photo novel. There are many historical jokes: “We will have the national team with a filter” (Franco tries to produce a magic filter to make the team play better), “Bagalù ensures that our team never loses again” (during a fake magic ritual), “Rocco his brothers” (Ciccio talks about Nereo Rocco, coach of AC Milan, Franco misunderstands with Luchino Visconti’s film), “Bring the boys to oxygenate themselves” (Franco takes the team to the hairdresser to get their hair blonde). The meta-cinematographic ending is original. Ciccio: “Let’s all leave. The movie is over.” Franco: “Why, was it a film?”. Ciccio: “Of course it was a movie. Did you think you had become a football champion?”.
. . .
Director: Mariano Laurenti. Plot and screenplay: Roberto Gianviti. Photography: Clemente Santoni. Scenography: Giacomo Calò Carducci. Music: Bruno Nicolai. Production: Leo Covenini and Vittorio Martino for Flora Film/Variety Film. Performers: Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia, Lionello, Karin Schubert, Elio Crovetto, Paola Tedesco, Umberto D’Orsi, Tiberio Murgia, Ugo Adinolfi, Dada Gallotti, Enzo Andronico, Luca Sportelli, Nino Vingelli, Nuccia Belletti, Alberto Fogliano.
[NdR – L’autore dell’articolo ha un suo blog “La Cineteca di Caino”]