This is a human, credible story [by Sergio Amidei and Alberto Consiglio] of the fine behavior of the ‘little people’ during the German occupation of Rome.
Climax to series of intrigues and adventures of these little people in getting money and information and other assistance to the underground comes during a Gestapo raid on a block of workingmen’s houses. Gestapo agents carry off the key underground leader, and shoot his girl as she runs after the truck that takes him off to prison. There is a nasty torture scene at prison.
This much of the film is standard hero and villain stuff. But what makes picture good is the story of other characters involved in the tragedy. Aldo Fabrizi does superb job of portraying the understanding priest who carries money bound in scholarly-looking volumes across the lines, smuggles ammunition under his priest’s robes and inspires the hero with courage in the final ordeal.
Top performance is turned in by Anna Magnani as Pina, the hero’s girl. Despite grimness of plot, there are several little touches of humor. Much of the humor in Italian dialects will be lost in dubbing.