Originally developed as an hilarious TV skit and then presented as a work in progress at the Venice Film Festival in 2003, popular satirist Corrado Guzzanti’s “Fascists on Mars” (co-helmed with Igor Skofic) begins with guffaw-worthy situations but overstays its welcome once past the half hour mark. More’s the pity, since the pitch-perfect recreations of Mussolini-era newsreels and the skewering of Italian Fascist pomposity work brilliantly in limited doses. Unlike helmer’s sister Sabina’s “Viva Zapatero!”, pic has no chance away from home.
Inspired by Georges Melies’ moon shorts, Guzzanti and collaborator Paola Cannatello imagine a 1939 expedition to Mars intent on turning the Red Planet to Fascist Black. Led by Mussolini acolyte Barbagli (Guzzanti himself, looking remarkably like Jack Oakie in “The Great Dictator”), the group overcomes the Martian atmosphere and battles rocks they’ve determined are enemies. Bombastic narration and intertitles capture the period, though everything is pitched at the same, ultimately wearying, level. Sly references to today’s Italy will be lost on non-locals, including a comment on baby-eating communists that reflects Silvio Berlusconi’s electioneering statements. Topically, pic’s posters currently jockey for position next to broadsides from the real Fascists.