Broderick Crawford, Richard Basehart, Franco Fabrizi, Giulietta Masina,
A film about the underworld that is the closest Fellini would come to film noir, Il bidone is closer still to La strada and Nights of Cabiria—a sadly ironic study of the misuse of the human ability to relate. Augusto (Broderick Crawford) and two cronies, Picasso (Richard Basehart) and Roberto (Franco Fabrizi), practice a desperate if wickedly humorous kind of con, posing convincingly as men of the cloth in order to trick credulous peasants with a “buried treasure” scheme. Another favorite ruse is collecting down payments from slum dwellers on nonexistent housing. But like the saps they swindle, the threesome see a more prosperous life of crime all around them, one that is quite out of reach. American tough-guy Crawford is in his element as the spent criminal who is more comfortable in a costume cassock than in the fast-paced gaiety of a Roman New Year’s Eve. Fellini takes the far view to emphasize the aridity of the physical and the social worlds, in a film that despite some sly comedy recalls early Michelangelo Antonioni.