Moto Guzzi Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Moto Guzzi Superalce in the Movies

From an archive.

I know of three movies which showcase the SuperAlce motorcycle. You can read all the full details of these movies by visiting the Internet Movie Data Base at and using their title search features.

"La Vita e Bella"

The first time I saw a SuperAlce in a movie was in "La Vita e Bella" or "Life is Beautiful". This film won an Academy Award. A WWII film regarding the persecution of Italian Jews. Very early in the film our lead actor finds himself riding in a car in the Italian hillside. Inexplicably, the brakes fail and the car careens off the road and down through a steep meadow. The car emerges safely at the bottom, but rolls right into the middle of a military procession or convoy. Some high ranking military or political dignitary is being escorted to a nearby village. There are two very brief moments showing two military motorcycles at the lead escort of this convoy. Watch carefully and you will see the telltale long, single exhaust pipe of the later version SuperAlce . The exhaust is angled upward and outward, a attachment which is unique to this motorcycle.

"Captain Corelli's Mandolin"

I just watched this last night. WWII movie regarding the Italian and German occupation of Greece. I had been told there was an old Guzzi in it. This movie is apparently based on a wonderful book. I say "apparently" because I haven't read the book and one of the IMDB reviews said it was an excellent example of how NOT to turn a book into a movie. There are several good SuperAlce scenes in this movie.

Early in the movie, the Italian Army has invaded a small island off of Greece. The Army marches to City Hall and demands that the Mayor surrender the town peacefully to protect the populace. Captain Corelli (Nicholas Cage) speaks both Italian and Greek so he is called to the steps of the City Hall to interpret both the Italian demand for surrender and the Mayor's prompt response of "FUCK OFF". The perplexed Italians call in a German superior. The Mayor and Council then decide that they would "...rather surrender to the German's dog than to any Italian." A little nationalistic angst here? Anyway, if you aren't watching for it, you may not realize that there is a SuperAlce parked in the town square during this scene. Here is a view of the town square with Corelli at the top of the steps, and the SuperAlce resting quietly below .

About two-thirds of the way through (1hr-6min), there are two short scenes of Nicholas Cage riding a vintage Guzzi. (BTW, these two scenes, about an hour and five minutes in, are sandwiched either side of a torrid sex scene between Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, just so you'll know when to pay attention.) The first scene he is approaching and the camera looks at the front right quarter . Easy to see the girder forks, the leg shield fairings, and the rectangular tool boxes. If you do a pause, you may see the cast aluminum rocker box cover behind the front wheel. Peaked my interest! A few minutes later the bike is seen passing view from right to left and then parking with the view from the left rear corner . Now we're talking! Classic out and up angle of the newer, single-tube SuperAlce exhaust. Clear view of the flywheel half-fender and the humongous air cleaner cover. No rear handlebars. This might have been an earlier IOE Alce with a later SuperAlce exhaust, but there is not enough video time to confirm that. Someone with a really fine ear might discern the engine sound differences. Nicholas Cage seems to be a good rider and handles this SuperAlce quite well on the dirt roads of Greece. However, this is clearly not his regular ride as he does make a few operational errors. You have to pause, watch closely, and step video forward to see this. As he approaches to park and comes to a stop, he leans slightly to the left. His left foot goes out and down to the ground for stability. So, now ALL of his stopping effort is with the front brake. Once stopped, he reaches up to the headlight nacel and turns the key to off. Naturally, it has no effect whatsoever on the spinning motor. So, finally he dismounts and lets go of the handlebars while the moto suddenly lurches forward to a stall. Funny to see the rear end try to launch itself in the slow-mo view.

"El Alamein: La Linea di Fuoco"

Last year I attended the San Francisco Film Festival. On show was "El Alamein: La Linea di Fuoco" or "El Alamein: The Line of Fire". Another second world war film showcasing the service of the Italian Army in North Africa. The Germans and Italians have dominated North Africa and are pressing Eastward to Alexandria. The British Montgomery is standing firm in Alexandria while he can amass enough armor and troops to repel and pursue the Axis. The armies are in a trench warfare stalemate at El Alamein. At the start of the film, while the credits are rolling in, our hero (a fresh recruit out of college) is being delivered to the front line trenches. He is being driven to the battle site on the back of a SuperAlce dispatch motorcycle . The motorcycle pilot is a member of the famous Bersaglieri (sharpshooters or riflemen) , his helmet adorned with the trademark black feathers of that troop . The feathers are taken from the Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), a large variety of forest Grouse . The front line troop delivery scene lasts from five to ten minutes while the film credits roll on screen. Both close up and aerial shots of these desert riders. Accompanied by that lovely "pomp-pomp-pomp" of the Guzzi single.

There is a brief SuperAlce scene midway through the film. Our hero and some of his compatriots have managed a brief break and have made their way to the Mediterranean for a well deserved cool bath. They are all romping naked in the surf. Shouts come from the top of the sand dunes. Two SuperAlce are parked. The soldiers at the bikes yell "You idiots! That entire beach is mined!" They gingerly walk back up the beach.

My favorite line in the film comes during this brief beach furlough. Montgomery is defending Alexandria with artillery. The Italians have dug into trenches just at the range limit of the British artillery. It has been a stalemate for months. The trench camps are issued a water ration of one liter per day. Several soldier take an old truck and go back about 10 kilometers behind their trench line to meet up with the weekly water delivery truck. The water is delivered in those famous Jerry Cans. One soldier grabs a can and tips it up to drink but quickly spits it out. Tastes like diesel fuel! The water delivery driver says, "Of course, we just stole the cans from the Germans, dumped out the fuel and filled with water. No problem. Water is for washing not for drinking. Real men drink GRAPPA". Another of the soldiers responds that if he would deliver Grappa instead of water "We'd be in Alexandria within a week!" Great stuff.

Eventually Montgomery makes his counterattack and drives off the Germans. Unfortunately, the Germans control all of the mechanized transport and they quickly escape while leaving the brave Italians as cannon fodder to slow down the British. The Italian defense is pretty much decimated. Our hero escapes by finding an abandoned and broken SuperAlce in the desert. He manages, after a lengthy episode of fiddling and kicking, to get it started and he rides off into the sunset and survival. Again a lengthy departure scene on the bike.

The SuperAlce is actually a "post-war" motorcycle first released in 1946 (regardless that you have seen print articles dating it earlier and some bikes erroneously registered as earlier) as an upgrade to the wartime Alce. But it is far superior in many ways to its predecessor Alce and it is far more common on the used motorcycle market. Since both of these films are during the war, a SuperAlce could not actually have been present at these times. We forgive the film studios and allow a little artistic license in these wartime re-enactments. The long, single tube exhaust, which is obvious in the first film, "La Vita e Bella" and in "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" was not introduced by Guzzi until early in the '50s. I can't remember which exhaust was used in "El Alamein: La Linea di Fuoco". The foot shift and double overhead valve engine of the SuperAlce are quite apparent in the second film, "El Alamein: La Linea di Fuoco" and also in the third film"Captain Corelli's Mandolin".

Since the SuperAlce footage of the second film, "El Alamein: La Linea di Fuoco" is so extensive, I would love to have a copy of this film. It was never released for the US market except to film festivals. The DVD's available in Europe appear to only be in Italian language (which I can speak and follow). The film festival version had English subtitles, but I can't find that in a consumer version. Oddly, there is a DVD available from Japan which lists languages as Italian and English with Japanese subtitles. I can't ascertain if the English is an alternate subtitle set or just refers to a few English words used in the Italian dialog. I doubt it is a full language dubbing soundtrack. Anyway, all of these DVD's are Region 2 and I'd need to get a special player for those.

Source: Archive of