Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
In one popular Spanish-English dictionary, "picaro" is defined as "roguish; scheming, tricky; low, vile; mischievous," and when used as a noun it refers to a rogue, a schemer. Yet the word also harkens to the kinds of novels (picaresque) that came out of Spain in the 17th century, including Don Quixote, stories that recounted the wanderings of vagabonds of one kind or another. This film by the esteemed director Mario Monicelli is set in the 17th century and concerns the picaresque adventures of two amusing "picaros." Lazarillo and Guzman (Enrico Montesano and Giancarlo Giannini) first met when they were slaves rowing on a prison-galley ship, and they strike up a friendship based on their having endured similarly horrific childhoods. While escaping from the slave ship during a mutiny (they chose the wrong side) they narrowly escape drowning and are separated. Guzman becomes an impoverished Baron's (Vittorio Gassman) personal servant and puts his thieving ways to good use in that capacity, while Lazarillo joins an acting troupe. When they meet again, they immediately decide to pull off a con-job they call "the cannoli trick."