In October 1928, twenty years after the murder of Elias Farhat sparked
a wave of filmed reconstructions, a second “Crime of the Trunk” was
committed in São Paulo, again involving the immigrant community.
The Correio Paulistano reported, “An Italian recently arrived in São
Paulo repeats, along general lines, the sensational crime of Miguel
Traad.”1 A young woman, Maria Fêa Pistone, was murdered by her
husband, José Pistone, who placed her body in a trunk and brought
it aboard the steamship Massilia, headed to Bordeaux. Generating
sensational press coverage, the case also inspired two competing
screen adaptations, both entitled O crime da mala (The Crime of the
Trunk). The two versions were produced by Antonio Tibiriça and
Francisco Madrigano, who had achieved impressive box- office prof-
its with the sensationalistic Vício e beleza (Vice and Beauty, Antonio
Tibiriça, 1926) and Morfina (Morphine, Francisco Madrigano and
Nino Ponti, 1928); Vício e beleza was even shown with spectacular
success in Buenos Aires and Montevideo.2 Now believed lost, these
titillating films offered spectacles of drug abuse and taboo sexual be-
hav ior to audiences (usually restricted to adult males).
Although the two 1928 versions of O crime da mala are also be-
lieved lost, a suggestive account of Madrigano’s version of the film
written by a reader of the magazine Cinearte signals how the regime of
sensational real ity exploited by “violent actualities” in the early twen-
tieth century persisted through the end of the 1920s, even as carioca
film critics advocated the production of quality fiction films in order
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