The Hollywood of Porto in the 1920s: Producer Invicta Film

To tell the story of Invicta Film, we must go back to 1896, when the main milestones in the history of cinema in Portugal are recorded. It was, however, the adaptation of the short story “Frei Bonifácio”, by Júlio Dantas, which led to the first steps so that, years later, Porto would become an extremely important piece for the seventh art in Portugal.

Invicta Film has made Porto the city of cinema, whose work was dreamed of by Alfredo Nunes de Mattos, in 1910, promoter of shows, exhibitions and film screenings of the time, from the Jardim Passos Manuel recently open. From the desire to exclusively produce films on Portuguese subjects, Invicta Film was born, at 135 Rua de Santo Ildefonso, Nunes de Mattos & Cia.

This first industrial experience of cinema in Portugal emerged under the motto “Portuguese Romance – Portuguese Film – Portuguese Scenes – Portuguese Artists” and adaptations of great literary works followed, even with almost all foreign directors, despite the presence of Palmira Bastos or the French star. Francine Mussey.

Initially, Invicta Film’s production was dedicated to panoramic, commercial, industrial and topical publicity documentaries, with relative recognition both in Portugal and abroad. It was the documentary on a maritime tragedy in Leixões, “O Naufrágio do Veronese” (1913) that led to the sale of more than a hundred copies in Europe and Brazil.

Leia: How was Porto in the past?

Several personalities from Porto contributed to the creation of Invicta Film

It took a few years for incorporation and feature film production to take place. The investment came from Porto banker José Augusto Dias and Porto wine merchant António de Oliveira Calém, among other personalities who paid fees in the range of five to seven contos. These supports, which resulted in a capital of 150,000 escudos, made it possible to sign the notarial deed of the company Invicta Film Lda, in November 1917.

A year after the signing of the deed, the company acquired Quinta da Prelada, known as Casa do Carvalhido, for approximately 27 contos, from Misericórdia do Porto. In these 50,000 square meters and in a palace designed by Nicolau Nasoni, was born what was to become Porto’s “cinema factory”, Invicta Film.

At this time, the production company began to have a studio, a laboratory, an engine room, changing rooms and space for carpentry and painting. The company acquires two filming machines, two projectors, a battery of electric arcs, generators, twenty thousand meters of exposed negatives and Cine-Magic, an innovative process of three-dimensional cinematographic reflection, the so-called virtual reality of the era.

From silent cinema to cinema spoken and sung in Portuguese

Along with the successive contractions of political and social life, from the presence in the First World War and the assassination of Sidónio Pais to the seizure of power by Gomes da Costa and the subsequent rise of Salazar, passing through the glory of the aerial crossing of Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral, Portuguese cinema lived on partial experiences and companies and authors without a future. The films “Os Lobos” (1923), by Rino Lupo for Iberia Film, and “O Táxi 9297” (1927), by Reinaldo Ferreira for Repórter X Film, stand out from the era.

Sound cinema began to reach us, with films spoken in other languages, and Portuguese silent cinema reached its aesthetic maturity. The sound finally arrives, in the hands of Leitão de Barros, and the story “A Severa” (1931) arrives. Hope is reborn with cinema spoken and sung in Portuguese.

Invicta Film began in full swing in 1920, with an adaptation of “Os Fidalgos da Casa Mourisca”, by Júlio Dinis, which achieved success in both Portugal and Brazil, selling 160 contos. Followed by the same, “Amor Fatal” and “Barbanegra” appeared.

Nunes de Mattos and Henrique Alegria, artistic director of Invicta Film, linked to the Olympia cinema, traveled to Paris with the aim of bringing equipment and specialized personnel, such as director Georges Pallu. The latter, in addition to directing, was also responsible for supervising the entire production, a task he would carry out for the next five years.

Pallu was responsible for the staging of “Frei Bonifácio” (1918), which premiered at Jardim Passos Manuel, “A Rosa do Adro” (1919) and “O Commissar de Polícia” (1919). Later came the adaptation of “Amor de Perdição” (1921), by Camilo Castelo Branco and received Rino Lupo, who ended up directing “Mulheres da Beira” (1923) until its extinction.

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