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Joseph Desa (1962)

The Reluctant Saint (original title)
In 17th century Italy, a simple and clumsy young man joins a Franciscan order, pursues full priesthood and performs a miracle that eventually ensures his sainthood.


Edward Dmytryk

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Maximilian Schell ... Giuseppe
Ricardo Montalban ... Father Raspi
Lea Padovani ... Giuseppe's Mother
Akim Tamiroff ... Bishop Durso
Harold Goldblatt Harold Goldblatt ... Father Giovanni
Arnoldo Foà ... Felixa - Giuseppe's Father
Carlo Croccolo ... The Gobbo - the Hunchback
Giulio Bosetti Giulio Bosetti ... Brother Orlando
Armand Mestral
Elisa Cegani Elisa Cegani ... Sister
Giacomo Rossi Stuart
Tonio Selwart Tonio Selwart ... Examining Prelate
Odoardo Spadaro Odoardo Spadaro
Mino Doro Mino Doro
Bruno Cattaneo Bruno Cattaneo


Joseph of Cupertino, a simple young man thought by many in his village to be an idiot, is pressured to enter a monastery. He does so, and surprises everyone by passing the entrance exam to study for the priesthood. But this is only the first of many surprises from the man who would become Saint Joseph Cupertino. Written by Dan Navarro <daneldorado@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The picture that's got everything ! ... plus the surprise of your life !


Not Rated | See all certifications »



Italy | USA


English | Latin

Release Date:

2 November 1962 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Ein sonderbarer Heiliger See more »

Filming Locations:

Rome, Lazio, Italy

Company Credits

Production Co:

Dmytryk-Weiler See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Maximilien Schell's favourite film. See more »


Brother Orlando: How I envy you.
Giuseppe: Next year you will be standing here, and I will be your alter boy.
Brother Orlando: I hope so!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing Credits: "Giuseppe Desa of Cupertino was proclaimed a Saint by Pope Clement XIII on July 16th, 1767" See more »

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User Reviews

Don't be Reluctant about 'The Reluctant Saint'
22 July 2011 | by fom4lifeSee all my reviews

St. Joseph of Cupertino could easily be the patron saint of slapstick comedians. This young man resembles the kind of character you might find in a Jerry Lewis, Laurel & Hardy or Mr. Bean picture. He's not that bright, is scorned at by the well to do, and seems to destroy expensive and valuable items in his vicinity. But in the end he comes out on top as an inspiring figure who has beat the odds and has achieved remarkable success in some way or other. It is a compelling religious drama with lots of humorous touches, but could easily have been a great slapstick comedy (or even a musical) having great sight gags and physical comedy (and great musical numbers) and still retain its Christian themes and tone. The great thing about his film however is that it is based on a real person and real events and not a character created by a talented comedian.

'The Reluctant Saint' (could easily have been 'The Unlikely Saint) paints a picture of what God can do with a humble soul who desires nothing but to serve Him despite anything negative that might happen in their lives. This makes the picture worth watching coupled with the overall artistic quality of the film. The No. 1 virtue of The Reluctant Saint is humility. Humility naturally pushes Ego out the door of the soul, thus it doesn't get in the way of the Holy Spirit, who can then perform the impossible. And that is what he does in JOC's (Maximilian Schell) life. Despite his clumsy bumbling (including destroying a vineyard and a 200 statue of the virgin Mary), mistreatment by others, (including his own loving Italian mama, the youths of the village, and fellow brother monks), and poor academic skills, he manages to make friends with important people of serious rank and authority. Which leads to the impossible.

Although not being too bright he gets enough theology to explain the Trinity to Bishop Durso (Akim Tamiroff), the vicar-general of the Franciscan order visiting the Franciscan monastery where JOC is at. " One blanket and one, two, three folds. Three folds in one blanket - three persons in one God, like the Trinity." This lesson of truth and his tender delivery and care of two baby lambs earns him the respect and friendship of the good bishop who then basically makes him a priest despite his poor academic studies. His favorite bible passage Luke 15 about the lost sheep, comes in handy on his rather short road to the ordained life.

By making friends with the virgin Mary and offering her respect he ends up with the ability of levitation (or flight). When you know the right people in high places, the things you can do. These special gifts never inflate his ego, he would still rather sleep in the barn with the animals instead of the nice comfortable cell that he gets.

Despite displays of holiness, humility and sanctity, some of this brother monks still dislike JOC as if he was a piece of foot fungus they wanted to get rid off. Chief members of the anti JOC fan club include the hunchbacked stable hand Gobbo (Carlo Croccolo) and one of the head monks Don Raspi (Ricardo Montalban). They create an antagonistic atmosphere around JOC, enabling him to transcend their smug pride by hovering above it.

'You shouldn't be reluctant to rent, buy or watch The Reluctant Saint'. It is a reminder that the unlikely and reluctant are the very ones that God wishes to use as an example of who he is looking for to join the ranks of the inspiring men and women we call saints. The film is also a reminder that great inspiring Christian films do actually exist.

St. Joseph of Cupertino pray for us.

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