Gemser adds a few degrees to the equatorial heat.
Yup, Laura Gemser again. It's just one of those things. La donna della calda terra premiered in Italy two days after Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali, so you get to enjoy her twice this week. Above are two posters for the former film, which was originally made in Spanish and released as La mujer de la tierra caliente, then retitled in English as Emanuelle - A Woman from a Hot Country, and, more succinctly, Fury. By this point Gemser's Emanuelle series had pitted her against everything from slavers to cannibals, but here she headlines something close to a straight drama, as she meets Stuart Whitman while both are hitchhiking the hot backroads of Venezuela. As they sit together in a horse trailer being towed across the country, they tell each other their tragic histories. We've made fun of the bizarre plots of Gemser's movies, but this attempt at unsensationalistic drama is conceptually flat and the screenplay is terrible. Our favorite line: “Don't pay too much attention to women. We have days in which we see everything distorted.” We'd retort that men have entire lifetimes in which they see everything distorted, which is why the world is fucked. *checking credits* Yeah, the screenplay was written by men. Well, they dropped the ball here, not just because of bad writing, but because—and we never thought we'd say this—Gemser's movies need rampant weirdness to be watchable. So give up being normal and enbrace the bizarre. Bring on the slavers and cannibals. They were sorely missed. After premiering in Spain in July 1978, La donna della calda terra opened in Italy today the same year.
There are no limits to what Diana Dors can convince men to do.
After all these years working on this website it remains a surprise when promotional posters of extremely high quality are uncredited, but such is the case with these two Italian beauties made for Nel tuo corpo l'inferno, a movie originally produced in England as Tread Softly, Stranger. The Italian title translates as “hell in the body,” which we rather like. It fits the plot, which revolves around George Baker avoiding a gambling debt by fleeing London to the small town where he was raised, only to find that his brother who lives there is also in debt, having stolen money from his employer. He's spent it on femme fatale Diana Dors, who's way out of his league, money-hungry, and willing to pit the brothers against each other if it improves her station in life.
Baker, being of sound mind and body, wants Dors badly. With just a little nudge, he and his brother are convinced by Dors to stage a heist. The phrase “corpus delecti” in legal terms means that a crime has to be proved to have actually occurred before anyone can be convicted of it, but in vintage cinema nobody has to prove anything because the scales of justice tend to be cosmic. As viewers, then, you know the brothers could be convicted by karma for just attempting the crime. They get the loot, but they certainly won't get to keep it—though how they lose it will come as a surprise. And if one of the brothers gets Dors, they probably won't get to keep her either. In mid-century crime movies thems the breaks. Tread Softly, Stranger premiered in Britain in 1958, and in Italy today in 1960.
You don't have to be a cannibal for her to make you hungry.
Sticking with Italy today, the poster above is not one you'll see often. It was made for Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali, an entry in star Laura's Gemser's expansive Emanuelle series. In English this was called Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and you really don't need to know more to figure out what's in the movie. The shot used by Fulvia Film for this poster is from a scene in which Gemser paints herself with a glyph before pretending to be the reincarnation of a cannibal goddess and attempting to rescue a friend who's slated to become dinner. On the poster her lower regions are covered by a painted-on loincloth, but we don't have to do that here, so you also see two uncensored production photos of her as she actually appeared during the scene. We watched and wrote about the film ten years ago, and it was one wild trip. You can read what we wrote about it here, and see a crazy piece of Japanese promo art for the movie here. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
I've almost got you! After I rescue you please don't feel any sense of gratitude that becomes confusingly sexual!
Yup, it's another disaster thriller. We told you we can't resist these. Rain of Terror was published in 1955 and came from Malcolm Douglas in a Gold Medal Edition fronted by James Meese cover art. The story takes place partly in Rome, but mainly in the fictitious Italian town of Asceno. We're always baffled when authors don't just choose a real town, but whatever. The Asceno area is being battered by a weeklong rainstorm, with flooding, looting, and chaos. Newspaperman Jake Abbott is sent to get the story. Once there, the waters nearly destroy the town, and a cache of long lost jewels appears, along with two Botticellis. The fight over these riches is predictable, but what isn't is Abbott's almost Kafkaesque nightmare as he's trapped in a town that becomes like a labyrinth. His misadventures, romantic entanglements, arrests, beatings, and wrong turns read like farce or metaphor. Rain of Terror isn't as good as other disaster thrillers we've read, but it's memorable.
With Bogart and Bacall in the starring roles an unusual fugitive movie takes flight.
This beautiful poster for La fuga was painted by Italian artist Luigi Martinati, and you doubtless recognize Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. They starred in four movies together and had a dual cameo in a fifth. This promo was made for their fourth outing Dark Passage, retitled to “the escape” in Italy. And therein lies the plot. Bogart breaks prison and undergoes a backalley cosmetic surgery procedure on his face in order to evade the cops and have a chance to solve the crime for which he was unjustly sent up the river.
The filmmakers decided to use the gimmick of having the first section of the film in Bogart-vision—i.e. first person pov until he gets his new face. It makes sense. Otherwise they'd have needed to have another actor play pre-surgery Bogart, or have resorted to clunky make-up and prosthetics. Bacall co-stars as unlikely shelter and succor, plus the prospect of love—if Bogie can survive. It's a good movie.
But we're going to tack upwind at this point and suggest that Dark Passage, while good, isn't as scintillating as its reputation. Certainly it isn't in the class of To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, or The Big Sleep. But hey—it stars B&B, and that's all audiences of the era really cared about. Three years into her film career Bacall had grown into superstardom—or stardom as it was called back then—and dished out a performance here that did plenty with a thin script and a belief defying scenario.
The other star here is San Francisco, where most of the movie was shot. The city appeared in many period productions, but we can't think of it ever being used to such an extent as in Dark Passage. Since we lived across the Bay in Berkeley for a couple of years, we got to know San Fran well and it's fun to see it as it once was. Dark Passage—slightly overrated and all—is fun too. It premiered in the U.S. in 1947 and reached Italy today in 1948.
Welcome to the greatest show on Earth
Renato Casaro was a celebrated Italian movie poster artist, but he worked in other media, including album sleeves and portraiture. Above he's created an advertising poster for Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione, a Parisian circus that traces its roots back to 1852, when Charles de Mornay, commonly referred to as Duc de Morny, undertook its creation and named it after his half brother Prince Louis-Napoléon III. When the circus finally opened in 1859 it featured equestrianism, animal acts, and aerial acrobatics from the famed Jules Léotard. After being interrupted by World War I, the business passed over to Gaston Desprez in 1923, and again in 1934 to the Bouglione Brothers, who were Italians who'd made a name for themselves traveling France with a menagerie and wild cat act. The circus was halted during World War II and the occuptation of its buildings by the Nazis, but emerged post-war to continue its growth and fame, known by then as Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione, the name it bears today. Casaro's lovely poster dates from 1970.
Love her and leave her coming after you for revenge.
We didn't know La ragazza con la pistola, aka The Girl with a Pistol, was a comedy. Based on this beautiful poster painted by Giorgio Olivetti we never considered the possibility that it was anything other than a crime thriller. But mere seconds into our screening we realized it was a sort of screwball adventure. Sometimes you get fooled. Basically, Monica Vitti plays a Sicilian woman who is devirginized and abandoned by Carlo Giuffrè, is therefore labeled “dishonored” by her family and everyone in her village, and thus feels compelled to chase Giuffrè all the way to Edinburgh to kill him. Giuffrè manages to evade her, forcing her to follow him to Sheffield, Bath, and beyond (as she's tormented by a Sicilian chorus of wailing villagers during interstitial segments). So what you get here is a sort of wacky fish-out-of-water comedy.
The movie is also a satire of traditional Italian social values. Though Vitti's character was a virgin, because she gave in to Giuffrè he automatically considers her a whore—that old paradox. Other explorations of outdated gender roles occur, including the idea of aggression versus resistance in romance. And it's eyebrow raising how men in this era—or at least in this movie—don't consider women to have possession of their own bodies. Vitti is pawed, harassed, and kidnapped—for comedic purposes, but still. The idea of using violence to retain honor pops up more than once too. All in all, La ragazza con la pistola is fascinating cultural exploration, legitimately funny in parts, headlined by one of Europe's great vintage stars. It's worth a look—even though it isn't a crime thriller. It premiered in Italy today in 1968.
Vintage shockumentary explores the evils of witchcraft.
The above promo was made for the mondo style occult documentary Angeli bianchi… angeli neri, known in English as Witchcraft ’70 and White Angel, Black Angel. It opened in Japan today in 1970 after premiering the previous year in Italy. In English “mondo” and “shockumentary” are synonymous terms, but foreign web pages sometimes say the latter is a misnomer. They don't explain how it's a misnomer, so until they do, this movie is both mondo and shockumentary. It was one of our first film write-ups, way back in 2008, before we decided PSGP's previous stint as an indie film reviewer gave us the excuse we needed to get all opinionated. Can you imagine us unopinionated at this point? You can experience it here.
Gemser travels to many distant cities, and meets the worst people in every one of them.
To say that Laura Gemser's Emanuelle films are hit and miss is an understatement of epic proportions. While early entries have the happy softcore feel needed for thought-free diversion and occasional boners, later offerings veer into dark territory. Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? is in the latter category. An Italian production, the title translates as “Emanuelle - Why violence against women?” Erotic cinema and social commentary don't usually mix well—not because they're mutually exclusive, but because the filmmakers never have the skill to pull it off. In the U.S. the movie was retitled Emanuelle Around the World, which sounds fine, but its international English title was changed to The Degradation of Emanuelle. Uh oh.
Gemser's adventures begin in San Francisco when her New York based photo-journalist character enjoys a satisfying boning in the back of a truck. But soon she's off on her next assignment, a titillating expose of a Kama Sutra commune in Asia. Once there she meets creepy guru George Eastman and uses her superior sexual skills to make his holiness transcendentally ejaculate too fast. Up to this point Perché violenza alle donne? is somewhat fun. But next Gemser meets up with pal Karin Schubert in Rome and joins an assignment to expose a sexual slavery ring. Wait—didn't she do that in Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade? Yup, but slavers never quit. This collection of bad men are unusually horrible. One is is a burn victim who rapes his captives. Another has a penchant for bestiality.
Obviously, during the 1970s filmmakers didn't really understand the idea of unintentionally minimizing serious subject matter the same way they do today. It was the “what-the-fuck-let's-give-it-a-try” era, and taking such risks produced some of the greatest cinema ever. But in this case writer/director Joe D'Amato and co-writers Maria Pia Fusco and Gianfranco Clerici failed. Badly. A movie on the subject of slavery and rape would be unpleasant but important if it were a Claire Denis drama or a Laura Poitras documentary. Mixing it into a flyweight sex film doesn't add dramatic weight—it adds discordance, embarrassment, and insult. It was a total miscalculation. You could potentially watch the film until Gemser departs the Kama Sutra commune, then turn it off. If you don't, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
However, we try to see the good in every movie we screen, so we should note that there are some high points. We'll list them. The Emanuelle films were typically shot in exotic locales, and in this case not only does D'Amato set scenes in New York City and San Francisco, but in Kathmandu, Rome, Hong Kong, and—for real—Teheran. Gemser is a limited actress, but one who always does her best with preposterous scripting. Schubert is a stolid co-star. Underutilized Don Powell is always a welcome sight. And lastly, many of the production photos, some of which appear below, are interesting. That's about all the good we can find. We'll just slide Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? into ye olde metaphorical trash bin and forget it ever happened. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
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