Have I mentioned lately how much I'm in love with Rosalba Neri?
Well, I am. A LOT.
From groovy gialli to Mad Mad Mad Mad Science masterpieces to strangely uninvolving WiP-fare, you can always count on my girl Rosalba to class up the joint with her intense acting, amazing wardrobe, and general gob-smacking goregousity. Happily, all these qualities are showcased in Silvio Amadio's 1972 mystery/thriller Amuck! (aka Alla ricerca del piacere). With other highlights including (but not limited to) swingin' 70s sex parties, a menacing butler, Eurohunting duck-snuff and the fifth awarding of the rarefied "Retard Seduction" post label, this flick should have any fan of Neri's or Italian thrillers generally standing at full attention.
We open with a pretty young blonde arriving at a residential island off the coast of Venice, dumped off the water taxi at the iron gates of a palatial, slightly gothic mansion. The girl is Greta Franklin (the mouth-wateringly beautiful Barbara Bouchet of Black Belly of the Tarantula, Don't Torture a Duckling, The French Sex Murders, and dozens of other movies now in my Netflix queue), and she is to be the live-in secretary for brooding novelist Richard Stuart, played by Farley Granger (Rope, Strangers on a Train). The writer's previous secretary, Sally (Patrizia Viotti) disappeared a few months previous under mysterious circumstances.
As usual in Italian thrillers of this particular vintage, very little is what it seems at the Villa Stuart, and the few things that are hold their own peculiarities. It turns out Greta is Sally's BFF (which in this case is Italian for "lesbian lover"), and has placed herself in Richard's employ to find out what happened to her vanished friend. Sally's last few letters, in which she detailed the author's drug-fueled swingers' parties and sexual power games, have led Greta to believe the girl may have met with foul play. (Sally writes eloquently about being "driven by another will...A willing slave in this world of perverse pleasures!" And what's the downside again?)
Deep undercover, Greta proceeds to pump the Stuarts...for information! Which involves getting extremely cozy with the mistress of the house, Eleanora Stuart (Rosalba Neri, natch), who shares her husband's penchant for perverted sex and portentous pronouncements. Of course it's a dangerous game, and exactly how dangerous becomes clear early on when the naked Greta is surprised by a peeping Tom at her window, who turns out to be the slow-witted, giant fisherman Rocco (Petar Martinovitch, who also had a bit part with Rosalba in the excellent Lady Frankenstein).
To calm the girl's nerves Eleanora gives her a glass of drugged liquor. The potent potable does its work too well, rendering Greta so lethargic and compliant that Lady Stuart can't resist taking advantage. There follows an extended (extending?) lesbonic assault from Eleanora, which Greta in her drug-induced dream-state is either powerless or unwilling to repel.
Take a just-out-of-the-oven chicken pot pie, toss its innards into a white-hot coal-burning furnace, and then dump that furnace into the bowels of an active volcano, and you're still only just approaching the incredible HAWTNESS of this scene.
Finally starting on her non-sex-related job duties the next day, Greta starts transcribing chapters Richard's left for her on his huge DICtation machine. Stenography turns to HORROR, however, as she listens to her boss describe a situation much like the one her friend detailed in her letters, only with MURDER at the end. Is this a veiled confession, or is the oversexed writer just screwing with her mind (for a change)? Disturbed, Greta extracts a key from Richard's desk and goes snooping in the cellar, where she finds Sally's clothes stashed in a trunk. She goes to the Venetian police, but when they return to search the study they find no tapes, no manuscript, and no key to the basement. Lacking hard evidence, Greta must stay on and learn more about the twisted pleasures that brought her friend to ruin, and for which she herself feels a strange, irrepressible desire...
I don't want to give away too much of how the mystery pans out, but suffice that it's twisty and turny and perverse enough to satisfy a fan of Italian sex thrillers such as I'm. What I would like to celebrate, however, are some of the assorted wonderful bits of the movie that have rocketed it up to #2 on my list of All-Time Favorite Rosalba Neri movies:
Remember what I said about how you can always count on Rosalba to class things up with, among other things, her groovy, easily-droppable wardrobe? Well, I wasn't just whistlin' Dixie, parishioners. Put on a drool cloth and take a look at some of the fashions Rosalba sports here:
You'd think that a stunningly beautiful, dominating screen presence like Rosalba would be more than enough primo Euroflesh for one movie, and you'd be right...however, Amuck! goes that extra mile by giving us a pair of bonus blonde Eurobabes in Barbara Bouchet and Patrizia Viotti, both of whom would make excellent main courses despite their relegation to side dishes here.*
*Okay, so Bouchet is technically the star of the movie. But watch it and tell me Rosalba doesn't OWN this flick.
Euro Duck Hunt
This may be the only movie of its genre I've ever seen that has as its heroine-in-peril centerpiece an extended duck hunting sequence, complete with actual duck hunt stock footage showing the unfortunate fowl going down like Spitfires in the straights of Midway!
I don't know if the director was an enthusiast, or if he thought Duck Snuff was the next big thing, but it's something you don't see in Italian Sex Thrillers every day--probably with good reason. However, both Bouchet and Rosalba look awesome in their aristocratic hunting gear, it has to be said.
When You Seduce the Tard, You Reap the Whirlwind
When I was speeding through the excellent Mill Creek 50 Chilling Classics set, I was amazed as many were to find a single disc on which three movies contained instances of what can tactfully be called Retard Seduction--hot women making sexual advances on slow-witted characters either out of cruelty, a sick sense of humor, or in the case of Lady Frankenstein, for SCIENCE!
Here Rosalba becomes my first double-inductee in the Retard Seduction club, as she uses her CONSIDERABLE feminine wiles to enlist Rocco's help in her and Richard's nefarious schemes.
In closing, I LOVE THIS MOVIE. Rosalba's acting is great as always, as she plays the perverse, unhinged lady of the house to perfection. Farley's Richard Stuart is suitably deadpan and creepy, and Bouchet is so gorgeous to look at, any acting shortcomings went flying right over my head. There is a bit of silliness halfway through where out of nowhere Rosalba suddenly has an ESP fit, which comes to exactly nothing, and a bit of cruelty to eels that will disturb some PETA inclined folks (to say nothing of the duck snuff), but the good here far outweighs the bad imo.
I can't really tell you why the American distributors retitled this one Amuck!--while it *is* an awesome word, and I'm always in support of exclamation points in movie names, no one really goes AMUCK in the flick, at least in the way I understand the term. (The literal translation of the Italian title, "In Search of Pleasure," is much closer to what the flick is about.) Still, it's sexy, twisted, and pretty to look at (even though my print was a damaged pan & scan version--we need a restored widescreen DVD, stat!), and I'm pleased to give it a 3 thumb rating. Highly recommended to all Mad Movie fans. See it!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I'm pretty sure there are no nipples in this pic, but feel free to examine it closely and let me know.Greta scarcely has time to examine her...shall we say "complicated" feelings about what happened, as the next evening she finds herself attending one of the swingers' parties Sally warned her about. Sipping another glass of drugged whiskey, Greta joins the other guests for a peep at the Stuarts' home movies, which turn out to be independently produced porn. The feature presentation stars Sally as Little Red Riding Hood, here lured off the straight-and-narrow by a pantsless Italian Big Bad. Whether from the drugs, the visual stimulation, or the blood-boiling memories of the previous evening, Greta allows herself to be seduced again, letting slip in the throes of passion that she knows the Stuarts' former secretary--a fact that leads to a wonderfully villainous raised eyebrow from Rosalba and the hatching of a new power play by Richard.
As if THAT were necessary
Of course in almost every case the seduction of a 'tard carries grave karmic consequences, and it will surprise no one that this movie is no exception--however, a nice little Aesop's Fables nod in the climactic struggle made me smile, and say what you will about Rosalba, but no matter how big you are, disobey her orders and she will fucking cut you!