Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

Isolation, Intrigue, and Murder: The Sleuthing Secretary

by Tony Nash

(A Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(Mild to Spoiler Free)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version of the tilm)

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Alla Ricerca del Placere (In Search of Pleasure/Amuck) R (1972) ****

Farley Granger: Richard Stuart

Barbara Bouchet: Greta Franklin

Rosalba Neri: Eleanora Stuart

Nino Segurini: Commissario Antonelli

Umberto Raho: Giovanni, the Stuart Butler

Patrizia Viotti: Sally Reece

Petar Martinovitch: Rocco

Dino Mele: Sandro

Written & Directed by: Silvio Amadio

Synopsis: Certain her friend and lover Sally Reece didn’t just disappear, Greta Franklin accepts a position as replacement secretary/stenographer to Sally’s former employers Richard and Eleanora Stuart. The couple live in near isolation on an island off the coast of Italy, where Richard dictates his mystery novels on tape. When Greta discovers the Stuart’s secret lives as kinky swingers, she begins to wonder what Sally saw that may have contributed to her demise.

Alla ricerca del piacere (1972)

One of the last early to mid-period Giallos to be set in Italy before the genre started having its stories take place in exotic locales, Alla Ricerca del Placere sports an intriguing storyline involving deceit, lies, sex, and pornography. Against the wishes of a local police inspector, a young woman decides to find out what her close friend’s ex-employers know about her vanishing without a trace. As she digs deeper, she finds herself coming in contact with the secret world of spouse-swapping, private orgies, bizarre fetishes, date-rape drugs, and dirty films to set the mood. Realizing the couple is catching on that she knows the truth, the woman must find a way to alert the authorities before her own “disappearance” is staged. Filmmaker Silvio Amadio’s use of an island of the Italian coast proves a very interesting choice as it harkens back to Agatha Christie’s classic story And Then There Were None, as the story takes place almost entirely on the island, save for a few scenes, gives the viewer a claustrophobic feeling as the plot thickens and it becomes more apparent the protagonist’s life is now in danger. The use of frequent indoor spaces adds to the mystery aspect of the film as the audience begins to feel the entirety of the plot is only concerned with those in the primary cast, that nobody else in the rooms appear to be interested and are totally oblivious to what’s taking place not too far from them.

Barbara Bouchet and Patrizia Viotti in Alla ricerca del piacere (1972)

A very rare (even for early 70’s Europe) subplot, known only to Greta and the audience, was the sexual relationship between herself and Sally. While same-sex relationships in Europe were more excepted at this period than in the States, it was still quite rare to see it portrayed frankly and honestly within the plot of any film. In a flashback to a holiday Greta and Sally were enjoying, the two share a very passionate kiss as they stand nude under a waterfall. Surprisingly, Greta never tells anyone, not even the police inspector she’s confiding in regarding Sally’s possible murder, that the two had shared a very devoted, deep, and intimate relationship. Whether she didn’t see a reason to tell anyone as it had no bearing on Sally’s vanishing or maybe was worried Italy’s very Catholic roots would find her and Sally’s relationship blasphemous is anybody’s guess, but it’s important in the audience knowing as it reveals the driving force behind Greta’s determination to avenge Sally.

Farley Granger in Alla ricerca del piacere (1972)

Farley Granger, an American actor most famous for his brooding hero roles in Strangers on a Train and They Live by Night, is uniquely different in the role of Richard Stuart. Richard is a mystery writer who prefers isolation for the thought process and a tape recorder for dictation to writing on paper. Granger plays Richard as a playboy, who clearly loves seducing his wife’s friends and their lady employees, but a playboy who prefers the anonymity of his home to entertain guests. When Greta makes it clear she’s certain his previous secretary Sally didn’t just vanish from his employ, the character is shown as conflicted about whether coming clean or doing something desperate. The revelation that Richard and his wife are in fact swingers with very perverse tastes that have gone wrong in the past begins a descent into doing whatever it takes to avoid destroying his reputation as a popular, though reclusive, writer.  The character’s passiveness with occasional signs of emotion was the result of Granger’s horrid experience during the filming of Senso for Luchino Visconti (one can only surmise Visconti’s less then subtle seduction of Granger, who himself was homosexual, appalled the actor). He was also not keen on having to heavily romance both Barbara Bouchet and Rosalba Neri on camera, further adding to his distance from the other cast members. In spite of this, Granger still gives a good performance.

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Barbara Bouchet, a German-Naturalized Italian actress who became one of Italy’s most popular cult icons, offers up a fine performance as Greta Franklin. An average woman, Greta’s travels and relationship with Sally Reece has her certain that the woman she cared deeply for didn’t just leave without an explanation. Bouchet’s Greta is a much better detective than most investigator protagonists in that her seeming naivety allows her to get close to the people she suspects without initially setting off red flags that she’s dangerous. She doesn’t cave in to overt heroics and knows going in that that something could go wrong, but the loss of someone so close to her gives her the resolve and the will to see the whole thing to the end, regardless of what happens to herself, though even she feels the sense of self-preservation. While in scenes where she’s in peril she behaves like any frightened woman, Bouchet never gives the impression Greta is anyway foolish and weak, but simply giving the common reaction to fear. When she finds herself going into the realm of kink, she wonders how far the Stuart’s have gone down the rabbit hole, and how long before she must decide whether to risk the plunge.

Rosalba Neri, a versatile Italian actress having appeared in nearly every known genre of film, exudes her usual exoticness in the role of Eleanora Stuart, Richard’s wife. Less subtle in her appetites, both in culture, and in the bedroom, Eleanora is played up as a woman who knows what she wants, and doesn’t seem to care who she does it in front of, including her own husband. Neri gives a good contradiction to Farley Granger’s character in that she seems more willing, and even taking initiative, to giving Greta a good scare when it becomes apparent Greta is linking the couple into her friend’s disappearance. This character trait leads the audience into believing Eleanora borders on being something of a sadist, and that this behavior might also extend into her and Richard’s sexual games and foreplay. That she lives two distinctly different lives as the quiet, devoted wife of her reclusive writer husband, and a BDSM dominatrix preferring mind game torture to physical acts on her prospective partners/victims. Her true nature towards the end of the film makes her quite the vicious femme-fatale/vixen on the Italian screen.

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A popular, often mentioned, scene when this film is talked about is the slow-motion love scene between Barbara Bouchet and Rosalba Neri. After Greta gets a fright from a brutish and hulking, but otherwise gentle handyman, Eleanora offers to give Greta a sedative to help her rest and even stay with her until she falls asleep. What follows is the revelation that Greta has been drugged and Eleanora strips them both nude, proceeding to have her way with Greta. While the scene itself isn’t overtly long, the unique camera work, the editing, and use of slow motion captivates the viewer into a bizarre, but interesting situation. What kills this scene’s power and its adding to the plot is that Greta never makes any mention of what might have transpired during the night, especially since it’s clear from the get-go Eleanora has practically raped her, adding to Eleanora’s devious and perverse nature. Whether filmmaker Silvio Amadio added this scene as an afterthought or at the insistence of the producer to cash in on Bouchet and Neri’s curvaceous figures is unknown. It’s also possible Amadio had something else in mind, but either didn’t have to act on it, or merely leaves the audience to wonder if the whole scene was a dream is pretty much up to the viewer, even if certain elements make it clear something did indeed happen.

Relying heavily on the physcological aspects of the Thriller and the tension resulting from a certainty that a wealthy couple is involved in what could be the murder of their secretary/companion. With Greta not being sure of who to trust, other than the police detective who informed her of Sally’s going missing, who could’ve had the most damning motive is anyone’s guess. Bouchet and Granger engaging in a game of cat and mouse over what the elusive gentleman knows about the whole thing is a very interesting character/plot engagement by director Amadio, as it leaves the viewer wondering what the truth really is. Interesting locales in the country of Italy, fine acting from the cast, and very unique cinematography all add up to one of the more interesting and less talked about Giallos of the genre’s early golden period.

(I highly recommend this one as I feel it’s a Giallo that doesn’t get much credit, and has such an interesting plot, full of twists and a couple of curious red-herrings. All the actors, even Farley Granger, with early bitter memories, give excellent performances, the beauty of Italy is on full display.The 88 Films Blu Ray offers a fine transfer and audio, both Italian and English. the Italian of course is the preferable one as it follows Amadio’s plot a little more closely.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners, and the IMDB

for more information

IMDB/Amuck

Wikipedia/Amuck

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amuck-Blu-ray-Farley-Granger/dp/B01N6G1BBP/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1548826078&sr=1-2&keywords=amuck+blu+ray

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Giallo + Neo-Noir + Procedural = Powerful:

The Case of Glenda Blythe

by Tony Nash

(A Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild spoilers to spoiler free review)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

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La Ragazza del Pigiama Giallo (The Pyjama Girl Case) (1977) R *****

Ray Milland: Inspector Timpson (Thompson in English version)

Dalila Di Lazzaro: Glenda Blythe (Linda in English version)

Michele Placido: Antonio Attolini

Mel Ferrer: Dr. Henry Douglas

Howard Ross: Roy Conner

Ramiro Oliveros: Inspector Ramsey

Rod Mullinar: Inspector Morris

Antonio Ferrandis: Commissioner Nottingham (as Antonio Ferrandiz)

Fernando Fernan Gomez: The Forensics Detective

Giacomo Assandri: Mr. Quint

Written by: Flavio Mogherini & Rafael Sanchez Campoy

Directed by: Flavio Mogherini

Synopsis: The Country of Australia is the setting for two separate, but interlocking stories: The police investigation of the murder of a Dutch immigrant and the series of events that led to her death. When a brother and sister stumble upon the partially charred corpse of a young woman, a retired police inspector and the youthful newcomers he’s been asked to advise are at odds over how to figure out who killed her. The flashbacks into her life reveal three men who had motive to kill her-wealthy Aussie native Dr. Henry Douglas, & immigrants Roy Conner and Antonio Attolini.

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A rarity in the Giallo genre in that it relies heavily on aspects from Neo-Noir and Police Procedurals, La Ragazza del Pigiama Giallo is a mish-mash that fans tend to not like or completely hate. That it doesn’t involve multiple murders and focuses more on story and characters isn’t a bad thing at all and gives the film its own unique voice. Since Giallos only follow a very basic outline, there’s no real way of declaring which films truly follow a kind of pattern set for the genre. The back and forth with telling how the woman came to be killed and the police looking into the case can be a bit confusing as it doesn’t shift like in Citizen Kane or the 1946 version of The Killers via witness testimony of the deceased, but more or less switches spontaneously. This decision by director and co-writer Flavio Mogherini actually helps the film in that audiences gets to see the crime from the perspective of both the victim and the police, learning from the victim how her relationships with the men in her life caused her problems and learning from the police how difficult solving a crime can be with little evidence and a difference of procedure between the older and younger generations. The event that leads to fatal decisions packs a hard punch and leaves both characters and the viewers reeling, as to how the events could’ve been avoided.

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The script was based off of a real-life homicide case that spanned between 1934 and 1944. A woman was found beaten and shot on a road in Albury New South Wales Australia, dubbed the Pyjama Girl as she was found wearing yellow silk pajamas. Several missing persons, including Florence Linda Agostini, whom the female lead is based on, were reported missing around the time the body was discovered, leading to a swarm of attempts to identify her. When Agostini’s husband questionably admitted to having accidentally shot her and, in a panic, desecrated her corpse to avoid being accused of intentional murder, it was believed both cases were considered solved. When evidence years later revealed the identity of the Pyjama Girl was not that of Agostini, but someone else, any evidence and suspects were long gone or deceased. Florence Linda Agostini’s body was never found and is still presumed to have vanished without a trace. The identity of the Pyjama Girl has never been discovered, and the Australian Police still consider her case open, but Cold.

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A very interesting piece of filmmaking comes in the use of the land of Australia. While meant to be set entirely in The Down Under, director Flavio Mogherini used his skill in set decoration and scene construction to make the streets of Madrid look like the streets of Sydney and Albury. Unless a viewer is completely aware of the differences between Spain and Australia, most wouldn’t know many of the exteriors were indeed shot in Spain. Some exteriors were in fact shot in Australia, but primarily after principle photography wrapped in Spain and the studios in Rome.

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Ray Milland, a high-level talent in the waning period of his prolific acting career, does an excellent job as Inspector Timpson (the English language version cites him as Thompson). Since the character in some way paralleled Milland’s real life, he plays him as a student of the old school who feels the new intellectual methods the police department are using won’t catch the killer, that old fashioned know-how and sleuthing will solve the case. He believes the case to be a crime of passion, not the antics of a pervert, insisting the findings pf intercourse in the woman’s autopsy have no bearing on the case. Performing his own side investigation, Timpson makes more waves and finds than his more up-to-date colleagues, and is certain he’s on the right track. Milland’s skill as an actor has the audience rooting for Timpson’s tenacity and spirit, even when his colleagues see him as an old relic. Unfortunately, Timpson is killed when he goes for s showdown with the individual he believes responsible for the crime. Milland also shows audiences the mark of a smart detective, showing Timpson making a recording of his findings and putting it somewhere where the killer or killers can’t find it.

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Dalila Di Lazzaro, an Italian actress of the 70’s and 80’s gives an understated, and powerful, performance and Glenda Blythe. While is revealed of her past, Glenda is depicted as a free spirit who’s done what she wants her whole life. She is shown as having a bevy of lovers, including a respected doctor, and even proved enticing for a latent lesbian woman. Her flirtations become dangerous when she has affairs with two immigrants, Roy Conner, Dutch like herself, and the Italian Antonio Attolini, who later marries her. While all three men seem to not care she’s sleeping around, they clearly have all developed deep relationships with her. Her marriage to Antonio is more because she realizes Dr. Douglas, who’s a pillar of the local community, won’t risk his position in marrying not only someone beneath his class, but who’s also a working visa foreigner. When she becomes pregnant with Antonio’s baby, she feels it’s a chance to start right. Life takes a drastic and sad turn when the baby dies from health complications, leading to Glenda spiraling into depression. When her attempt at following what really makes her happy fails, things go from bad to worse and leads to tragedy for all involved.

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Michele Placido and Renato Rossini (billed under his Anglo-pseudonym stage name Howard Ross), two well known Italian character actors, give solid performances as Antonio Attolini and Roy Conner respectively. What gives their performances extra substance is the relatable feelings of people going to make lives in new lands. Two outsiders who feel they must always battle the oppressive natives to make ends meet, Antonio and Roy seem to be happy just to get by and have formed a friendship based upon this hardship. Their dual relationship with Glenda is what eventually causes them to risk everything to preserve their masculinity. Feeling she is the source to thrive in a community that gives them menial labor jobs because they came from different lands, Antonio and Roy end up becoming very envious when they feel Glenda will betray them for the comforts of a citizenship guaranteed marriage. Both are very patriarchal in personality, and certainly don’t like a woman to be independent and freethinking, especially if she plays them as suckers, which eventually leads to horrible and tragic consequences for everyone involved. Mel Ferrer plays a supporting role as Dr. Henry Douglas, a high-class Aussie doctor. Little is shown of Ferrer’s character and his backstory, but from his scenes with Glenda, he clearly wants a mistress, but also doesn’t want to risk his reputation among the Albury elite, making him a complete hypocrite. His self-serving, self-preserving attitude helps lead to the tragedies that will follow.

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Not a traditional Giallo by any means, The Pyjama Girl is still an effective and compelling Mystery Thriller that goes a little deeper than most of its contemporaries and predecessors. The characters are very real and relatable, especially in that they were modeled off the real people involved in the case that inspired the director. Some fans get miffed that very little killing goes on in the film, and are often completely baffled by the film’s going from the investigation to the events that eventually lead to Glenda’s murder, but all this in fact forms a homogenous whole that makes the film absolutely perfect for the story it wanted to tell. Juxtaposing how the police go about solving crimes to the desperation felt by three foreigners trying to survive in a society they feel is bent on keeping them marginalized that eventually lead to incidents that can only end badly is very ingenious and gives a look at both sides of society, pulling no punches in the good and the bad of it.

(Pigiama Giallo is one of those rare powerful films that deserves at least one view by fans of the genre, which I do recommend. First timers should start with something else, but I would say to check it out once you have a decent idea of what Giallos are. While many fans don’t really like having this in the pantheon of Gailli, it’s still a finely made, well acted, sometimes moving, sometimes sad film that does well to go deeper with the content. Arrow’s Blu Ray release offers a fine transfer with excellent audio and visuals, and the usual recommendation is the Italian language version, but fans ca check out an English dub as well.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

IMDB/The Pyjama Girl Case

Wikipedia/The Pyjama Girl Case

For information regarding the Historical case

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Agostini

Also check out the book The Pyjama Girl Mystery: A True Story of Murder, Obsession, and Lies by Richard Havers

https://www.amazon.com/Pyjama-Girl-Case-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B07F1ZZDGJ

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pyjama-Girl-Case-Blu-ray/dp/B07DXYZZKB/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548261056&sr=8-1&keywords=pyjama+girl+case+blu+ray

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Soap Opera Meets Giallo Thriller:

Alexa and Her Men

by Tony Nash

(A Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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Fieras Sin Jaula (Due Maschi per Alexa, Two Masks for Alexa, Two Males for Alexa) (1971) R ****

Curd Jürgens: Ronald Mannering

Rosalba Neri: Alesca (Alexa) Dubois Mannering

Juan Luis Galiardo: Pietro

Emma Cohen: Catherine Mannering Rubens

Eduardo Calvo: Max, Private Investigator

Manolo Otero: Philippe

Mario Della Vigna: Marcel Rubens

Franco Marletta: Pool, the Butler

Pilar Velázquez: Philippe’s Girlfriend

Written by: Francesco Campitelli, Jesús L. Folgar, & Juan Logar

Directed by: Juan Logar

Synopsis: Cuckolded millionaire Ronald Mannering decides to pay back his cheating young wife Alexa and her lover Pietro by killing himself and hermetically sealing them all in an escape proof room. While awaiting the inevitable conclusion Alexa recalls the events that led to this horrible experience.

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Playing more towards a Melodramatic Soap Opera then a Thriller, Two Masks for Alexa is still a very unique film that plays out almost like a play. The majority of the drama takes place within a single space, specifically a bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, though the film does include several scenes outside the room. The use of flashbacks plays a prominent and important role within the film as it reveals the moments, whether they are the truth or not, about how the three primary leads ended up locked together in one singular spot. Ironically, two of the three leads are played as not entirely good and not entirely bad either. That they’re shown as human beings with flaws, hopes, dreams, and fears makes them believable and interesting. A major question that’s left completely ambiguous once the cuckolded older gentleman puts his plan into motion is just how deserving or not the female lead of having what’s happening to her. Co-writer and director Juan Logar packs an extra punch with this point as it certainly points the action in a direction that the viewer doesn’t expect and leaves how they think about certain characters in complete doubt.

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Curd Jürgens, a well-known and respected character actor throughout Europe, known internationally under his pseudonym Curt Jurgens and most remembered for his role as the mad Stromberg in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, is a fascinating interest as Ronald Mannering. Playing a man clearly at the stage of his life where there’s little hope of feeling new thrills or emotions, Jürgens shows Mannering as a man who in many ways has no illusions of what he can achieve, though this doesn’t stop him from having a kind of mid-life crisis when he meets his daughter’s college friend Alexa. Mannering’s double-dealing standards as it becomes clear via the flashbacks that in spite of knowing Alexa would seek out someone her own age for romantic fulfillment even with his doting nature and the leisure he can wrap around her, he still asks her to marry him. When he decides on a fatalistic plan of revenge, Jürgens’ character of Mannering loses any and all sympathy when how their courtship and what he said of the kind of relationship he was expecting comes to light. This reveal makes what he ends up doing all the more sadistic and crueler, even to the point he’s taunting them in death. Whether Jürgens is playing Mannering as a fool or a complete madman depends on which version the viewer is watching, the uncut Italian language version or the Franco-censored Spanish language original.

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Rosalba Neri, an Italian actress who has the rare distinction of appearing in almost every known genre of film (except Adult films of course!) is sensuous, charming, and even a little devious as Alexa. Neri plays Alexa as a woman who wants to experience all life has to offer in spite of everyone around her saying she should aim for simpler things. Unlike many women attracted to older men, Alexa isn’t necessarily a gold-digger out to swindle a target. She herself admits the money Mannering can bestow upon her can help her to experience life the way she’s dreamed of, but also doesn’t intend to milk him for every scent he has. She’s shown as genuinely caring for Ronald Mannering, even wanting to help him find a new zest for life when it looks like he’s defeatedly settled for a mundane daily existence. When she meets the playboy Pietro at a club as Mannering is set to propose to her, she finds a kindred spirit. While she knows she’s doing Mannering wrong, Pietro’s charm and smile have her wanting him more. Even though she makes it clear she has no intention of taking Mannering for all he has and doesn’t want to do anything to destroy him mentally, Mannering still decides to hurt her the cruelest way he can think of. When she has a moment of clarity, she begins to rethink everything she thought she wanted from life.

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Juan Luis Galiardo, a Spanish actor/leading man, is quite different as Pietro, Alexa’s lover. Little is known about Pietro, but from Alexa’s interactions with him, it’s clear he’s a man who likes to live high, and enjoys the finer things. Smug and arrogant, he uses his masculine allure to draw Alexa back into the world of the Jet Set, where it’s sun, sex, and partying. Unlike Alexa, he enjoys the kickbacks from her relationship with Mannering, and at times she doesn’t like how he exploits the situation. A smooth talker and a gigolo, Pietro’s put Alexa under his thumb, and doesn’t realize how much danger he’s put her in, let alone himself.  A memory from his past, put Pietro in a somewhat different light, but because he willingly chose to throw away what he had, it only really makes him look like a fool.

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Relying more on Drama than Thrills, the film still boasts an atmosphere that leaves the audience uncertain as to what will happen and if what has transpired is all a game. None of the characters, even the smaller ones played by stalwarts like Emma Cohen and Eduardo Calvo form to the social norms that were popular among audiences, both in America and Europe, so there’s little done among the characters to make viewers feel sympathetic or hatred for them. Very unconventional, even for the Gialli genre, as it itself was known to break the rules of convention many times, in that while it boasts some good Suspense, it lacks in any real Mystery. In spite of all this, the film still makes an indelible impression, albeit confusing, and shows the darker side of the love triangle story arc, and offers up some of the more flawed and tragic figures ever brought to life by actors.

(A complete oddity in that it seems to not fully conform to the standards of the Giallo, and falling more into the realm of Douglas Sirk Dramas, Due Maschi per Alexa is an interesting film nonetheless, and worthy of being viewed at least once by fans of the genre and curious first-timers looking for something different.  An interesting script, fine performances from the actors, and beautiful locales make a homogeneous mixture that works well. A definite moderate recommendation. The Blu Ray from X-Rated Media offers high quality audio and picture, looking as good now as it did back in the 1970’s. The only downside is the subtitle translation of the Italian and Spanish audio seems to fall more on dubtitles from a lost English dub, and is also a little inconsistent at times. While not completely making following the story tough, those who don’t understand either Italian or Spanish may have a time of it.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Two Masks for Alexa

Wikipedia/Two Masks for Alexa

https://www.amazon.de/Bitterer-Whisky-Rausch-Sinne-Blu-ray/dp/B07JHSKT5T/ref=sr_1_17?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1547662792&sr=1-17&keywords=Rosalba+Neri

https://www.amazon.de/Bitterer-Whisky-Rausch-Blu-ray-Limited/dp/B06Y57CRST/ref=tmm_blu_title_1?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1547662792&sr=1-17

https://www.amazon.de/Rausch-Sinne-Mediabook-Bonus-DVD-Blu-ray/dp/B01MR9JHKZ/ref=tmm_blu_title_2?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1547662792&sr=1-17

https://www.amazon.de/Rausch-Sinne-Mediabook-Bonus-DVD-Blu-ray/dp/B01MUE6V8B/ref=tmm_blu_title_3?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1547662792&sr=1-17

https://www.amazon.de/Rausch-Sinne-Mediabook-Bonus-DVD-Blu-ray/dp/B01N14H4HJ/ref=tmm_blu_title_4?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1547662792&sr=1-17

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

He Made Being Hammy Work:

A Look at George Hilton

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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When a good number of Cult film fans think of George Hilton, they think of an actor who took his work to too high theatrics and overplayed the majority of his roles.

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While in many cases they weren’t wrong, very often his over theatrics served him well in making his parts believable and interesting. Often Hilton tended to play his roles lightheartedly, but when the role called for him to be serious, he could play it straight like a seasoned veteran of the stage. Like with anything else, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but when it did, it was always a fun ride. Due to Hilton being mostly recognized for his contribution to the Comedy leanings of the Italian Westerns, the notion he was a ham actor stuck with him for the majority of his life, which wasn’t necessarily fair to his talents. In films like Lo Strano Vizio della Signora Wardh (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), La Coda dello Scorpione (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale), Il Corpo Dolci di Deborah (The Sweet Body of Deborah), Mio Caro Assassino (My Dear Killer), and Perche Quelle Strane Gocce di Sangue sui Corpo di Jennifer (What’s That Strange Bloody Flower on Jennifer’s Body/The Case of the Bloody Iris) showed Hilton could be serious, deadly and average, when he chose to be. His long gaze, especially in Deborah and Tutti I Colori del Buio (All the Colors of the Dark) can be read as either neutral, or hiding something, which was one of the limitations Hilton had but could still be effective.

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Like actress Rosalba Neri, Hilton also had the distinction of appearing almost every known genre of film, with the exception of Adult films, a feat few actors can say they’ve reached. Now while this seems like an overstatement, Hilton and Neri did in fact pull this off in that they didn’t conform to one particular genre of cinema, even with Hilton being mostly known for the Westerns and Giallos, he never limited himself, nor was he typed to one particular type of role or genre.

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In the Western Il Tempo degli Avvoltoi (The Time of Vultures/Last of the Badmen) Hilton does very well in the straight part of Kitosch, though some of the character’s motivations can sometimes be undefinable and misguided. Hilton was able to convey a kind of sympathy for the character even with audiences often disagreeing with many of his choices and not seeing the obvious in his new companion. In spite of these continuity issues the character manages remain likeable and maintain a kind of nobility. The majority of his other Western roles, particularly his early 70’s ones, consisted mainly of parody, or borderline parody versions of the classics of the mid 60’s, which in the cases of his takes on the Sartana and The Stranger characters and his original character of Alleluja worked well for the story, but other times things got too silly, which was an injustice to his talent as an actor. When the Giallos came into popularity, Hilton rose in prominence with them. He often played either the heroic lover having to play detective when the woman he loves is in danger or the detective tracking down a serial murderer. Even if his acting was on overload some of the time, Hilton was, and still is, a dedicated actor who took his craft seriously and always brought his “A” game, even if the picture itself wasn’t up to par.

(I highly recommend seeing many of George Hilton’s early Italian Westerns and Giallos, particularly the ones mentioned in this write up. I know he’s very theatrical and his style may border a little on the silly, but he’s still very good when it comes down to a fine performance. He’s still active in the industry today and gladly gives interviews for DVDs and Blu Rays on his versatile career, always happy to regale fans with stories about interactions with other actors and what filming in Italy was like in the old days. What’s especially refreshing about him is his honesty when speaking. When he spoke of the Westerns, he admitted the genre wasn’t his favorite, but certainly loved the enjoyment it gave fans, and was happy to be have been a part of it’s colossal  impact. To my readers, give this guy a chance and you’ll be surprised.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/George Hilton

Wikipedia/George Hilton

Spaghetti Western Database/George Hilton

Grindhouse Cinema Database/George Hilton

Many of Mr. Hilton’s films are available on Blu Ray and DVD from The US, UK, and Germany

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

No Crime is Perfect: The Case of the Dumurrier’s

by Tony Nash

(A Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(A Spoiler Free Review)

(This review is of the Italian language version of the film)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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Una Sull’Altra (One on Top of the Other/Perversion Story) (1969) R *****

Jean Sorel: Dr. George Dumurrier

Marisa Mell: Susan Dumurrier/Monica Weston

Elsa Martinelli: Jane, Photographer Assistant

Alberto de Mendoza: Dr. Henry Dumurrier

John Ireland: Inspector Wald

Riccardo Cucciolla: Benjamin Wormser

Félix Dafauce: The Royal Insurance Official (as Felix de Fauce)

Jesús Puente: Sergeant Rodriguez (as Jesus Puente)

George Rigaud: Attorney Arthur Mitchell

Jean Sobieski: Larry, Trend Photographer

Faith Domergue: Marta, Susan’s Sister

Written by: Roberto Gianviti, Lucio Fulci, & José Luis Martinez Molla (as Jose Luis Martinez Molla) (uncredited assistance from: Massimo Castellani, Franco Ferrari, & Massimo Franciosa)

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Synopsis: Dr. George Dumurrier is accused of murdering his asthmatic wife Susan. When it’s discovered he’s the beneficiary in her will, and his clinic is facing financial ruin from poor business dealings, Dumurrier is arrested. The only clues lie in a part time nurse who disappeared after the woman’s death, and the recent appearance of a stripper named Monica Weston, who bears a disturbingly similar resemblance to Susan.

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Director Lucio Fulci, hailed as the Godfather of Gore in Italian Horror, proves he could tackle complex and interesting stories with this cleverly done Mystery. What he does to make things more unique is to have the story be not so much about has a crime been committed, but what kind of crime has been committed. The two central characters, George and Susan Dumurrier, are a couple who’ve never been in love; George is a philandering charmer, but he also runs a much-needed clinic in San Francisco, Susan is a beautiful woman too bent on having a cushy lifestyle, but at the same time won’t leave the security her cheating husband’s clinic brings in. When Susan suddenly dies from an apparent overdose of her asthma medication, a surprising barrage of evidence shows up pointing to George as the main suspect. Fulci and his co-writers then weave a web of intrigue including insurance fraud, possible double indemnity, double life living, and murder that all seem to help in putting an innocent man, though his ethics are questionable, in the Gas Chamber. While released at a time when the Giallo was still in its infancy, this film, along with Il Dolce Corpi di Deborah (The Sweet Body of Deborah), helped to reinforce the trend and motifs set by Mario Bava a few years earlier. The use of subjective camera work, surreal imagery, and jazz/pop inspired scoring were some of the keys to the Giallo becoming a staple within the Italian film world.

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What sets this Giallo apart from the others is that it has the rare distinction of having exterior scenes shot in the United States. With the film being set in San Francisco, Fulci and the producers managed to get the OK from Hollywood to shoot on location in the streets, highways and some buildings. The only interior scene filmed in the States was in the real San Quentin Penitentiary and its actual Gas Chamber, the producers managing to secure permits most Hollywood insiders had trouble getting (some believe this was because Fulci used many San Quentin staff involved in the Chamber’s official capacity as extras). This adds to the film’s nostalgia value as in all likelihood many of the places shown in the film are no longer standing and offers a time capsule like glimpse into a bygone era.

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Fans of the film The Boston Strangler with Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, and George Kennedy will be intrigued to know the use of multiple window screen scenes got one of its earliest uses with this film. It’s only utilized during part of the investigation into Susan’s murder and during the revelation scene of what was really going on. While not used as frequently as in The Boston Strangler, it’s still an impressive technique that works well in not only Giallos, but in Mystery films in general.

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Jean Sorel, a French actor who found fame in Italy is a surprise as Dr. George Dumurrier. Looking a little like Alain Delon, or the poor man’s version of him, Sorel usually played the romantic lead in one form or another. What sets his role apart from many of his other appearances in the genre is that he’s not somehow involved in the plot to earn money. Some of his character’s were womanizing charmers, but in Dr. Dumurrier’s case, he also had positive qualities. He really wants his clinic to succeed and help people, though how he reaches that goal sometimes borders on the unethical. He’s either fallen out of love with his wife, or never loved her period, but he does love his mistress. He would gladly divorce his wife so they could each find real happiness, but his public image and his wife’s seemingly fragile health prevent it.  That he’s playing an overall nice guy whose done bad things is a nice change up from some of his earlier roles in other Giallos, as it makes what’s happening to his character all the more ironically tragic.

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Marisa Mell, an Austrian actress who, like many others in Europe, found fame working abroad is a mesmerizing scene stealer in the dual role of Susan and Monica. While rightly a sex and cult symbol of the 1960’s and 70’s, Mell also showcased in this film that she was a talented actress who could’ve gone far. With Susan and Monica having completely different personalities, a talented actress would be necessary to play up two totally separate people. That Mell could go from being homely looking and temperamental to a sexy, outgoing, and vivacious vixen takes a great deal of ability, and Mell proved many times over she had hit. The question many of the characters are asking is whether Susan and Monica are one in the same or if they are two totally different people who happen to bear a very strong similarity to each other. Another question that George and his mistress Jane want to know is how much does Monica know about Susan’s fate, and if she’s been paid to cause trouble by somebody. She has a partner, but she’s not saying who it is.

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A nice round-up of character performers including Alberto de Mendoza, John Ireland, and Riccardo Cucciolla fill out the cast. Mendoza, an Argentinian actor who became famous in Spain and Italy, plays Henry Dumurrier, George’s brother. He’s involvement in helping George may or may not be what it seems. John Ireland, a Canadian-American actor who worked both in America and Italy, has a somewhat small part as Police Inspector Wald. Ireland plays the part as the general harried cop who has to shuffle through a series of suspects and evidence. Even with doubts that the evidence and circumstances are all too perfect and neat, his natural dislike of the not so good Dr. Dumurrier has him eager to arrest the man. Riccardo Cucciolla, an Italian actor who worked onscreen and as a voice dubber is interesting as the mentally unhinged Benjamin Wormser. A character that may or may not be a wild card in the situation, Wormser is a meek man with an almost unhealthy obsession and standards for the seductive Monica. What does this mild, sad, and unassuming man know?

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Two exceptionally photographed and staged sequences were the sex scenes between Jean Sorel and Elsa Martinelli and later between Sorel and Marisa Mell. The scene between Sorel and Martinelli is done with psychedelic lighting, subjective camera angles, and a glass bed bottom showing viewers Martinelli’s entire backside. The scene feels like something out of an acid trip, but it’s still very cleverly done and showcases the strong feelings between the characters of George and Jane. The later scene between Sorel and Mell is a little unusual, but no less interesting. The character George, wondering if he can prove Monica is Susan by seeing how she makes loves, leads into one of the most unusual encounters in the boudoir. The contrast between light and shadow in the scene relates to the game being played between George and Monica, but whether Monica knows what the game is, is unknown. George’s occasional flashback to seeing his dead wife on their bed as he’s engaging with Monica leave viewers with only a vague idea that maybe Fulci’s playing with the character’s subconscious that he’s engaging in necrophilia, though he’s with his wife’s doppelganger.

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One of Fulci’s lesser known, but more impressive works, Una Sull’Altra is a unique film that really plays with the viewer’s head into what is exactly going on. That any of the characters, with the exception of the police and insurance people, could be the guilty party is really interesting. The Giallo genre had its roots in the Mystery Thriller, and this film personifies what filmmakers like Mario Bava, and writers like Ernesto Gastaldi were looking to make the genre into. The cast, the writing, and the atmosphere help to fuel the fires that keep viewers glued to the action and intrigue and wonder what will happen next. The twists, red-herrings, and consistent double and triple crossings make for an interesting and puzzling affair that will leave audiences stunned at the revelation and quite pleased at the conclusion.

(A prime example of a well made Mystery Thriller, Una Sull’Altra is a must for fans, young and old, of both that genre and Giallos too. Cult film distribution label Mondo Macabro has done a fine job with the restoration of the film, audio and picture quality equally good. The Italian language version with translated subtitles is the better option and it relates the story the way Fulci and his co-writers intended and is more realistic. The English dub, though fine in that the actors did their lines phonetically in English, still sounds artificial and forced, leaving something quite missing come the big reveals.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/One on Top of the Other

Wikipedia/One on Top of the Other

https://www.amazon.com/Perversion-Story-Blu-ray-Jean-Sorel/dp/B07GW4FBKY/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1547061892&sr=1-1-catcorr

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Sparse, Complex, & Sensual: The Bodies of Deborah & Suzanne

by Tony Nash

(A Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(A Spoiler Free Review)

(This review is of the Italian language version of the film)

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Il Dolce Corpo di Deborah (The Sweet Body of Deborah) (1968) **** ½ R

Carroll Baker: Deborah Boileau

Jean Sorel: Marcel Boileau

Ida Galli: Suzanne Boileau (as Evelyn Stewart)

George Hilton: Robert Simack

Luigi Pistilli: Philip

Michel Bardinet: The Police Commissioner

Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi, with collaboration from Luciano Martino

Directed by: Romolo Guerrieri

Synopsis: Newly weds Marcel and Deborah, on an international honeymoon, make their first stop Geneva, Marcel’s birth place. When a contemptuous old childhood friend accuses Marcel of being responsible for his first wife’s death and strange noises and frightening phone calls begin, the couple feel someone is looking for revenge. Even when feeling safe in France, the couple are again bewildered, this time by an American painter with voyeuristic tendencies.

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One of the earliest Giallos after La Ragazza Che Sapeva Troppo (The Girl Who Knew Too Much), Il Corpo sports a complex and twist laden story that would extend what La Ragazza and Sette Donne per un Assassino (Six Women for the Murderer/Blood and Black Lace) started, and become a starting point for future work. Taking the popular Noir element of the couple being tormented by someone from the past, director Romolo Guerrieri and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi mix surreal lighting and imagery, unique camera angles, and only having characters give hints as to what might really be going on to keep the audiences guessing as to what the truth is. That all the audience is given is that the husband, Marcel, owing a large amount of money, left more America so he could come back clean to his first wife, who died a year prior under unusual circumstances. With this in mind, suspicions automatically fall on Marcel, who stands a lot to gain by two dead wives, but then again Deborah has a policy on Marcel. Having the action set in the beautiful countries of Switzerland and France make for a nice juxtaposition to the tense atmosphere surrounding the main characters, who aren’t able to fully enjoy their new life together with the fear of someone out to destroy them for a crime that’s never been proven the husband’s guilty of.  That every character could be guilty of being the one tormenting the couple, including one or the other of the couple, makes for a very intriguing mystery, as the audience isn’t sure of who to believe and what exactly it is that individual is after.

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The usage of flashbacks plays a necessary role in the film, as it attempts to sway viewers to the possibility that an unknown third party is playing a role in driving the couple into uncertainty and fear. With Marcel’s life with Suzanne seemingly normal, save for Marcel’s financial difficulties, there’s no  indication whatsoever he’s in the kind of position that would make killing her a necessity to save his own skin from danger. That both main leads don’t have anything (that the audience can sense or indicate) to hide, that there’s another person unknown to everyone else pulling the strings makes for a very likely idea.

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Surprisingly, for a couple that are apparently in a constant state of tension and unease, Deborah and Marcel have quite a few sex scenes in the film. Now while they might seem like overkill on the onset, they in fact play a very important part in the film’s latter structure. The act of making love brings couples closer together, creating the ultimate bond between them, and with a constant state of doubt between them, initial conceptions being that the consistent love scenes are the two’s attempt to re-discover the passion that brought them together. Another idea is that either Deborah or Marcel has something to hide and the love making is a ruse to keep suspicion off of themselves. Either is a plausibility.

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Carroll Baker, an American actress who ended up expatriated in Europe for fighting back against Hollywood’s sexist film offers, is quite excellent in the role of Deborah. Little of the character’s background is given, but from a comment she makes to Marcel about how her mother feels about him, it’s not hard to imagine she comes from an affluent family. Unlike most American heiress characters, Baker plays Deborah as someone who doesn’t flaunt her wealth around in a bid to find a man or show-off, but rather is someone who uses her wealth wisely. She’s shown as clearly in love with Marcel and would do anything for him, but at the same time feels she is unworthy of him and is uncertain if she knows enough about him. Like with some wealthy people, Deborah suffers a nervous condition with requires medication, an Achilles Heel, which will come into major play later on in the film. Baker’s range and use of emotion allows for the character to come off as very real, especially in scenes when Deborah clearly can no longer take the strain of what’s happening around her. Baker’s talent as an actress who gives the audience a nice mixture of is she the damsel in distress or is she a black widow playing a very intriguing and complex game.

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Jean Sorel, a French actor who spent much of the 60’s and 70’s working between Italy, Spain, and Germany, does very well in the role of Marcel. A poor man’s Alain Delon in appearance, he was able to evoke that similar cold, distant look that made reading his characters inner thoughts impossible. This aura of mystery as to how honest he’s been with Deborah and how much of his past is true or a lie makes who the guilty party might be all the more of a headscratcher. That he appears to be just perplexed by all that is going on just like his wife adds to this idea all the more. That both he and Deborah have life insurance policies on each other is one of the many twists that make deduction by audiences difficult because it signifies Marcel may have gotten back on his feet to a degree that he left the policy as a sign of good faith, or there could be something else altogether to it.

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Ida Galli, credited under her US pseudonym Evelyn Stewart, plays a small, but very important part as Marcel’s purportedly dead first wife Suzanne. Again, little is known of the character’s background, but given her sight-unseen agreement to Marcel’s plea to pay off a debt, she, like Deborah, came from an affluent family. Because it’s never learned if Marcel would benefit if she were to die, and no explanation other than the photo of a crashed car give any indication that she could be dead. Luigi Pistilli’s role as Philip falls under the same category as very little is known about him as well, save for what Marcel has stated about him, and his own unrequited relationship with Suzanne.

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George Hilton, a Uruguayan actor who found success in Italy via the Westerns, would make his first appearance in the genre that he, and Jean Sorel, would become the actors most associated with, as Robert Simack. While he comes into the film midway through, his first scene leaves an indelible impression as to how he’ll get caught up in the strangeness. An artist with something of a voyeur like fetish, he takes an interest in newlyweds Deborah and Marcel, but are his reasons completely eccentric, or is he looking for more? Hilton’s almost consistently smiling face adds a kind of unease to the character, automatically putting him in as a suspect, though what interest he could possibly have remains vague.

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On the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), the film is listed as a mixture of Drama, Horror, Mystery, and Thriller. The Horror element is really nonexistent, unless the director and writers were looking to convey a sense of Psychological Horror, which if that is the case, the effect comes off very well. With Horror only playing a very minuscule role, the traditional Mystery Thriller seems to be the correct category to list it under as.

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The complexity and intricacy of the film makes going into the story a little difficult with giving too much away and ruining the surprise ending. With the actors doing such a good job keeping viewers in the dark with what’s really going on and what secrets they could or might be hiding, the atmosphere and intensity works very well. The ending is so off guard catching and totally unique that viewers will have to see to believe it. All in all, a very fine early entry into the Traditional Giallo canon.

(This early Giallo effort comes strongly recommended for longtime fans and newcomers looking for somewhere to start. The complexity of the film and the mysteriousness of the characters and situations make for a consistent guessing games that leave the viewers guessing right until the finale 20 minutes. The Blu Ray from Germany’s X-Rated/ELEA-Media label is very high quality in visual transfer and audio quality. The only downside is the English subtitle translation when viewing the Italian track. At times it’s difficult to tell whether the subtitles are translations of the Italian audio, or dubtitles from a lost English dubbed track. This luckily doesn’t hinder the film much, but can be a little confusing to people who have a good grasp of Italian.)

Please check out the Grindhouse Cinema Database to see a condense version of this review

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDb/The Sweet Body of Deborah

Grindhouse Cinema Database/The Sweet Body of Deborah

DVDBeaver/The Sweet Body of Deborah

https://www.amazon.de/gp/offer-listing/B01857M98U/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=1546463772&sr=1-12

https://www.amazon.de/sch%C3%B6ne-K%C3%B6rper-Deborah-Uncut-Blu-ray/dp/B07JX4SGCH/ref=sr_1_14?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1546463772&sr=1-14&keywords=Jean+Sorel

https://www.amazon.de/sch%C3%B6ne-K%C3%B6rper-Deborah-Blu-ray-Limited/dp/B01857M9CQ/ref=tmm_blu_title_1?_encoding=UTF8&amp&qid=1546463772&amp&sr=1-14

https://www.amazon.de/gp/offer-listing/B01B5NU8QQ/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=&sr=

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics