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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 Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Two Masks for Alexa

Wikipedia/Two Masks for Alexa

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

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