Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rosalba Neri (Thur.) Friday # 20 - Happy Birthday Rosalba !!

This ones on Thur. 'cause it's her Birthday today !!


    A very special happy birthday to this blogs favorite actress, in addition to her being a major impetus for its existence. Born on this day in 1939 she's been pretty much retired from films since 1977 with an appearance in a 1985 Italian TV miniseries being her only credit since then. An undeniable presence in every role, she can always be counted on to elevate any movie that's lucky enough to have her in its cast (some of the films may be forgettable, but Rosalba surely is not). Her daughter Francesca Neri has quite a career as an actress in European cinema and has appeared in a couple of American productions including HANNIBAL from 2002 and 2001's COLLATERAL DAMAGE.

  An Italian/West German co -production from 1972 CASA D'APPUNTAMENTO (THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS) is one of those movies that can't be held up as one of Rosalba's better vehicles, although American producer Dick Randall's (who started out as a gag writer for Milton Berle) attempt at emulating the popular Italian giallos is to quote the oft used phrase "not as bad as everyone says it is". At only 83 minutes it really doesn't have a chance to drag (even though it tries) and the cast is truly extraordinary (being almost a who's who of 70's Euro exploitation). Some of the famous names are basically glorified cameos with little or no inter-action as in the case of Barbara Bouchet who doesn't even make it to the 12 minute mark before being offed (which means unfortunately we don't get an AMUCK style reunion between her and Rosalba).
    Randall had cast Rosalba in a few of his movies around this time including her excellent turn as LADY FRANKENSTEIN from 1971 and another attempt at a giallo in 1974's THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A. Supposedly Randall had a thing for her (who can fault him there) and in THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS she does seem to get an inordinate amount of close-ups compared to her other female co-stars (but hey, I'm not complaining).

   Set in Paris the story concerns a killer bloodily stalking his way thru various people associated with a fancy brothel that has Antia Ekberg (who's quite a long way from LA DOLCE VITA here) as its madam. In addition there's various other killer fodder lurking about including the above mentioned Barbara Bouchet as an early victim and reporter "Mr. Randall" (Renato Romano) who hangs about as he's working on a magazine story concerning prostitution for which he explains "American women will be smuggling it back home, as their fascinated by prostitution" (!?). Plus there's Howard Vernon (taking time out from Jess Franco projects) as a creepy professor and the very beautiful Evelyne Kraft (MIGHTY PEKING MAN) as his daughter.
   The really off-kilter cast addition though is Bronx born actor Robert Sacchi, who because of his resemblance to Humphrey Bogart found himself somewhat in demand for awhile (including the aptly named THE MAN WITH BOGART'S FACE from 1980) and also appeared in DIE HARD II and an episode of CYBILL. Here as Inspector Fontaine he stalks around in trench coat all the while smoking and doing his best Bogie mannerisms. Although he plays it straight, his presence here only seems to add some not needed (and unfunny) weird humor to the proceedings (although it could be argued that he does fit right into the bizarre plot) and just like The Bishop in Monty Python he constantly shows up a few minutes after the unfortunate victims have been dispatched.

    Rosalba plays Marianne a nightclub singer who's the ex-girlfriend and or/wife of one of the many red herring suspects the plot throws into the proceedings. Although she has quite a bit of screen time (at least compared to Barbara and Anita) the role seems to be something that was tacked on at the last minute (maybe on Randall's insistance) as she's only nominally attached to the plot. She gets to warble a hopelessly off key dubbed song (I can't believe that her actual singing voice would be worse then this) and is decapitated (complete with a Rosalba prosthetic head) at the films climax.

Rosalba by way of Carlo Rambaldi 

    Director Ferdinando Merighi (who only directed two other features) tries to liven thinks up a bit with some polarized photography and by having the climax of each murder repeated in quick succession with different colored filters (which gets old pretty fast). Future low budget zombie/horror/cannibal mastero Bruno Mattei handled the editing and Carlo Rambaldi did the special effects. Rambaldi did the dragons and assorted monsters for tons of Italian peplums and later designed E.T. and worked on ALIEN, KING KONG LIVES and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND along with bunches and bunches of other stuff.
  Although predictable, as anyone who's watched their fair share of Euro exploitation won't have any trouble picking out the protagonist from the cast list, the movie doesn't skimp on the blood or nudity (although both seem almost perfunctory the way their shot) and perhaps a more seasoned director would have cranked this up a few notches and turned it into a classic worthy of its cast.
    It's been way too long since a we've had a Rosalba Neri Friday around here - Happy 75th Birthday to the queen of Italian cinema !

What the hell is that on Howard Vernon's desk ??



  1. Happy Birthday Rosalba Neri!

    What a wonderfully bizarre movie! I have to be honest though, they could have saved Carlo Rambaldi the trouble and just stuck Rosalba's head through the table - that prosthetic head is a little sketchy (as 95% of them are). Is this one available on any legitimate releases?

    1. Hi Craig

      It is a bizarre one !. To be fair the prosthetic heads are shown quickly as I did a frame capture on the quick scene where its visible (but their still on the weak side). It was put out on DVD from Mondo Macabro, which is on what this write-up is based. Thanks and I'm sure Rosalba would say thanks for your Birthday shout out.