18 November, 2007


Lucio Fulci (1927-1996) baits his hook with human meat in NIGHTMARE CONCERT (CAT IN THE BRAIN), his 1990 post modern satire of himself and his horror films (cf Wes Craven's SCREAM).
After working as a screenwriter/assistant director for his master, Steno, he began directing comedies with the legendary Toto and the popular comedy team Franco and Ciccio before moving onto the Spaghetti western genre (the excellent MASSACRE TIME-1966) and making his first giallo (UNA SULL' ALTRA-1969).
Made after the delirious, psychedelic-fueled UNA LUCERTOLA CON LA PELLE DI DONNA (1971) he returned to comedy with All'onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze... e purché la nazione non lo sappia), a 1972 bawdy satire on contemporary Roman politics, sexual hypocrisy, the Vatican and the Italian police state, a huge agenda fulfilled with style, sophistication, artistic daring and targeted jibes at the mass media. It was finally released in the US in 1975 as THE SENATOR LIKES WOMEN [!]. Now we have it on a superior, revealing R1 DVD presentation as THE EROTICIST.

Senator Puppis (Lando Buzzanca) finds himself neck and neck with an older, conservative politician in a high stakes Italian Presidential race. A hard working Liberal with a progressive agenda Puppis may just pull off an upset when a watchful television technician finds evidence that the Senator has a secret: a shocking predilection for "feeling out the South." No, it's not a political strategy, but a sexual compulsion wherein the Senator finds himself unable to resist reaching and touching women's backsides. Any and all women become targets of his addiction: female politicians, nuns, the wives of colleagues, even the occasional Scotsman in a traditional skirt!
THE EROTICIST is that rare thing, an intelligent sex comedy that provokes deep, liberating laughter while making one think. It has a lot in common with the work of the great Spanish Surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel, especially THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, which take a similar, corrosive attitude toward the public and private absurdities of Church, State, and human nature. One has to only examine the opening sequence, an in-depth televised political discussion is broadcast through a bank of public televisions which no one is watching, the crowd is gathered in front of the local soccer telecast instead. This is matched by the final scene in which President Puppis' dramatic appeal for National Unity is preempted by a popular TV game show. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Senator Puppis is in the midst of self destructing as a powerful Cardinal (the always overblown Lionel Stander), his personal confessor (a sinister minister amusingly played by Renzo Palmer), a randy nun (a pre-scandal Laura Antonelli) heated up by the Senator's abusive night at her convent, along with various advisers, police officials, military intelligence, political rivals struggle to hasten/exploit his demise. It's all monitored by the always scandal-hungry Italian news media, depicted as a cutthroat horde. Look out for Anita Strindberg (the voracious Julia from A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN) as an ambassador's wife who Puppis drags into the bushes during a public event. This is all very politically incorrect and that's what makes it tick so inexorably.
Buzzanca was an inspired casting choice. He wisely underplays Puppis' sexual addiction to the point where it becomes a kind of game to notice it. He uses his eyes and small gestures to indicate the Senator's downward spiral. Wearing a combed back wig, spectacles and conservative business suits he's a subterranean freak in the midst of the media madness which was Italian politics then and international politics now. The fact that the film has a special relevance to the affairs of Bill Clinton and the US Congress of the last few years attests to its prescience and durability.
Buzzanca's clever make-up and a Felliniesque fantasy episode [cf JULIET OF THE SPIRITS] involving a giant tree entwining nuns and the fondling of forbidden fruit in a cloudy empyrean are courtesy of the great Giannettto De Rossi, the future creator of the innards orgies of Fulci's ZOMBIE and THE BEYOND. De Rossi, Buzzanca and DP Sergio D'Offizi (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST), whose zesty, candied colored compositions give the film a radically different look than Fulci's more well known gialli and horrors, are interviewed in a 43m documentary, A HISTORY OF CENSORSHIP, an extra on the new Severin DVD. The luminous 1.85:1/16:9 transfer of primo vault elements couldn't be better and showcase the careful craftsmanship of all involved. Presented in Dolby Digital Mono Italian with Optional English subtitles, the original soundtrack is highlighted by Fred Bongusto's ironic, popular music score, which enhances the layered satire.
One of Lucio Fulci's best films, THE EROTICIST is the notorious director's barbed commentary on and deconstruction of the hugely successful Italian sex farces of that era, a revelation for those unfamiliar with his work in comedy, which, as everyone here knows, is a much harder genre to crack than straight drama or horror.
Severin's excellent DVD is highly recommended for regulars, newcomers, and collectors of Lucio Fulci's films.
(c)Robert Monell, 2007


Douglas A. Waltz said...

I really liked this flick. Very funny stuff. A shame that Fulci didn't make more films like this.

Robert Monell said...

I agree, Doug. I was surprised at how intelligently crafted it was. I'd like to see some of his earlier 60s comedies now.

Douglas Alan Waltz said...

Maybe if this one makes some coin for Severin they might release some of them. Have to wait and see. I still have a list of Franco flicks that I would like to see released first.

Robert Monell said...

Doug, please send your list of desired JF films to Severin. They would be interested in seeing some interest. They do terrific releases of rare films and I hope people support them.

Douglas A. Waltz said...

Thanks, Robert. I'll start my list over the holidays. Have a great Turkey Day

Robert Monell said...

And a happy one to you, Doug, and all the blog readers.

I think DVD companies need to know what customers want and look forward to rather than guess at it.