3 July 2017





These two marvellous Italian films are out on special release now (separately, not together!) from CULT FILMS in conjunction with the nice people at AIM PUBLICITY, which is great news for me because I get to rhapsodise about 'em both to you guys for a bit.

We'll start with BOCCACCIO '70, an anthology film containing four separate mini-films, each of which have been filmed by different iconic Italian directors: De Sica, Visconti, Fellini and Monicelli. They each claim to deal with a different aspect of love and morality in modern times, like a sort of modern-day Boccaccio, hence the title.

The first vignette, THE TEMPTATION OF DR. ANTONIO, is just brilliant. Mr. Mazzuolo is a prim, fussy, officious little middle-aged man who has his work cut out for him trying to hold back the tide of filth, obscenity and perversion he sees around him every day. Mucky magazines and the loosening morals of the younger generation are a case in point.

The last straw for prissy little Mr. Mazzuolo comes when a giant billboard is 'erected' (snigger!) outside his home, a billboard urging kids and people generally to 'drink more milk.' All very well, you might think, except for one thing. One itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny little thing...

Swedish actress Anita Ekberg is emblazoned right across this very billboard, infinitely resplendent in a tight black cocktail dress that positively shimmers with sequins. Her legs, polished tootsies and magnificent bosoms are all on show, much to the horror of Mazzuolo who does everything in his power to have the offending billboard removed from the public eye.

He nearly goes mad in his attempts to save the morality of the neighbourhood from this big-boobed and statuesque billboard floozy. One dark night, he feels that he's actually gone cuckoo for real as the fabulous Ms. Ekberg, giant bosoms and lightly lyrical lilting laugh and all, steps out of her cardboard prison and into Mazzuolo's world for real.

Will this giant woman kill us all in a Godzilla-esque rampage or does she just want to have a little fun with the uptight little man who wants her removed from the public consciousness? The 'rampage' is hilariously funny and could get quite interesting when the prim and proper Mazzuolo drops his tightly-furled umbrella (metaphorical or WHAT???) between the movie idol's enormous breasts...

IL LAVORO, or THE JOB, sees the stunningly beautiful Romy Schneider playing a rich young Countess whose hubby married her for her money and now is addicted to having sex with high-priced call-girls. I find this segment desperately sad rather than funny. I kept waiting for the Countess, Pupe is her name, to grow a pair and chuck the cheater out on his ass but director Visconti seemingly had other ideas. Naughty Luchino Visconti, haha.

This bit is interesting from the point of view of how the lawyers, presumably even more high-priced than the call-girls, put their heads together to put a good spin on things when one half of a high-profile couple gets caught with their trousers round their ankles. Yep, it's always the guys. Sigh. You can well imagine that stuff still happening today in celebrity circles. Naming no names, of course, heh-heh-heh. The glamour and luxury in this one is to die for, by the way.

LA RIFFA, or THE RAFFLE, is another vignette I found to be sad and moving rather than funny. Still brilliant, though. If you haven't seen Sophia Loren bending over in high heels and a tight red skirt, I don't honestly know if you can say you've lived, I really don't...!

Bombshell Sophia Loren plays Zoe, a feisty, plucky carnival worker who operates the shooting-range and lives in a shared caravan on-site with two friends. In an effort to solve their terrible money problems, poor Zoe offers herself as the prize for a seedy local lottery.

Whoever wins gets to sleep with her, just once. It's so sad. She's so beautiful, she could do anything she wants with her life. And if you could just see the fat old losers who are lining up to buy tickets! It's enough to make a goat weep, I swear to Jesus.

What's really frustrating is that the guy she really likes gives her a hiding when he realises what she's up to and she doesn't even seem to mind that much. I don't see this fella offering to pay her bills and debts for her so she doesn't have to resort to prostitution, though. Some guys just make me wonder, they really seriously do.

RENZO AND LUCIANA is the story of a young married couple who have to pretend they're not married because the wife's work contract forbids it. Isn't that unbelievable? She has to be single and not pregnant to work in the biscuit factory's precious typing pool. It boggles the mind to think how far we've come since those archaic times.

The couple also have other problems, in that they're dirt-poor and live with Luciana's family in a tiny box of a flat next to a club whose flashing neon light drives them demented day and night. They get their own place through means that we, the viewers, are supposed to admire but, when you see the way they have to live to keep the place, it hardly seems worth it at all.

This is such a fabulously-directed anthology film made by four of Italy's finest-ever directors, but I'd have to disagree with the way that the film is billed as a story of female empowerment. With the exception of the glorious Anita Ekberg in the first segment, not a single one of the women in the film is having any fun or experiencing any freedom to speak of.

Strange as it may seem, it looks as if the way that four old geezers from the '60s, famous film directors or not, viewed the notion of female empowerment back then may differ ever so slightly to the way we see it today. Yeah, I know. Who'd-a thunk it?

The film is still an unforgettable slice of wonderful Italian film-making, though, and it's available to buy from CULT FILMS, in conjunction with AIM PUBLICITY, right now. What are you waiting for, you naughty people, a personal invitation from the lovely sparkly Anita Ekberg...?

Also available currently from CULT FILMS is the Vittorio De Sica film, UMBERTO D. This one made me cry so much at the end, and in the middle a bit as well. It's meant to be legendary film-maker Ingmar Bergman's favourite ever film, and it's also supposed to be Vittorio De Sica's personal favourite of his own films.

It's even hailed by some people as one of the greatest films ever made, so I was surprised that I'd never heard of it. Once I watched it, however, I realised immediately that UMBERTO D. deserves all the accolades and praise and verbal bouquets that have been heaped upon it so lavishly.

It's the story of the titular Umberto D. Ferrari, a retired government worker/civil servant living in post-war Rome in near-poverty. What am I saying, near-poverty? He's so poor he's being evicted from his one room by his landlady for non-payment of rent.

His only friends in the world are his beloved doggie Flike and the pregnant teenage housemaid of his landlady's, who'll be getting her marching orders as well as soon as that bleached-blonde, heartless hussy of a landlady finds out that she's knocked up.

Umberto's pitiful struggles to keep a roof, any roof, over his and Flike's heads is positively tear-jerking. The scenes at the end are so heartbreaking that I promise you, you won't be able to watch 'em without bawling your peepers out.

Ditto the scene at the dog-pound and also the one where Flike is begging on the public street, as good as gold, with his master's cap in his hand. It's just too, too sad. I love a good cry, probably even more than a good laugh, so I was absolutely in my element watching this one.

The performances are all amazing, especially considering that most of the actors were non-professional, including Carlo Battisti in the lead role. He's so wonderfully kind and dignified
and gentle and humane in the role. I would have given him an Oscar for his performance, no question.

If ever a film showed us clearly what it's like to be old, poor and on the scrap-heap of life, after maybe twenty, thirty, even forty years of loyal service to your employer, this is that film. We'll all be old some day, yes, even me, as hard as that is to believe. I know, I'm so ridiculously young-looking and fresh-faced, haha. But seriously, I wouldn't want to be forced to live without warmth, shelter and any vestiges of human dignity in my twilight years. Poor, poor Umberto.

There's a lot of love in the movie too, though, the kind of love that would warm the cockles of your heart and make you glad to be a part of the human race. Thank you, Vittorio De Sica, for UMBERTO D. It's one helluva heartstring-tugging, roller-coaster ride for the emotions and it's my new favourite film. Make sure you catch this one. It's unmissable.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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