20 May 2018



'I've been looking for a girl every Saturday night of my life.'
Marty Piletti.

'You here stag or you here with a girl...?'
Jerk at dance-hall to Marty.

'You don't like her, my mother don't like her, she's a dog and I'm a fat, ugly man! Well, all I know is I had a good time last night! I'm gonna have a good time tonight! If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees and I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me! If we make a party on New Year's, I got a date for that party. You don't like her? That's too bad!'

Aw, this is just the sweetest film! It's sweeter than a cake made of pie, as Ned Flanders from THE SIMPSONS might say. Except for the glaring sexism in it which I'm guessing was typical of the time, it's pretty much a perfect little film, with a very easy-to-grasp moral message. Ah yeah, you gotta have a moral message, lol. It ain't a proper film if you don't got one-a those...!

Okay, so the delightfully cuddly Ernest Borgnine (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE SIMPSONS, THE WILD BUNCH, AIRWOLF) plays Marty Piletti, a single thirty-four-year old Italian-American Catholic butcher who lives at home-a with-a his-a Mamma. Sorry for the mild racism there, only this is-a how they talk in-a this-a movie...!

Anyway, I've pretty much given you a thumbnail sketch of Marty there, except to say that he's a really lovely guy, honest, hard-working, good to his old Ma and loyal to his friends. But deep down, Marty's desperately lonely because he's still single at thirty-four, while all his younger siblings are married by now with kids and crippling bank loans.

Marty is standing in his own way because he truly doesn't know his own worth. He's a hard-working butcher with a steady job and the possibility of buying out his boss's shop in the near future. He goes to Mass every Sunday at ten and tries to live his life right. But Marty thinks he's ugly with nothing to offer a woman, while I can tell you categorically that he makes all the other guys in this film look like weedy little losers.

Speaking of which, his friends really don't help. Marty hangs around with a bunch of other unmarried men, including his best mate Ange, who all act like teenage boys, hanging around street corners in packs, bored out of their skulls trying to decide what to do with themselves. They usually end up boozing and trying to pick up dames, or heading downtown to someplace called '72nd Street' where I'm pretty sure they pick up prostitutes.

These guys are absolutely horrible about women. It's all about looks and a willingness to 'put out' for these guys. If a woman doesn't possess an obvious physical attractiveness (tons of makeup and a tight sweater with sticky-out boobs), then, to these men, she's a 'dog,' and unworthy of their attentions. When a woman 'puts out,' she's a slut, and when she doesn't she's 'frigid' or a 'dyke,' you know the kind of men I mean. Yeah, that's right, most of 'em, lol.

Everyone's pressuring Marty to 'find a nice girl and settle down,' everyone from his Ma to his nosy female customers at the butchers'. One particular Saturday night, he's tired of getting the brush-off from women and is planning a quiet night in with a few beers and the Hit Parade, which sounds like heaven to me, haha. A perfectly acceptable way to spend a Saturday night, in my humble opinion.

But his Cousin Thomas has advised Marty's Ma that a particular dance-hall is 'loaded with tomatoes' and that Marty should go there to bag a dame. Marty gives in to the pressure from his mother and goes to this dance-hall. And he meets a 'dame.' Only she's not a 'dame' and she
definitely won't be putting out any time soon.

Clara is a shy twenty-nine-year old single schoolteacher, who still lives quietly at home with her parents. She's as lonely and heartsick as Marty is, and just as convinced that she's a 'dog.' Marty tells her that she might be a 'dog' (yes, I have a huge problem with this!) but that she's also a really nice person and a really good listener for letting him talk unabated about himself...

So, it looks like Marty and Clara, who only meet because Clara has been unceremoniously dumped by her date for someone 'prettier,' are falling for each other. But Marty is urged by his friends to drop her because Clara is (yeah yeah, you guessed it!) a 'dog,' and Marty's Mamma doesn't like her because she's not a 'nice Italian girl' and she's probably older than she's letting on to boot.

It would actually really upset you to see how horrible people in the film are about Clara to Marty's face. Now it's up to Marty to decide whether to drop Clara due to peer- and maternal- pressure, or whether to stand up and be a real man and welcome Clara into his life. And not just as 'no dame,' either, but as a woman, a possible life-partner and the mother of any children they might have. Has Marty got the balls to make that all-important call...?

There are a couple of extremely interesting sub-plots going on here as well. Marty's Cousin Thomas and his beautiful blonde wife Virginia have a small baby and Virginia, in particular, is having a hard time coping with having Thomas's Italian mother Caterina, Marty's Auntie, living with them.

Thomas is unreasonably angry with Virginia for not 'trying harder with his mother,' even though he's probably out of the house working most of the time and doesn't have to put up with her himself. Such a typical male reaction to the mother-in-law question.

When Marty's Mum invites Caterina, her sister, to live with herself and Marty, Caterina fills Marty's Mum's head with a load of doom-and-gloom about how, when you reach a certain age, you're tossed out with the garbage because you're no use to anyone anymore. And the shocking thing is that Caterina is only fifty-six! Fifty-six isn't old. The way she's behaving and dressing, you'd swear she was twenty years older at least.

Marty's Ma is a little alarmed as well by Clara's strongly-held views that mothers-in-law should not live with young married couples because it cramps their style big-time and stops them from having any privacy together.

Now Marty's even talking about selling the old family home, the home where Marty's Mum brought up six kids with her now-deceased husband, because it's old and it's 'falling apart.' Things are certainly going to be interesting around the Piletti homestead if Marty decides to marry this Clara person...

MARTY is out now in a Dual Format Edition from EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT. Believe it or not, it won a whopping four Oscars back in the day- for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor and Best Writing/Screenplay- and it was the first ever recipient of the Palme d'Or at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival as well. (Remember when Mr. Bean went to Cannes...?)

As a marvellous bonus feature here is the original teleplay on which the film was based. First broadcast on NBC in 1953, it featured Rod Steiger (AL CAPONE), Nancy Marchand (Granny Livia in THE SOPRANOS) and the gorgeous Betsy Palmer (Pamela Voorhees in FRIDAY THE 13TH), each of whom is featured here also in little archival interviews.

The whole package is a proper little cinematic gem. MARTY also, incidentally, according to EMPIRE, 'spawned Hollywood's interest in smaller scale, prosaic dramas, few of which failed to match its resonance.' So obviously it was a trailblazer of a film as well. Run out and grab it, fast. Don't worry, I ain't going nowheres. I'll still be here when you get back.


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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