These days, Italian film director Sergio Martino is best remembered for his stylish '70s gialli and violent crime thrillers; while the star of several of his early, most celebrated forays into the seedy world of the giallo, Edwige Fenech, has, herself, become a screen goddess in the eyes of fans of cult euro-cinema — largely on the back of a handful of memorable appearances in some of the most explicit examples of this Italian mystery form. Many of these films — the Ernesto Gastaldi-scripted Martino ones being the best examples — usually saw this ravishing raven-haired beauty thrown into a world of morbid, drug-induced delirium in which she was almost continuously at peril from murderous black gloved assassins or nattily-dressed lotharios with evil in their hearts, kept cleverly concealed behind gaudy coloured ties and horrendous '70s fashions. Fenech developed a screen persona that balanced the image of an attractive, stylish independent Italian woman with that of the perpetually terrified, imperiled victim of typical slasher fare. But, despite now being lionised for these film alone by euro-cult fans, both Sergio Martino and Edwige Fenech only made a very small number of movies in this genre: both went on to make a highly successful (in Italy) series of sex comedies in which Fenech exudes a very different persona from her delicate gialli heroine characterisations.
Although only possible because of the relaxation of censorship rules in the Italian cinema of the '70s, the Italian sex comedy is a curiously quaint beast, and "Giovannona Long-Thigh" is a typically quaint example of the genre. Directed by Sergio Martino, produced by his elder brother Luciano, and featuring Fenech in the lead role, this 1973 film is packed full of glamour (dodgy Seventies glamour, mind!), broad, bawdy humour and ripe farce; but, oddly enough, very little outright sex! Fenech has only a few scenes of peek-a-boo nudity during the whole film, and is usually featured in a series of outrageous fashions, sexy Basques, stockings & suspenders and gaudy night-gowns -- but she was shown in far more explicit sexual situations in her gialli than she ever is here! What is evident though, is the difference in Fenech's screen image: she is radiant and glamorous and in control, while the male characters run around, constantly led by their tail-ends into all sorts of absurd situations. Despite being irredeemably sexist and full of the most horrendous sexual stereotypes of the period, including an excruciating caricature of a homosexual character, it is all comparatively innocent in contrast to the British sex comedies of the same period, which had far more full-frontal nudity than this film. The main difference is the satirical element which shows itself in both the scenario and in the wordplay, jokes & punning (which doesn't always come across in translation despite the best efforts of the English subtitle writers on the DVD). The Catholic Church, predictably, comes in for a fair bit of ribbing as does contemporary business culture — both of which are portrayed as corrupt and little better than the mafia (and often intimately connected to that institution anyway!) — but all in a casual, light-hearted way which could be perceived as being a great deal more subversive than a more serious political drama might be able to manage. For, despite its blatant silliness and constant innuendo, the whole plot pivots on corruption being treated as a given fact of life in Italian culture, hardly worth even questioning!
When industrial effluent from the Straccolone Cheese Company is discovered to be polluting a local river, an apparently incorruptible judge is charged with prosecuting the ensuing investigation. The boss of the company tries to gather the members of parliament he has "in his pocket" in order to sway the result, but, unfortunately, they're all in hospital suffering from hepatitis as a result of consuming all the free cheese samples they've been sent! Downtrodden company dogsbody Pippo Franco is charged with the task of coming up with a solution, and the wiry for-runner to Mr. Bean — as close to a heroic geek as Italian cinema is likely to get — decides that the only option is to find a chink in the Judge's armour. This is soon discovered to be a taste for women, usually the wives of a great many important industrialists and politicians. Franco sets out to find a real stunner to wow the judge, so that they can then blackmail him into coming up with the right result in the investigation! This woman turns out to be an exotic streetwalker called Coco (Edwige Fenech) who looks absolutely ravishing but has a mouth like a sewer. Franco and his hapless boss plot to contrive a meeting between Coco and the Judge, under the pretence that she is the boss's wife. A catalogue of farcical situations involving mistaken identifies, class differences, and various lustful rendezvous ensue.
The film seems to spend an eternity setting up the corruption angle and the personal hypocrisies of the industrialist protagonists, before ignoring it all completely once Fenech's character finally appears, descending instead into a fog of standard farce scenarios that offer little in the way of inspiration to the modern viewer. The humour is only likely to appeal to those whose tastes run to the extremely broad school of comedy although — still — much of it seems to have dated or doesn't survive translation. Fenech fans will enjoy her likeable character, but don't expect lots of nudity — there is virtually none, from her or anybody else!
No Shame offer a fairly good, though quite soft, transfer that sports only the occasional blemish. The film is presented in its original anamorphic 2.35:1 aspect ratio with a rather murky-sounding Italian soundtrack and well translated English subtitles. The film was never released in the U.S. so there is no English soundtrack. No Shame have struggled to come up with any worthwhile extras so they've padded things out somewhat with a host of contrived features, the only one of which that is at all worth mentioning being a rare 8 minute interview with Edwige Fenech herself, who looks more beautiful than ever! Now that all of his gialli are available on DVD, only the most committed fans of Sergio Martino (or, indeed, Fenech) need bother adding this latest disc in No Shame's Sergio Martino Collection, to their libraries.