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Lady of the Night

Review by: 
La Signora della notte
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Piero Schivazappa
Serena Grandi
Fabio Sartor
Bottom Line: 

 For euro cult fans, Argent Films is one of the UK's hottest new DVD companies -- specialising in the release of cult Italian films, from the vaults of the Carlo Ponti/Surf libraries, on to DVD. After various Spaghetti Western favourites like "Django" and such acclaimed classics as "The Battle of Algiers", come two examples of cheesy 80's Italian erotica, uncut and reedited to include footage never seen before in the UK. Both are produced by Tinto Brass collaborator Giovanni Bertolucci and, much like the work of Brass, they feature top-notch production values and more emphasis on story and character development than is usually the case for most soft-core material. The first of these releases features "Italy's sexiest woman" and star of Tinto Brass' "Miranda" & Lamberto Bava's "Delirium", the curvaceous Serena Grandi!
Anyone who is at all familiar with cult Italian cinema from the Seventies or Eighties, whether it be in the giallo, crime-flick or Spaghetti Western genres, will be aware of the peculiarly unflattering sexual politics they tend to exhibit! According to Italy's film makers and script writers, all Italian men are brutal sexist pigs who would think nothing of raping and beating any woman in a short skirt; while Italian women are generally portrayed as untrustworthy slappers who would probably enjoy it anyway! Director Piero Schivazappa's "Lady of the Night" deviates little from this formulation -- indeed, under the guise of exploring the dark and unusual sexual fantasies of its subject, the film manages to push political incorrectness to almost surreal heights of ridiculousness! When combined with the trappings that once denoted sophistication in the mid-eighties -- but now look naff beyond belief -- and, of course, a dodgy English dub full of voices any fan of euro cult cinema will instinctively recognise, we end up with a rather campy concoction that is often unintentionally hilarious. The film does seem to strike an awkward tone somewhere between mawkish melodrama and light-hearted comedy (with, obviously, lots of nakedness and weird & violent sex scenes thrown in every fifteen minutes as well) and this sense of awkwardness is not helped by the movie's saccharine saxophone score and occasional bursts of clod-hoping synth-disco music which will undercut its pretensions toward thought-provoking drama for a modern viewing audience. It's just strange and interesting enough to give fans of euro horror and gialli at least some entertainment though -- even if it does betray a very unhealthy period concern with leg-warmers and knitted sweaters!
Simona (Serena Grandi) is an aerobics exercise instructor married to Marco (Fabio Sartora), a dependable but staid aeronautics engineer. Simona's job affords us lots of suggestive shots of hot Italian women in sweaty leotards engaging in exercises that involve lots of jiggling spandex-clad breasts and gyrating backsides for the camera to linger on as bad synth-rock drones on in the background. While conducting an outdoor session, Simona wanders off during a break and witnesses a man having an argument with his lover which results in him smacking her in the face a couple of times (with a dodgy sound effect that sounds like a basketball being slammed against concrete!); naturally, the woman reacts to this rather extreme behaviour by throwing herself into his arms and snogging him passionately! Simona, meanwhile, looks on in ecstasy after having found herself being turned on by the unsavoury spectacle! Yep, it's the old "treat 'em mean to keep 'em keen" philosophy in action! Simona's husband is a decent enough sort but he can't fulfil his wife's secret fantasies; romantic dinners and loving caresses don't do it for her ... being taken roughly from behind by a violent slobbering loon clearly does! Luckily for Simona, Italy soon reveals itself to be absolutely jam-packed with gruff, macho, no-nonsense sex maniacs lurking around every corner! Innocent past times such as walking the dog soon turn into delirious adventures in the art of rough sex! While her unsuspecting husband is watching boxing on tv or enjoying some model car racing, his lustful wife is off enjoying herself in such acts as being violently raped by the boyfriend of her next-door neighbour outside her own front door, or performing fellatio at gunpoint in a public lavatory (though not before enjoying a spot of masturbation from the barrel of the rifle of a bearded clay pigeon shooter). Pretty soon it seems that everywhere she goes, there is always a nutter on hand to fulfil Simona's dubious violent fantasies! But, things go pear-shaped when a commercial director becomes obsessed with the ravenous exercise instructor and Marco discovers him buggering his wife on a beach! The couple split up and Marco takes up with the pretty next-door neighbour while Simona becomes involved with a creepy gynaecologist who lives with his mother. Can the couple ever resolve their differences and get back together again?
Er ... who cares? The first half of the movie is a typically bad-taste exercise in camp, euro-excess that is quite entertaining in its lewd, rather dark and weird subject matter. Serena Grandi may never have been the best actress of all time but her performance is just about good enough to give the film an air of legitimacy as a proper drama while providing viewers with a proper eyeful of full-frontal goodness every few minutes or so! The sex scenes are mostly rather tastefully done although there is a scene of cunnilingus that goes slightly further than the kind of thing you'd see in an average Hollywood sex thriller! The second half of the film loses the plot though, and becomes bogged down with Simona and Marco's reconciliation. All the dark, edgy, politically incorrect shenanigans go out the window and we're expected to care about the romantic life of a rather bland couple in bad eighties fashions! The film does pick itself up a little in order to end on a rather bizarre note though: (SKIP THESE LINES IF YOU WANT TO AVOID A BIG SPOILER) Marco and Simona get back together when she discovers that a masked Marco was actually one of her attackers and has made her pregnant! How romantic!?
Argent Films give the movie a so-so anamorphic transfer that is plagued with artifacts and has slightly faded colours. The mono audio track (which is an English dub) is adequate enough, although it would have been nice to have the Italian track and English subtitles as well. The only extra is a trailer for the other Bertolucci produced movie from Argent Films, "Dirty Games II".

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