Antigonus, archon of Corinth, wants to build a magnificent temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, for which the people are oppressed by new and very high taxes. The sculptor Demetrius, ... See full summary »
The opening credits to this production proudly proclaim the first appearance of blond bombshell Elke Sommer and although her IMDb page lists 6 more film and TV appearances in 1959, most of them have no release date listed, and besides, the DVD cover of this L'amico del Giaguaro actually states it as originating in 1958. Unfortunately, 18 year old Elke only has a small part in the film as one of the people being duped by a member of a gang of would be criminals.
Walter Chiari stars as Augusto, who grew up in an orphanage but finally managed to escape on realizing he was the only grownup amongst a bunch of boys. After a disastrous turn as a barber, he decides that the easiest way to get rich is to start a gang and rob from the more fortunate. So he gets together a couple of guys and one gall who brings along her uncle the ventriloquist and together they instigate a whole bunch of wild schemes - most of which backfire, of course.
Augusto picks the pocket of an important local politician and buys himself some new clothes, then tries to return the remaining contents of the wallet to him in exchange for a reward. But of course the rich don't get wealthy by being stupid and the victim turns the tables by demanding his money back - with rent in three days. After this the entire gang has to come up with one crazy scheme after the other to raise the cash.
One of these schemes involves Elke Sommer as naive tourist Grete, who gets a tour around Rome from the ugliest gang member, Pepe, who is trying to get his hands on her expensive camera. Another wild idea involves stealing a dog and then trying to sell it to someone else by claiming it can speak (whith a little help from the ventriloquist). The gang even sets fire to a flat at one point to get one person to leave the house, but none of their plans have the desired effect and when the three days are up, the rich man demands a show of force from Augusto, who suddenly proves himself to be too nervous to pick pockets.
When all is set and done the entire film never comes together to make a whole lot of sense. The thieves are obviously meant to be lovable but aren't, their tricks are either too predictable or unbelievable to amount to anything and things get resolved far too neatly for all concerned by the end. Also I never quite got the significance of the 'Friend of the Jaguar' that gives the film it's title.
To add some more confusion to the title, according to Wikipedia, there was a Television spin of also called "L'amico del Giaguaro" broadcast on RAI Televisione between 1961 and 1964. The show also featured a ventriloquist character but specialized in spoofing a different film in each show.
6 out of 10 with one more for Elke = 7
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