In my quest to watch every film directed by Italian auteur Salvatore Samperi, I've discovered that low comedy is the chink in his armor. BEATI I RICCHI (Beauty and Riches, but never given an English title) is his movie directly preceding the hit MALIZIA, and is a dud.
It relies way too heavily on the unfunny comedy antics of Lino Toffolo and Paolo Villaggio, who had previously teamed up (but in a supporting capacity) in Mario Monicelli's BRANCALEONE AT THE CRUSADES. Villaggio went on to become a comedy superstar (locally), best known in his endless series of FANTOZZI movies.
Toffolo is another matter. Looking almost like a guy with Down Syndrome, this scruffy shrimp makes unfunny jerks like Pauly Shore look talented. His fondness for groping females is certainly up Samperi's alley, but I found his foolishness irritating and a stumbling block to watching (let alone being engaged with) this film. Samperi thought otherwise, hiring him again & again over the years.
With Lino as the fool and Paolo cast as a traffic cop, story revolves around them finding a bag filled with money, and the supposedly ironic results as they mingle with high society types, everyone after the swag.
The "Beauty" of the title is Sylva Koscina, truly elegant in her role as a countess. Her fans will not be surprised to see her remain in character and manage to rise above the gutter-level humor surrounding her, especially notable in a love-it-or-hate-it bare breasted scene of Lino nuzzling her, and greedily eying her right nipple, a scene which Samperi "milks" (sorry for the pun, don't take it literally) for all its worth. I enjoyed watching it despite Lino's obnoxious presence.
Samperi's budding career as preemo soft sex maestro is fleshed out by a sexy turn by Olga Bisera plus a winsome performance by lovely Neda Arneric as Lino's love interest (poor Neda).
A ton of talent went into this fluff, with the all-time great Franco Arcalli editing, fellow director Aldo Lado collaborating on the screenplay and future director Stefano Rolla (of one of my least favorite Italian films, the insipid BUGIE BIANCHI) working as assistant director. For a dumb comedy, Claudio Cirillo's cinematography is way prettier than the call of duty (featuring wonderful landscape backdrops to the foreground nonsense) requires.
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