Like MIDNIGHT COWBOY, sometimes a fresh eye on NYC helps
Luigi Scattini ended his career with this surprisingly incisive take on that hoary old story: the bushy-tailed newcomer trying to make it big in the Big Apple. Covering similar territory to John Schlesinger's trail-blazing MIDNIGHT COWBOY, he crafted one of his better films.
Picture would have reached a wider audience had it been blessed with major studio production values and a higher-profile cast, but it does make up for that in grittiness and a realism provided by tapping recognizable Gotham porn talent of the day for key acting assignments.
Closely resembling the young Michele Placido (who unfortunately wasn't cast), Gerardo Amato as Rocco is convincing in the central Joe Dalessadro role. He's been kicking around New York for a year, hoping to make it in movies, with a completed screenplay he penned just waiting to be bought.
To make ends meet he works as a dog-walker (getting sack time with an attractive and enthusiastic MILF client) and as a male stripper in a ratty club. His break seems to come when he's hired to act in a film, but it turns out to be XXX sludge directed by Carter Stevens, co-starring Susan McBain and Wade Nichols. The behind-the-scenes action, including the necessity for a fluffer between takes, is well developed and the action is strictly shot softcore.
McBain becomes his girl friend, and it is pleasant to see her in an acting role, this being her only non-Adult movie. We also see him with folks and family from the old country. Scattini plays up the Italo-American angle, with Rocco hoping to become the next Stallone (ROCKY is plugged endlessly) or Pacino, as success stories of Scorsese and others are name dropped throughout. Much of this "wannabe" aspect of the movie I took to be a Freudian Slip on the part of director Scattini, whose closest step towards the big time was being funded by 20th Century Fox to direct an unsuccessful Canadian co-production featuring Pam Grier which never was released in America.
Controversial scene, which is crucial to the plot, has Rocco seduced by his upstairs neighbor, a cute young girl who turns out to be only 15 (and definitely looks underage). She has a topless shot, and this would be considered afoul of bans on kiddie porn by current standards. In a rather unconvincing twist, her daddy and corrupt cop Giacomo Rossi-Stuart team up to blackmail Rocco, demanding $2,000 or dad will press charges. (Rossi-Stuart also served as Scattin's assistant director).
When his relatives turn their back on his plight, McBain comes up with the money to get Rocco off the hook, but Rossi-Stuart beats him up anyway in a gratuitous scene. Covering all bases, Scattini has Rocco forced to make another porn film, and this time star Roger Caine chokes a girl to death, making it an accidental snuff movie (which was a hot topic at the time).
The director Barry realizes he has a hot commodity on his hands, and gets Rocco to join the cover-up of the murder by promising to make a film from his script. "Life Goes On" is the out-ballad sung-over as we hear Rocco's typewriter clacking as he writes another screenplay and imagines himself shooting Stuart and the girl's daddy.
The porn actors do a fine job playing roles close to the bone, and R. Bolla shows up as a prospective agent for Rocco who puts homosexual moves on him in a porn theater lavatory.
The film was obviously aimed at a wider, American audience, with numerous ballads sung in English, but it was never released in the U.S. I'm surprised it didn't get the usual '70s treatment of having hardcore segments inserted in post-production, which would have been relatively easy to do given the subject matter and presence of many prolific XXX performers to match.
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