Edwige Fenech and Lino Banfi stars in this Italian sex-comedy from Sergio Martino. Mariana (Fenech) and Domenico (Banfi) are on the run from her jealous boyfriend who just happens to be an over-jealous professional football player.
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Enrico Maria Salerno
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From the little there is available to read about this film, I can't believe how vehemently it's condemned (obviously by people unfamiliar with star Paolo Villaggio's unique brand of comedy); he's been one of Italy's biggest comedians since the mid-1970s, particularly his seminal 9-film series revolving around hapless everyman Ugo Fantozzi made between 1975 and 1999. By the way, I saw the actor (who occasionally dabbled in writing and directing) in 2004 at the Excelsior Hotel in Venice - while I was attending the Film Festival there - as he mingled with the other guests on the terrace, still in his pyjamas!
Anyway, it's no surprise that the film bears little resemblance to the plot of Stevenson's original novella, and was, in fact, extremely topical in its satirical treatment of various social issues (industrialization leading to dehumanization and aggressive marketing competitiveness yielding nothing less than chemical warfare) close to the troubled Italian situation of the time - despite being set (and shot) in London! Still, the Italian title - which translates to DR. JEKYLL AND KIND LADY - misleadingly suggests that it will be taking a gender-bending spin on events in the vein of Hammer's DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971), with Villaggio metamorphosing into the luscious Edwige Fenech...but, actually, the 'kind lady' is none other than the curly-haired and effeminate do-gooder into which the evil Dr. Jekyll (dwarfish and given a hairy look for maximum effect) is eventually transformed! Actually, the Jekyll here is only the grandson of the famous doctor (a photograph of Fredric March is lovingly displayed on his mantel-piece); the latter still lives, unbeknownst to the current owner, chained to his bed in the basement of the mansion!
As is to be expected, the film has an anything-goes attitude (with proposed candidates to act as promoter for the doctor's formula narrowed down to the Pope, the Queen and Sir Laurence Olivier!) and a surreal tone (a running gag lifted from the Fantozzi films but which never fails to crack me up - and would, therefore, probably go over the head of most foreign audiences - is the long list of derogatory titles which precede figures of authority); the finale, then, is pure wishful-thinking as everybody is eventually turned into the image of benevolence - but this produces an unfortunate side-effect in that the working class takes to picketing against their employers' just treatment of them!! Clearly the most disappointing aspect about the film is its sad waste of Fenech: despite appearing as Dr. Jekyll's voluptuous secretary (who falls for his alter-ego, but he's too saintly to reciprocate her affections - while the repulsive Jekyll can only hope to lust after her!), she has little to do and, worse, there's barely any nudity (especially since she, too, succumbs to the benign formula before long - turning into a blonde, with the equivalent curly hairdo, but saddled with a pronounced lisp)!
As one can see from this review, I quite enjoyed the film - thanks also to an Armando Trovajoli score that includes an infectious recurrent pop song - and generally found it more consistent than the episodic and usually patchy Fantozzi series; that, however, may be due to the fact that it's helmed by an expert in the field, having directed the films of many an Italian comedian - foremost among them the great Toto'...and the modest ** rating is merely a reflection (or admission, on my part) of its inherent low-brow nature and middling i.e. not exactly good overall quality.
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