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An English soldier (Cliver) returns home from the Zulu war with the daughter of a tribal king (Gemser) as his slave (a gift that he was given for "saving" the kings life). The spoils of war, ya know? While he's been gone, his wife has been having an affair with the female housekeeper (Belle). Not at all pleased with being a slave, the Ebony princess notices the mistress of the house engaging in a quick bit of foreplay with the housekeeper and plots her revenge starting with the seduction of the mistress. Jealousy spreads like wildfire and before you know it, she has turned the household into a lustful frenzy of sex and hatred. I can't give away too much more or it would ruin the story, but there are plenty of little twists along the way. Speaking of twists, this film is actually far more twisted than it sounds. One of the more disturbing moments being a sequence about the filming of an inquisition-themed porno that turns into the sadistic rape of a lesbian / virgin by the filthy and none too bright gardener. Sporting tons of full-frontal nudity, simulated lesbian and straight sex and some hard-core (as seen in an old stag film), this has the sleazy goods to go along with the D.H. Lawrence-ish setting and atmosphere, and is definitely recommended for fans of such.
For some reason in the early to mid 80's Italian director Joe D'Amato
stopped making his swinging 70's "Black Emanuelle" films and/or his
gut-munching cannibal/zombie films and started trying to make the kind
of classy softcore erotica more commonly associated with his fellow
countryman, Tinto Brass. None of these films was entirely successful,
but this one might have been the least unsuccessful. A military veteran
(Al Cliver) returns from a WWII military campaign to his rural villa in
Italy bringing with him an Abyssinian slave (Laura Gemser), who had
been sold to him by her father. Although she starts out as timid and
demure Arab woman in a burka it isn't long before she is (quite
unbelievably) sun-bathing in the nude and seducing the bisexual lady of
the house, the military man's second wife (Lili Karati). Soon she is
running the entire household and it is up to a female servant/spurned
lesbian lover of the wife (Annie Belle) and the military man's grown
son to try to stop her.
The cast is a little weak since they are all softcore porn stars. Al Cliver was never much of an actor and since he is all of about thirty here, is none too convincing as a middle-aged veteran with an adult son. Laura Gemser was also not a great actress, but she was somewhat underrated and gives one of her more game performances here. Unfortunately, an Indonesian actress really has her work cut playing a North African character, and one goes who through some absolutely unbelievable changes in such a short movie. The real surprises here though are Lili Karati and Annie Bell. Karati started out as a Miss Italy runner-up and ended up in hardcore porn, but she was a modestly talented actress who gave a few decent performances (perhaps the most famous perhaps in Fernando DiLeo's "Being Twenty"). She acquits herself pretty well here. Annie Belle was simply not an actress. In her 70's roles like "End of Innocence" and "Laure" she allegedly played herself--a hardly legal Lolita with a bleach-blonde pixie cut who couldn't keep her clothes on for five minutes and would jump on anything with genitalia. (She was Al Cliver's real-life lover and the not-particularly-reliable David Hess claims to have had real sex with her during their scene in "House by the Edge of the Park"). Anyway, in this movie her pixie haircut and adolescent body are gone and she seems to be genuinely ACTING for once.
D'Amato gets as-good-as-can-be-expected performances from his porn star cast and as always his cinematography is above par (cinematography was D'Amatos first specialty and one he perhaps should have stuck with). He was also well known for his generally fast-moving sex scenes and his incredible lack of political correctness and good taste. Unfortunately, the sex scenes here are very LONG and the kind of standard, mostly tame lesbian stuff that manages to make even the impressive bodies of Gemser, Karati, and Belle seem pretty boring after awhile. There is SOME tasteless politically incorrect violence thrown into the mix, but not until the very end unfortunately (when the typical audience member would have long since shot his wad and fallen asleep). Of course,some do consider this one of D'Amato's better films. If you like his Tinto Brass-type stuff you might like this, but for me it could have really used some gut-munching cannibals or something.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
D'Amato comes over all Tinto Brass in this tale of fascism and twisted
passion set in 1930s Italy. A faded aristocrat military officer returns
from the Abyssinian war with a dusky slave girl as a prize; at first,
his bisexual wife and his secretary (who is also the wife's lover)
dislike the girl intensely, making racist comments about her skin
colour and "smell." But soon the girl charms her way into the mistress'
affection, supplanting both secretary and husband. This causes
jealousies to fester.
The aristocrat has other problems. He tries to make a career as a writer but this doesn't bring in enough cash to pay off his debts, so he buys a movie camera and decides to make stag films as a means of income. Of course, wife, secretary and slave are supposed to star in the film. The two strands of the story come together in a film within the film, as the secretary is sexually humiliated on camera by the two other women and a grimy old gardener. At this point in the film, the slave girl seems to be gaining ascendance, but the secretary brings in her ally, the master's cadet son, and they put the Other to death in flames, holding hands as she burns in a perfect picture of that alliance between the middle classes and militarism which was political fascism.
The film has many intriguing features. The slave's rise from household toy to manipulative mistress is a Steerpike-like climb which ultimately does her no good suggesting that colonised people who play the white man's game will ultimately be undone in their European ambitions as the priggish right-wing white middle classes wreak their revenge. The aristocratic man's trajectory is also compelling, from "great white god" (as the secretary describes him) through failed literary gent to pornographer almost the trajectory of European society since the war (which makes the film possibly a prophecy of the future as much as a vision of the past).
The film is measured and plays out like a classy piece of eroticism, but the drama continually brews away with shifting alignments and eruptions of desire always around every corner to keep the narrative moving. The film offers no succour to either liberationists nor liberals, as it predicts the failure of individual identity politics alongside a portrait of permissiveness as terminal decadence. D'Amato's own gradual slide into pornography was in process as the film was made and with his muse Laura Gemser as the Abyssinian slave, one could also take the film as a kind of mordant and resigned comment on his own career, a cultured and privileged European male dragged down into a mess of pornographic pottage by his own financial needs and his putting before his own society a beautiful black Emanuelle.
The Alcove pairs Joe D'Amato with Laura Gemser and sees both of these
cult icons at their sordid and sleazy best! Joe D'Amato made a hell of
a lot of sleaze films; and while I do consider myself a fan of his, it
has to be said that a large proportion of his output is rather
rubbish...but not so with this film. The Alcove is as good a porn flick
as it is a character study, and that's what puts this film at the very
top of the director's filmography - by not focusing on the sex, when we
do get to see it - it means so much more. The plot line is actually
really good, too. We focus on a country house where the house Mistress,
Alessandra, is sharing a sordid affair with the secretary Wilma while
her husband is away fighting Zulus. He returns from the war bearing
gifts for the women; and he also brings home a slave girl named Zerbal,
whom he was given for saving the life of her father. The slave soon
starts to get used to life in the house and decides that she doesn't
want to be the slave anymore. After noticing the two women having sex,
Zerbal decides to worm her way into the Mistress' affections...
This film absolutely could not have been made today and the reason for that is the inherent racism running throughout it. Laura Gemser's character gets all manner of vicious insults thrown at her throughout; though it doesn't really make for uncomfortable viewing given Gemser's obvious beauty. Her role here is somewhat different from the strong Emanuelle character we're more used to seeing her as; although the role does become more like what we're used to as the film progresses. The film becomes an expose of sexual desires between five different people all pulling different ways and it makes for fascinating viewing; the fact that sixty percent of the main cast is made up of beautiful women doesn't do it any harm either! The jewel in the crown is Gemser, of course, but her co-stars Lilli Carati and Annie Belle are very easy on the eyes too! Being a D'Amato film you can expect plenty of sex and he doesn't disappoint. There's not quite as much quantity compared to some of his other opus', but this is more than made up for in quality as the sex scenes are very well filmed; particularly those between Lilli Carati and Laura Gemser. Overall, this really is an excellent film that I would class as a must see for anyone who enjoys sleazy Euro-porn. It's a rare one, but finding it is very much worth the effort!
Joe D'Amato laves his cannibal past and ventures into soft core porn.
It is really more than an exhibition of full frontal - there is
certainly enough of that. It actually has an interesting story about
the fall of the landed gentry.
The Colonel (Al Cliver - Zombie, The Beyond) returns from war with a chief's daughter (Laura Gemser - Black Emmanuel) in tow. His wife (Lilli Carati - Miss Italy 1975) is at first dismissive of the woman and certainly racist in her comments.
Gemser is not happy with her position, and soon discovers that the wife and the Colonel's secretary (Annie Belle - The House on the Edge of the Park) have their own thing going. She plot to get the wife on her side using her considerable skills at lovemaking.
Meanwhile, the Colonel is discovering he is a failure as a writer and the banks are clamoring at the door. He decides to make porn films. Things do not go well for Belle, as she is paired with the gardener (Roberto Caruso). But, she gets her revenge in the end.
The cinematography was excellent.
Following a successful campaign in Africa, soldier Elio De Silveris (Al
Cliver) returns home to his wife Alessandra (Lilli Carati) bearing all
manner of exotic souvenirs, the most unusual being Zerbal (Laura
Gemser), an Abyssinian princess presented to him as a slave in return
for saving the king's life.
At first Allesandra is hostile to Zerbal, as is Elio's sexy secretary Wilma (Annie Bell), with whom Allesandra has been having a lesbian affair in her husband's absence; but when ownership of Zerbal is transferred to Allessandra (in a strange ritual that entails plenty of licking), the lusty wife's attitude does a 180 degree turn and she takes the dusky maiden for her lover, putting Wilma's nose severely out of joint. Soon, scheming Zerbal becomes the domineering force in the household.
This mid-career effort from prolific Italian sleaze merchant Joe D'amato sees the seasoned exploitation director tentatively entering Tinto Brass territory, delivering plenty of 1930s period charm, an atmosphere of constant sexual tension, loads of lush cinematography, and, of course, oodles of soft-focus, soft-core coupling with the emphasis on lesbianism. No stranger to capturing smut on camera, D'amato masterfully handles the steamy action, concentrating his attention on the sensuality of the lovemaking, although one can sense that the director is yearning to go further, his camera permanently on the prowl for even the slightest glimpse of snatch.
Eventually, Joe just can't help himself and sneaks in some genuine hardcore filth and old school exploitation during the film's final act: the graphic sex arrives in the form of a (genuine?) vintage stag flick screened by Elio, who intends to raise some much needed cash by making similar films, with his three women as his stars. Amazingly, the ladies agree to the project, but when the camera begins to roll, in true D'amato style, events turn decidedly nasty: Wilma is bound and abused by Allesandra and Zerbal, and raped by Elio's eager gardener Pepe (who has been planning to tend to her bush ever since spying it in the garden). After the ordeal is over, an understandably upset Wilma vows to make them pay for what they have done to her.
From an exploitation fan's point of view, this lurid rape/revenge scenario is a great way to end matters, and narrowly saves The Alcove from being just another vapid mid-eighties piece of Euro-erotica. Not essential D'amato, but not entirely worthless either, I rate The Alcove a reasonable 5.5 out of 10, rounded up to 6 for IMDb.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I observe that it's dubbed chiefly because most of these inexpensive
imports -- and all the imports from the 1950s in their ENTIRETY -- seem
to be dubbed by the same half-dozen people. They're vaguely British,
very precisely articulated, and overemphatic. The men seem to be aiming
for a particular image: a brute of a construction worker with a
coffee-grinder voice, although if he is a gentleman he may sound more
like a pouf. The women's voices show less differentiation. Mostly, they
sound like some winsome lady behind the check-out counter at the local
library, sweet with efficiency and all set to help you find that book
on Mycenaean pottery.
I don't know how much the story is worth bothering with. It's early in World War II, a young Italian aristocrat returns to his majestic villa with a gift from an Abyssinian chief, namely his daughter. According to the local customs, she is now his slave. The aristocrat is drained by his snooty wife and enters a refractory state on his first night home.
Little does he know that in his absence, his wife has been getting it on with the pretty young secretary. Now you've got three women and one man. The women are either getting it on with one another or jealous. Make a mental note. You cannot have more than one woman dominant in a household. I refer you to the work of the anthropologist S. F. Nadel, who discovered that in a polygamous society, when the wives live in the same huts, witchcraft accusations soar. If the wives live in separate huts -- no witchcraft. Q. E. D.
Anyway -- will someone help me down from this pulpit? My shoe seems to be stuck. Thank you. Anyway, all kinds of emotional tangles develop, not really worth explaining.
What DOES need explaining is how an Italian aristocrat can return to his luxurious mansion with a native girl, shed his uniform, and decide to become a writer overnight. What do you do, just quit Il Duce's Army when you feel like it? In wartime? What the hell kind of an Army do you call that? How come I couldn't do it, not even in peacetime? No wonder Il Duce managed to lose every colony he had, including Italian Salamiland.
But to get to the important part, there is an abundance of female nudity, frontal, dorsal, medial, proximal, distal, sagittal, coronal, transverse, external, and internal. In particular, you get to know Lilli Carati's nipples on a first-name basis. You can even discern the seventeen lactiferous ducts opening onto each one. There is a good deal of simulated sex in this ménage but most of it is cunnilingus or an approximation of it.
It's a shame that the film aims so low because there's a lot of potential in the plot. I'm not think so much of "Lady Chatterly's Lover" as I'm thinking of Joseph Losey's "The Servant." It's masterfully done, while this one is mostly junk.
Alcove, The (1984)
** (out of 4)
Interesting tale from D'Amato about a Captain (Al Cliver) returning from a battle in Africa where he was given a slave, Zerbal (Laura Gemser) as a gift for saving a tribal leader. Back at home his wife (Lilli Carati) is having an affair with her secretary (Annie Belle) but soon Zerbal begins to come between them but it might be more than just your typical lesbian affair. I was really surprised with this film because it's actually very well-made and features a pretty good story. One is probably going to walk into this thing expecting nothing but a sex romp and while there is a lot of sex it really never takes center stage over the story being told. D'Amato made a very long career out of sex movies so this one here is certainly a lot different than many of the items he was releasing around this period. What really stands out is the actual production. The film takes place during the 1940s so we've got the older cars, costumes and set design, all of which is extremely good looking. Another plus is the cinematography from D'Amato, which to me is his greatest aspect (a lot better than his directing). All of this makes for a pretty interesting atmosphere and most of the sex scenes are quite erotic (though some enter a camp level). The film also benefits from an fun Euro-cult cast with Gemser leading the way as the obvious sex object to everyone. If you've seen any of her films with D'Amato then you should know what to expect. Belle really stands out and delivers a fine performance as does Carati. Cliver, God bless him, is his usual fun self. What keeps the movie from being even better is its rather slow pacing and it also goes on a tad bit too long at 93-minutes. I think a good ten minutes could have been cut out and we really wouldn't have lost anything story-wise. The film is pretty straight-forward and is well-made but at the end of the day this here is still going to be for D'Amato completest only.
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