WHAT DID STALIN DO TO WOMEN? (Maurizio Liverani, 1969) **
A typical late 60s oddity, this fragmentary, heavy-handed political satire (a creation of one of its lead actors, Benedetto Benedetti, here playing himself!) deals with the rise of Communism in Italy following the end of WWII. The misleading title suggests that it was intended more as exploitation (with the two leading ladies often shown lounging about in scanty attire) than a genuine political statement, time capsule, or even a straight character study.
Helmut Berger, the nominal star of the film, actually has little to do and, in any case, he is overshadowed by Benedetti's quirky performance as his best friend, a misguided party member who copies his idol in every way, down to wearing his "uniform", having a closet full of moustaches and, in true Communist fashion, given to touring the countryside in a ramshackle cow-driven carriage! The film does have a garish sense of style going for it and succeeds in being amusing in fits and starts: Benedetti gets his sexual kicks by having Russian surnames whispered in his ear by his mistress Margaret Lee; the latter has a hammer and sickle (the Russian emblem) and a Nazi swastika painted on her bottom and is prone to dancing on the bedsheets (with Stalin's face imprinted upon them) while singing the Crows' song from DUMBO (1941)!; Benedetti also conducts an illicit affair with Solveig D' Assunta in a crypt-like basement which also contains an effigy of Stalin, etc. When following Stalin's death, the Kruschev administration downplays his importance, Benedetti first dresses up as Leon Trotsky and then, at the very end, leaves for Vietnam to keep in touch with his Communist roots! A subplot involving a party member who is also a porn film-maker on the side adds to the fun. All in all, however, the film is just too frustratingly uneven to emerge a success in any tangible way.
By the way, Ennio Morricone's music here seemed to me to prefigure some cues later found in his own score for Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)!
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