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2002 (USA)  »

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Hacks interviewing talented folk.
4 March 2010 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

DVDs demand extras or the spoiled fans out there feel cheated. So Blue Underground has the untalented David Gregory & helpers interview some interesting talent (Nero, Clery and Hess), and come up with 17 minutes of trivia -they didn't ask the right questions and wouldn't know something was pertinent to film history if it hit them smack dab in the forehead.

Watching this filler I learned that the stars respect director Pasquale Festa Campanile, and that he was more famous as an author than a filmmaker. I have always enjoyed his work and would like to learn more about him, but we learn NOTHING at all here. Hitch-Hike is one of his most minor films, but you'd never know that from this dumb commentary. One minute the stars are amazed how it played all over the world (Nero's shock in 1980 at seeing his kisser on a poster while shooting another movie in the Far East), and next we hear the quizzical reaction to "why didn't it ever play in the US?", a dangling thought that demands some examination (Gregory does not deliver, as usual), especially since quite similar material like Fabio Testi/Ursula Andress in STATELINE MOTEL was a drive-in favorite I saw over & over in the '70s back when I was living in Cleveland.

The Blue Underground team gets a special kick out of fashioning these interview "documentaries" to implicitly make fun of the subjects and their egos/poor memories. This one has crosscutting between contradictory remarks by Franco and David regarding an accidental injury during a fight scene. David is still steamed about his broken nose at the hands of Franco, while Nero claims it was all exaggerated. This is supposed to be hilarious but is exactly the sort of marginalia that any half-way decent documentarist would edit out, or an interviewer would throw away when writing up his final story.

Clery rightly points out her sudden fame after starring in Just Jaeckin's STORY OF O, but we learn remarkably little about her career. Basically she keeps repeating that she acts "like an animal", pointing out her instinctive style rather than the much-derided Actor's Studio (sense memory and all that jazz) approach. I've never seen her interviewed or read much about her, and Gregory blows this opportunity to enlighten us.

Hess remains an enigmatic figure. Of course he would have liked to work with a talented director again, but the way he says it here is crass and distasteful, acting as if Campanile's death (in 1986) cost him some work! His praise for Nero is utterly banal, talking about his range by comparing the HITCH-HIKE performance with CAMELOT! Duh! Watching the opening credits to HITCH-HIKE, I was struck by the fact that this programmer, a very run-of-the-mill sexploitation film made by a clearly slumming filmmaker, boasted TWO of the greatest of modern Italian cinematographers: Giuseppe Ruzzolini and Franco Di Giacomo. I've enjoyed their classic work on dozens of spectacular films by Pasolini, Polanski, Sergio Leone, the Taviani Brothers and Luigi Comencini (for Ruzzolini) and for Di Giacomo: Bernardo Bertolucci, Marco Bellocchio (those two B's being the greatest of all '60s era Italian helmers), Salvatore Samperi and Dino Risi. A camera operator is listed as Giuseppe Lanci, who later became the d.p. for Bellocchio, Andrei Tarkovsky (!!!), Peter Del Monte, Mauro Bolognini, Margarethe von Trotta, Luigi Comencini, Nanni Moretti, Diane Kurys and even Roberto Benigni -it doesn't get much better than that. Categorically, I've never heard of a B-movie exploitation project boasting that caliber of genius cinematographer talent: 3 legends at work. Yet Blue Underground never mentions them and worse yet doesn't interview them for this documentary. An opportunity wasted.

Finally, I have been a big Franco Nero fan for ages. Here's a chance to hear from him, and it's all trivia. This is a renaissance man among actors: he of course has worked with all the greats, among which two of my favorite directors: Petri and Fassbinder. All we hear about are his B movies, HITCH-HIKE of course, plus the telefilm 21 HOURS AT MUNICH, etc. The problem is that Bill Lustig and his minions, Gregory among them, have this tunnel vision that only B-movies, exploitation & splatter, matter. Their minds are in the gutter. Even here they are totally ignorant of possibly interesting sidelights. Nero & Vanessa Redgrave made two experimental films with Tinto Brass BEFORE he became strictly an erotic director: DROPOUT and VACATION, in 1970/71. They have been on my list of films to see since then, and have never turned up. These completely unknown films would have been MY subject for questioning Franco; I suspect they were too far out for distribution beyond Italy, and of course the British & American DVD companies in the exploitation field have ignored them in favor of resuscitating Brass's sex movies.


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