Monday, January 25, 2010


I've been intrigued by this film ever since I acquired several relatively hot stills from it about a dozen years or so ago. Never had an opportunity to view the film until now, with the release by Mya of SATAN'S WIFE, a re-title of the English version, RING OF DARKNESS. The Italian title is UN OMBRA NELL'OMBRA, which, according to my limited Italian assistance from a translation program, can be translated as A SHADOW WITHIN A SHADOW.

Any Italian film from the 1970s that contains satanism and nude female practitioners is deserving of innate curiosity and potential appreciation. UN OMBRA NELL'OMBRA (1977) has its faults, but is intriguing enough, and has moments of pure devilish exploitation going for it, to make the film notable and worthy of some background research.

Pier Carpi (1940-2000) only directed two films (UN OMBRA and POVERO CRISTO), but had a substantial resume in the arts, with work in fumetti (comics), including the Italian versions of Mickey Mouse, Batman, and Superman. He created and wrote for the fumetti HORROR, and had a hand in the renowned DIABOLIK publication. His creative wings also embraced authorship, and he won various literary and journalism awards in his career. Carpi had an interest in esoteric, satanic and religious subjects, as exemplified by such works as LE SOCIETA SEGRETE (THE SECRET SOCIETIES), I MERCANTI DELL'OCCULTO (MERCHANTS OF THE OCCULT), RASPUTIN ULTIMO PROFETA (RASPUTIN THE LAST PROPHET) CAGLIOSTRO (which was made into a film in 1974 by Daniele Pettinari). UN OMBRA NELL'OMBRA is, in fact, based on a book of his that appeared a couple of years before the book's filming began, although the script may have been developed first, as the IMDB mentions, accurately or not, that Carpi had tried to get the story filmed in the 1960s, without generating interest from financial backers until William Friedkin's THE EXORCIST became a mega world-wide hit. (No doubt the popularity of THE OMEN also had a hand in the making of the Carpi film.)

One judges that Carpi had some difficulty in putting into his film all the important ingredients of the book, as the film traverses a choppy narrative, with seemingly important characters turning up to then, inexplicably, never be seen or referenced to again. One is led to believe that "The Professor," played with sleazy charm by Ian Bannen, will be a pivotal presence in the film, as we see him philosophize about good and evil while teaching chess and underlining the symbolic nuances of the white and black pieces. He then makes a couple of relatively important appearances soon thereafter, but after the Devil chases him away, he is never seen again. Frank Finlay's appearance as "Frank" is curiously brief and inexplicable. John Philip Law turns up as a priest who is about to renounce the priesthood, but he, too, is around for a limited time and then gone.

If one can gather something about the novel without having read it, one senses a treatise/meditation on good and evil, Catholicism and Satanism, and, in particular, the lonely angst of women inhabiting a shadowy world within the shadows. The film touches on these points, but doesn't underline them in the whole, an intellectual deficit that leaves the viewer somewhat unfulfilled. If Carpi's book were available in an English translation (it isn't), one could read the source and fill in the substantive gaps. This is denied us and will probably always be, unless Carpi becomes a cult figure whose works will necessitate translation.

Because of holes in the plot, the back copy of the Mya, written by someone with panache, presents a welcome, informative synopsis:

"Four beautiful young women surrender to the fiendishly charm of Lucifer himself. But their nights of unholy pleasure have a price: they can't have sex with other men, for the Lord of Darkness is a very jealous lover indeed. The otherworldly fruits of these bestial couplings go by the names of Almarisa and Daria. While the former starts to loathe herself as soon as she realizes who her father really is, the latter perversely learns how to enjoy her devilish skills to wreak havoc in the human world. To put an end to her hellish endeavours, a very unlikely exorcist is enlisted."

(By the way, I love the end ballyhoo of the back copy text: "Long sought after lost classic of Italian psychotronic horror genre, SATAN'S WIFE features some of the weirdest scenes ever committed in films. Ripe with fleshy sex babes, blood, gore, bizarre visuals and otherworldly rituals, this lost nugget of exploitation was unearthed from the deepest vaults of forbidden cinematic pleasures.")

The film has an impressive international cast--Anne Heywood, Lara Wendel, Valentina Cortese, Irene Papas, Ian Bannen, Frank Finlay, John Philip Law, Marisa Mell.... One wonders if some in this cast were not only seduced by the money offered to them, but by the possibility of making a supernatural film with deeper intellectual elements than what would have been the norm in those days.

The exploitative nudity in the film didn't touch all the female stars, with a body double being used for Irene Papas. I don't know if this legendary Greek actress, with her fantastic tragic face, ever had a nude scene, but if ever the opportunity presented itself, it was here, in her role as a wealthy woman who, seeking the love of a man, debases herself at night by becoming a common prostitute.

Neither Anne Heywood nor Lara Wendel were strangers to nude scenes, however. What make Wendel's nude scenes noteworthy is that she was around 13 years old when she made them for this film.

I should mention my one casting disappointment--Ezio Miani. Miani, who made only three films in his career, turns up as Lucifer here, but he's not a figure who inspires fright nor remarkableness. (The Lucifer role would have been excellent for someone with such distinct saturnine looks as Ivan Rassimov.)

Despite his limited directing credentials, Pier Carpi handles his assignment very well, helming everything with a sure and smooth hand. Set design is appropriately satanic, with the presence of Luciferian-themed paintings and sculpture that may reflect Capri's own collection or of compatriots that he knew. The music by Stelvio Cipriani has a Dario Argento-ish aura and portions of it were later reused by Cipriani for other scores, including SOLAMENTE NERO (THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW).

Though filmed in 1977, UN OMBRA NELL'OMBRA had to wait two years to see release in Italy. I don't know if the film ever had a release in the United States, but if so, it probably happened in limited play in grindhouse theaters. The film was certainly missing from the catalogs of U.S. video companies during the heyday of video and because of that it became a lukewarm holy grail among American euro-cult aficionados.

Mya's presentation is sourced from a video element. Though overall the element seems to be in fine shape (I noticed only one video-sourced flicker), pixelation will be noticeable from time to time in black areas. The biggest problem in not having access to an original print element is that scenes in the dark or in shadows are difficult to fully make out, which in the case of UN OMBRA NELL'OMBRA is unfortunate. As a plus, the Mya DVD is in anamorphic widescreen.

The DVD is on sale at

UPDATE: John Bernhard aletred me over at the Latarnia forums that the Mya release is missing a scene: "It's a coven scene where the devil is about to make a new convert, but before he mounts her, the other women converge on Satan and prevent him from taking another initiate." He directed me to a November 2007 post by Johan Melle at the LoveLockAndLoad message board, where we learn exactly what's missing, with screen captures. Good work, Johan!

Incidentally the run-time of the Mya presentation is about 1:27:25. The more complete version, seen on an old Belgian video, runs 87 minutes, PAL time, which when transferred to NTSC speed would be about 90-91 minutes. I agree with the commentary on the LoveLockAndLoad board that there's a good possibility more scenes were shot for the film, but left out at the editing stage.

Poster artwork above: 1) Italian locandina, 2) Turkish poster

Friday, January 22, 2010

SATAN'S WIFE preview

I'm working on a review of Mya's latest release, Pier Carpi's SATAN'S WIFE (aka RING OF DARKNESS). Here's preview of part of the film. The Mya release contains English audio, as well as Italian. Quality is about the same as this YouTube clip. Music by Stelvio Cipriani.

The young girl, Daria (Laura Wendel), has increasing Satanic powers, which her mother Carlotta (Anne Heywood), one of Satan's brides, wishes to temper. Marisa Mell, as a black arts adept, also appears in this preview.

Monday, January 11, 2010


AMORE LIBERO - FREE LOVE (out now on DVD as THE REAL EMANUELLE) is one of those part travelogue, part erotic feature, part mondo films that was a subgenre the Italians crafted on their own, as opposed to borrowing riffs from American, English or German films. (Though one wonders if films like SOUTH PACIFIC and MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY had some impact on the consciousness of these filmmakers.) This 1974 film offers up the carefree native life of the tropical islands, where the stresses of the European white male are eased and finally dissipated by erotic meetings with sexually-open, cheerful island women. Euro-cult queen Laura Gemser disposes of her minimal clothing at every opportunity, while another femme turns up (played by Olga Bisera) who gives Gemser a run for her nude money. But it is Gemser who shines in her debut film role with her open smile, friendly come-on manner, and slinky, sexy body.

For the Javanese beauty, AMORE LIBERO represented her introduction to Italy. A model, her photos had piqued the interest of the producers, who contacted her agency with an invite to do an audition for the forthcoming film. Gemser obviously passed the audition, and soon found herself in Seychelles Islands working with such actors as Enzo Bottesini and Venantino Venantini under the direction of Pier Ludovico Pavoni.

The story has young engineer, Francesco Ferraro (Enzo Bottesini), arriving to Emerald Island to conduct tests that will initiate the building of a silver mine. A previous engineer sent by Francesco's employer has disappeared, ostensibly with an island maiden. Francesco tries to continue his work, while staying with an eccentric white inhabitant, Antoin (Venantino Venantini), who seems to be an unofficial overlord of the place. Even before arriving to the island, Ferroro meets Janine (Laura Gemser), a seductive island girl. On the island, she easily coaxes him into being her lover and the pair become a familiar sight among the natives as Jeanine introduces Francesco to the ways of island life and its people.

While things go along at a sunny erotic pace, the film starts turning strangely dark towards the middle with the introduction of black magic acts. It appears that Antoin is adept at the black arts and using these arts to attain control over what happens on the island and with Francesco.

This is where things get really interesting. A Christian mass held on the ocean, with worshippers arriving by boats, is juxtaposed with a rather revolting, though sickly transfixing mondo scene, the skinning of two bats, one of which is used as a mock-Christ on a cross by Antoin. Hallucinogenics come into play, and the island's white woman Katia (Olga Bisera) dances in a midnight voodoo-type ritual, nude and wild with drugged abandon. Antoin appears as a devilish violinist, further descending the film into the hellish weird. This macabre atmosphere is not perpetual, but its insertion into the plot makes for a far more compelling film than AMORE LIBERO would have been otherwise.

AMORE LIBERO - FREE LOVE was later retitled to THE REAL EMANUELLE to take advantage of Gemser's internationally popular "Black Emanuelle" series. This print carries the AMORE LIBERO - FREE LOVE credits.

Mya's presentation is one of their most problematic. Sourced from an obvious video element (there are a couple of tape rolls during the beginning credit sequence), the presentation is of bootleg video quality, with a lack of clarity and too murky for many scenes shot with shadows and darkness in play, hindering the clear representation of the film's frequent nude scenes. Of course, the balm is that this film is rare (even Gemser has apparently not seen it) and has never been available on the DVD market in the States and with English subtitles. The presentation also keeps much of the widescreen ratio, though the sides are still cut off if judged by the credit sequence.

Perhaps one day, some company will bring out this film with the dedication and the more financially expansive pockets of a Severin. Severin's release of BLACK EMANUELLE'S BOX Volume 1 and Volume 2 were exemplary. If AMORE LIBERO ever gets this treatment, we can finally see Gemser's debut performance in all its unclothed, crystal clear glory. Till then, this Mya DVD will have to do.

THE REAL EMANUELLE is on sale at

Below: Mya Blog Bonus. Laura Gemser tries a horse ride in a photoshoot during the filming of AMORE LIBERO. That's a lucky horse, btw. Olga Bisera also rode it bare pussy.

And here's an interview with Venantino Venantini, one of the hardest working men in euro-films, with over 140 credits. Seems quite a character:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Coming in April 2010

Mya continues on!

Scheduled to street April 27th:

CRIME OF PASSION (DELITTO PASSIONALE, 1994), Serena Grandi, Florinda Bolkan, Fabio Testi. Directed by Flavio Mogherini. The plot summary on the IMDB states: "When Peter's wife, a famous writer, is murdered in a hotel where she spent the night with her lover, the police begin investigating. Peter and his wife didn't get on well and she was thinking of divorcing him. Peter too had a lover, Milena. They had a handicapped daughter... Inspector Ivan Zanova investigates."

SWEET TEEN (FRITTATA ALL'ITALIANA, 1977) directed by Alfonso Brescia, starring Antonio Cassagrande, Dogmar Lassander, Karin Schubert. Looks to be a sex comedy/drama.

WITHOUT TRACE (A TUTTE LE AUTO DELLA POLIZIA, 1975), starring Antonio Sabato, Luciana, Paluzzi, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ettore Manni. Directed by Mario Caiano. An IMDB review by "rundbauchdodo":

"This extremely rare and hardly known film (as far as I know, it was never released outside of Italy) is an interesting mix of a classic crime story and a typical giallo. In the first half of the film, there is only one murder to be solved, but as soon as the police comes closer to the truth, people are killed in usual giallo style, during thrilling and atmospheric intense scenes. This mixture may seem odd (one may ask why the film wasn't made in giallo style right from the beginning), but it works quite well and keeps the tension up until the end. The murder scenes are nasty, and the identity of the killer really a big surprise. The movie has also its tragic moments, but never becomes exaggeratedly melodramatic."

Another reviewer titles his review: "Excellent blending of Giallo and Polizi styles." The film is also known in the U.S. as THE MANIAC RESPONSIBLE.