Case Number 08025


NoShame Films // 1973 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // November 11th, 2005

The Charge

"The trouble is, I like you too much, damn it!" -- Guido

Opening Statement

Italian cinema is among the best in the world. Italian comedies are deeply funny. Italian thrillers are laced with high tension. Some of their gangster films are unrivaled. Sadly, this call girl's secret is that Italian cinema is not foolproof.

Facts of the Case

Guido (Corrado Pani, Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio) is a bad, bad man. He drives expensive sports cars. His buddy gets gunned down in the street, so Guido summons a "doctor" to his apartment to dig out the bullet. He hangs out with guys like Don Barzini (Richard Conte, The Godfather) and "The Albino."

When Guido comes across the delectable-but-innocent Anna (Edwige Fenech, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) while on hiatus in a small Italian town, she is doomed. He manipulates her emotions so thoroughly that she falls victim to his line of cruel come-ons. He takes her away to the big city, where Anna's life is turned upside down. Will Anna get out, or forever remain Guido's plaything...or will everyone simply get shot and die amid pools of their own blood?

The Evidence

NoShame Films has recently released several Italian genre movies starring Edwige Fenech. I applaud their efforts, because she is an entrancing woman with exquisite looks, an approachable on-screen demeanor, and a beguiling fire in her eyes. They probably got simultaneous access to a batch of film elements, and recorded extended interviews with Edwige Fenech and popular giallo writer Ernesto Gastaldi, which they divvied up into supplements for each DVD. If Secrets of a Call Girl is the runt, it doesn't deter my enthusiasm for the rest of the litter. The facts don't change, though: Secrets of a Call Girl is a poor excuse for a film, and the DVD isn't all that hot, either.

As director Giuliano Carnimeo is quick to tell us in the extras, Secrets of a Call Girl is a non-genre break from giallo -- a romantic tale, a love story. I don't know what film he was watching, because I saw a barely tolerable gangster-flick knockoff that morphs into a sadistic middle act of misogyny, only to close with an extended (and intolerable) soap opera. Co-interviewees Edwige Fenech and Ernesto Gastaldi muster weak support for Carnimeo's claims: Edwige recollects that it was a "non-genre" film, while Gastaldi flatly says he remembers nothing about the film at all. We hardly need more evidence that this: a director who backpedals from the get-go, a star who toes the party line, and, most damning of all, a writer who remembers nothing about his own story.

Nonetheless, I'll spare some words about the film, because that's what we do here at DVD Verdict. Though Secrets of a Call Girl assumes -- nay, wrests -- our buy-in that Anna sees something in Guido, the film still does very little to establish any relationship. The characters simply are, and then we watch him beat and degrade her. (Love Carnimeo's idea of romance!) Even so, the first act of the film manages a weak cohesion, creates a thin thread of watchability. Part of the buildup is probably some expectation that Edwige is going to have one of her world-infamous shower scenes. She does -- but with no supporting context, the act seems routine. After this letdown, we've got long minutes of rape, abortion, and gangster backstabbings to sit through, with a cheesy doctor in shining armor to boot. The story's tenuous thrust peters out until we're unsure who is what and when -- and we couldn't care less.

Signs are there that Carnimeo was attempting something mainstream with Secrets of a Call Girl. Edwige's character is more normal than her others, which is ultimately less interesting. The cinematography is dramatic, in a bold, kitschy, '70s way (you know, worm's-eye views of disco floors, that kind of thing). Yet I can't escape the conclusion that Secrets of a Call Girl was more rewarding for Carnimeo than it is for the audience.

Part of the problem is with the presentation. Secrets of a Call Girl has such poor contrast that I literally could not make out what was happening in some scenes. Admittedly, part of the problem is my setup: An LCD projector has rather poor contrast. Nonetheless, when compared to NoShame's release of Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, the difference is dramatic. In Your Vice... I could clearly see people moving around, and lights were appreciably different from darks. In Secrets of a Call Girl, I saw a greenish-black mass with some vague features here and there. Skin tones are ghastly, grain is rampant, and the transfer noticeably lacks detail. The colors are listless and unstable, and the image jumps around in the frame. The biggest problem is excessive digital noise reduction, which makes people's skin seem to crawl off of their faces whenever they move too quickly. NoShame has delivered decent transfers, but this is not their finest hour. Normal television viewing will probably minimize some of these issues.

The audio fares better, although the soundtrack is far too strident -- which is bad, because the score is maudlin and overblown. Luciano Michelini manages some moments of grace, but otherwise the score distinguishes itself to the detriment of the film. Otherwise, the audio gets the job done.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I can't recall seeing the shot of Edwige removing a beige bra that is in the liner notes and on the back of the DVD case. I only mention this because Edwige and the removal of her bras is one of the only strengths this flick has going for it, and the still image is intriguing. I'm not saying the scene isn't in there, but I sure don't remember it.

Speaking of Edwige, she is great to listen to in her interview. The woman just seems like a class act all around. She's the bright spot in the extras, aside from the usual fine job that NoShame does with its liner notes.

Closing Statement

I'd say that if you picked any Italian gangster-romance out of a hat, it's probably better than Secrets of a Call Girl. I can almost see what they were trying to do, but the execution missed the mark.

The Verdict

All parties are guilty as charged.

Review content copyright © 2005 Rob Lineberger; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 67
Audio: 83
Extras: 72
Acting: 70
Story: 55
Judgment: 68

Perp Profile
Studio: NoShame Films
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Italian)

* English

Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* "Memories of a Call Girl": Interviews with Director Giuliano Carnimeo, Star Edwige Fenech, and Writer Ernesto Gastaldi
* Trailer
* Poster and Still Gallery
* Liner Notes

* IMDb