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Case Number 12650

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The Eroticist

Severin Films // 1972 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // December 21st, 2007

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All Rise...

Despite appearances and provided his dinner companions don't know, Judge William Lee likes to sprinkle Italian spices over his buttered hot buns.

The Charge

Italian horror master Lucio Fulci's acclaimed erotic comedy arrives in America uncut.

Opening Statement

The most shocking film of legendary Italian horror master Lucio Fulci's career has been uncovered. Severin Films' release of The Eroticist brings Fulci's sex comedy to American audiences for the first time in its scandalous uncut form. Boasting a transfer made from "elements recently discovered in a secret underground vault near The Vatican," according to the packaging notes, the movie has as much fun ridiculing politicians and the Church as it does indulging in the parade of luscious flesh.

Facts of the Case

Senator Giacinto Puppis (Lando Buzzanca, Seduced and Abandoned) is in a tight race for the Italian presidency. As the first-round ballots are being counted on television, the senator continues to strategize and work out back-room deals. Any controversy could be a fatal blow to his presidential bid and he becomes the target of blackmail when a television cameraman catches the senator engaging in some naughtiness. It turns out that the senator has an uncontrollable urge to grab a handful of ass. At the sight of a shapely bottom, or even statues or architecture that might bring to mind the juicy fruit, Puppis goes into a trance and essentially becomes an ass-hungry zombie that craves booty instead of brains.

The senator's friend, Father Lucion, arranges for him to be secretly treated at a German monastery using psychoanalysis. However, the handful of nuns tending to him proves to be too great a temptation for Puppis. It doesn't help matters when his unconscious sexual urges start to affect the sisters, particularly the comely Sister Delicata (Laura Antonelli, Devil in the Flesh) who believes her duty is to help the senator release his devil.

Meanwhile, the nation's various power brokers are anxious to know the senator's business. The opposition party, the police, the military, and even the Mafia have spies ready to misinterpret wiretapped conversations. They think Puppis is about to launch a coup, but this potential sex scandal could have far greater consequences.

"It's ridiculous that in this world this is more serious than a coup," says the Cardinal (Lionel Stander, Once Upon a Time in the West). The Church is extremely concerned about controlling the scandal because they have invested a great deal of time and resources into Puppis. Perhaps the most dangerous party in this power struggle, they are not above using lethal measures to ensure that their candidate maintains a clean reputation in the public eye.

The Evidence

Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci (1927-1996) is best remembered as the director of gory horror films, such as Zombie 2 and The Beyond, which made up the majority of his filmography of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But he worked in many genres and The Eroticist is a fine display of his comedic hand. The movie's title doesn't quite make sense but Italian horror scholar Patricia MacCormack contends that it has a "lexiconic resonance" with The Exorcist just as the movie's themes "replete with naked nuns and juxtaposing sex, religion and politics" show that Fulci's comedy is taking aim at the horror genre. If the odd English title was intended for American audiences, the original Italian title (All'onorevole piacciono le donne (Nonostante le apparenze…e purché la nazione non lo sappia) is more to the point, translated as "The Senator Likes Women (Despite Appearances and Provided the Nation Doesn't Know)."

Lando Buzzanca hilariously plays the lead role with total conviction. As Senator Puppis, he is a dull politician (rumored to be gay and a virgin) in public life but a raging ass-grabber under the surface. Despite the overwrought sound and music cues and crash-zoom camera tricks, Buzzanca's performance is front and center during the moments of Puppis' arousal. When the urge to feel some bum takes over, Buzzanca transforms into a possessed, horny Mr. Hyde with a hand that has a mind of its own. These scenes alone would support MacCormack's theory that the movie is poking fun at horror films. The entire cast does very good work in supporting roles. American actor Lionel Stander is memorably boisterous even though it appears all of his lines were dubbed in later. Laura Antonelli as the sweet nun in a moral crisis strikes the right note of sexy innocence.

Being a 1972 film that may or may not have been stored in an underground vault near the Vatican, The Eroticist looks good for its age. The picture is reasonable sharp except for two instances. Firstly, there are the dream sequences, which look like they were intentionally photographed softer, but the variation in picture quality fits with the hallucinatory nature of the scenes. The other is the opening image of the movie, which is a dark and murky shot of a parliamentary chamber, but it may have been footage sourced elsewhere and further degraded to incorporate the titles. Do not let the opening shot cloud your judgment of the disc. On the whole, the movie is free of scratches and other blemishes. The colors are strong and their vibrancy contributes to the surreal mood of the dream sequences. A handful of scenes have a slight magenta cast which is most noticeable in the skin tones. The movie's soundtrack is in mono only which works fine for the presentation.

The sole extra on this disc is a 42-minute featurette titled "A History of Censorship." Separate interviews with lead actor Buzzanca, cinematographer Sergio D'Offizi and make-up artist Giannetto De Rossi are cut together to create a look back at the movie's production. The featurette is mostly talking heads but it is full of interesting details as the three men fondly recollect their working relationship with Fulci and how the production succeeded under tight budgetary constraints. In addition to his makeup duties, for example, De Rossi sculpted props and set pieces. They also talk about the falling out between Antonelli and Fulci when the director reportedly exercised his own impulsive grabbing on the actress. For those of us unfamiliar with Italian politics of the 1970s, the interviews shed some light on what real-life characters were being satirized in the film. Unfortunately, the featurette does not live up to the promise of its title. While there is much discussion of the film's production, there is no mention of its censorship struggles and only a few anecdotes from Buzzanca to suggest it even registered on the Italian cinema radar. And if there was any truth to the underground vault from which the film was recovered, it isn't evidenced here.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Severin's DVD release of The Eroticist promises more than it delivers. This is the forgotten sex comedy by a legendary horror master but there isn't enough historical information to contextualize that connection. It would have been helpful had the disc included an interview with a Fulci expert or even just a few notes detailing how the movie was received in its day. The featurette is fairly informative but the lack of chapters makes it difficult to find a specific talking point among 42 minutes of talking heads. While it is a nice touch to make the English subtitles optional, why make it so they can only be turned on and off from the menu screen?

Closing Statement

This tale of a perverted senator is a pleasant surprise from a famously shocking director. Funny and sexy, it even has a satirical bite—though its teeth have dulled due to time, distance, and a lack of historical context. Among the diverse and likeable cast, Lando Buzzanca puts in a memorable performance as a man whose repressed desires have turned him into a ticking time bomb of horniness. Writer-director Lucio Fulci shows he had more range than he is usually remembered for by making us laugh instead of scream.

The Verdict

Though this DVD does a decent job of recovering a forgotten gem, there is insufficient evidence on the disc to support Severin Films' claim that it was historically noteworthy. Charges against The Eroticist are dismissed but Severin Films is fined a dozen slaps on the ass for teasing us with a stirring jacket write-up and then falling short on the extras.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 72
Extras: 65
Acting: 88
Story: 78
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: Severin Films
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Italian)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Cult
• Erotic
• Foreign

Distinguishing Marks

• A History of Censorship: Featurette with Actor Lando Buzzanca, Cinematographer Sergio D'Offizi, and Makeup Artist Giannetto De Rossi

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Senses of Cinema: Lucio Fulci








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