At twenty, Judge Daryl Loomis did things almost as stupid as these girls do.
I'm beautiful, young, and pissed off!
For all the weirdness in the world of Italian exploitation, To Be Twenty is especially strange. One might not so easily realize that if seen on an old VHS or even watching the first three-quarters of Raro's DVD for the film. What begins as a poorly made, but standard erotic comedy smacks the viewer in the face with a final few minutes that come completely out of left field. It doesn't make the movie any better, but I certainly won't forget it anytime soon.
Lia and Tina (Gloria Guida, The Teasers, and Lilli Carati, Candido Erotico) meet one summer day at a beach party. When everyone else is through making out, they're left alone and start to talk. It turns out that they have a lot in common, namely that they're both gorgeous, love to dance, and hate the idea of finding work. What do two lazy beauties do to pass the time? They hitchhike, of course, which takes them on a series of wild adventures through Italy that they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
If nothing else, To Be Twenty shares one thing in common with essentially every Italian comedy I've seen—it's not funny. I'm sure there are cultural things at play that I don't understand, and the Italians take the classical comedy/tragedy dichotomy much more seriously than other countries do, but I still didn't laugh a single time, not even the briefest of chuckles. In fact, there are only two reasons to watch this movie and their names are Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati. It's not for their acting skills, though, far from it, but they have plenty of other attributes which help to pass the time. They are truly a formidable duo of Seventies hotness, but beyond that, we're left with Italian men in bad pants and a disco soundtrack that's amusing in how it grates on the ears.
The story is the most basic of road comedies. They meet, decide to hit the pavement, and show a little skin to catch a ride. When they arrive in the city, they steal some food from a grocer, dance with a street musician, and make their way to a hippy commune, only to find the men far too stoned to have sex with them. Failing in all their attempts, they finally break down and get with each other. They get a little work selling encyclopedias and find a number of lecherous buyers, playing that game until the cops bust up the commune and send them away. Most of these films stop right here and on the theatrical cut, they say their good buys and head home, satisfied with all they've accomplished. In the original cut of the film, though, they decide for one last romp, and that's where things go horribly wrong. This weird ending runs horribly, violently out of step with the tone of the film. It was surely an intentional political statement by director Fernando di Leo, who had previously made a pseudo-feminist picture called Burn, Boy, Burn, but regardless of intent, it is much more at home in I Spit on Your Grave than in something trying for comedy. It's cruel, sadistic, and entirely unwelcome, even if it was on purpose. The final frames left a very bad taste in my mouth and I wasn't much enjoying myself as it stood.
The fact that Raro included both cuts in their two-disc package does make for an interesting comparison, even if it does force multiple viewings of the film. When To Be Twenty had its original theatrical run, people weren't exactly expecting the film to pan out as it does. They left the theater unhappy and did not return, despite its popular and marketable stars. It was almost immediately pulled from circulation and returned to the editing room where they stripped off the ending, repurposed some footage from the middle, and pulled some film off the cutting room floor to make a new, altogether bland non-finish to end the film. Ten minutes shorter, they returned it to the cinema where, go figure, it still made no money. This shows that, while audiences may not like to have their expectations for a genre defied, they also won't take badly assembled, incoherent garbage. As a result, with nothing but its hot stars to sell it, To Be Twenty was left in Nowheresville.
But now we have Raro to thank for pulling it from the depths and releasing it in a very acceptable package. The two versions of the film look very similar and show a fair amount of restoration work. They aren't perfect, with the occasional bit of print damage and some dirt to work through, but the colors are quite good, especially for the indoor scenes. Outdoors, the prints look a little washed out, but it's more than many similar films receive. The sound is nothing special, although I would have appreciated the customary English dub; the translation is terrible and you're often left with four or five lines of dialog that go untranslated. It's not like the Italian track isn't a dub, but it's possible that an English dub was never made for the director's cut, so I suppose I can understand. Aside from the inferior theatrical cut of the film, extras include a very decent half-hour featurette on the history of the film and all its problems, which features the director, a few stars, and the son of one of the producers. They try really hard to justify what they made and it doesn't really work, but it's a well-intentioned piece. Lastly, we get to look at the original screenplay (since it's so fantastic), a photo gallery, and some biographies to close out the set.
To Be Twenty is no doubt a poor film, a very poor one, but there is some freak show interest about the film. I can't exactly recommend it, but I do guarantee that, upon watching it, viewers will wind up scratching their heads and running for their showers to wash the gross off of them.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Raro Video
• Alternate Cut
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