Sunday, 27 June 2010

Secrets of a Call Girl (1973)

Secrets of a Call Girl is a movie that has suffered from being stuck with hopelessly inappropriate titles. It’s also been released as Anna, The Pleasure, The Torment and the Italian title Anna, quel particolare piacere (which translates as Anna, a Particular Pleasure) is equally bad. This is most definitely not an erotic movie, nor is it really a crime thriller. It was originally conceived as a romance, and that’s probably the most accurate description.

The basic framework of the plot certainly contains crime thriller elements but it’s perhaps closest in spirit to some of the 1940s Hollywood movies about gangster’s women (the 1950 Joan Crawford vehicle The Damned Don’t Cry being a good example). This is very much a film about a woman.

Edwige Fenech is Anna, a slightly naïve small-town girl working as a cashier in a cafe in Bergamo. Her life changes completely when a mysterious and darkly handsome stranger walks into her cafe. She is swept off her feet but what she doesn’t know is that Guido is a mobster. And a particularly nasty one. She is obsessed and when he offers to take her to Milan with him she jumps at the chance of seeing the bright lights of the big city and sampling the high life.

She does find glamour and wealth in Milan, but at a price. Guido is violent towards her and is quite prepared to force her into working as a part-time call girl to further his ambitions. He and his boss Riccardo Sogliani have a stable of beautiful girls who are used to make connections with rich powerful men. Anna is horrified at having to prostitute herself and she is disturbed by the criminal activities of Guido. But he’s so good-looking, and the sex is great. Anna has a bit of a taste for rough sex and she has difficulty in persuading herself that she really needs to get out of this situation.

Things come to a head when she falls pregnant. Guido knocks her about and demands that she have an abortion. She flees, but once you’re involved with mobsters you’re involved for life. She meets a nice man, a doctor, but her attempts to establish a new life for herself are complicate by the fact that she was a witness to a murder committed by Guido. Guido and Riccardo are not inclined to allow her to escape them.

When this movie was made in 1973 Edwige Fenech was anxious to prove she was more than just a hot body. The role of Anna was her big chance to show she could really act and she does a pretty fair job. Corrado Pani is excellent as Guido. Despite his viciousness he has enough charm, sexiness and glamour to make it entirely understandable that Anna would have fallen for him.

The standout performer though is Richard Conte as mob boss Riccardo. Conte had been a minor star in Hollywood in the 40s and 50s. This performance makes it all the more inexplicable that he never became a major star.

Giuliano Carnimeo’s direction is difficult to fault. It was a reasonably big budget movie (as these sorts of movies go) with quite a lot of location shooting. There’s a nice contrast between the provincial innocence of Bergamo on the one hand and the glamour and wickedness of Milan and the world of big-time criminals and gambling on the other.

The excellent NoShame DVD (now sadly out of print since the company went bust) includes interviews with the director and screenwriter as well as star Edwige Fenech (looking every bit as stunning than she did back in the 70s). The movie has been re-released on DVD by Mya DVD but without the extras. Im told their DVD looks pretty good but the NoShame release is obviously the one to go for if you can still find a copy.

This is a movie that works equally well as a crime thriller and as a romantic drama about a woman who has made a terrible mistake and is now desperately trying to extricate herself. Highly recommended.

6 comments:

The Vicar of VHS said...

You know I have a soft spot for Edwige Fenech (or maybe "soft" isn't the right word, IYKWIMAITYD), but I really think she's often an excellent actress in addition to being a hot bod. I thought her borderline unhinged role in ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK was extremely well done, and her bad girl/manipulator in YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM... also quite striking. I guess when you're as gobsmackingly gorgeous as Edwige it's hard to get people to look past the frankly mesmerizing physique, but in my opinion she's always quite good.

Maybe not Rosalba Neri good, but still. ;)

Shaun Anderson said...

I havent seen this film - but a quick comment on NoShame. A brilliant but tragically short lived DVD distributor. I managed to pick up the Luciano Ercoli set featuring DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT and DEATH WALKS IN HIGH HEELS, and the Miraglia set featuring THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE and THE RED QUEEN KILLS 7 TIMES before the titles were deleted and quadrupled in price. At least we still have Mya Communication keeping up the good Italian work.

dfordoom said...

Shaun, I have the Miraglia set. Including the Red Queen action figure! The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is superb.

And Vicar, I agree that Fenech was a more than competent actress. Although sometimes it's difficult to concentrate on her acting!

venoms5 said...

I have this one, but have yet to open it up. A shame about NoShame US. There were a few additional discs I wanted to get from them before their American branch closed up shop. Not sure if their Italian arm is still going, or not.

dfordoom said...

venoms5: NoShame were a great company. Superb transfers, lots of extras. Mya DVD seem to be re-releasing quite a few of the NoShame DVDs, but without the extras.

venoms5 said...

Hey, D, I gave you an award. Check here...

http://www.coolasscinema.com/2010/07/assorted-bits-pieces-cool-ass-cinema.html