Friday, 5 April 2019

Female Animal (1970)

Female Animal, released in 1970, is a bit of an oddity. It seems to be an Italian-Spanish softcore co-production but it isn’t. It’s an American film produced by American exploitation legend Jerry Gross. It’s one of the handful of films Gross directed himself. The credits will tell you that the movie was produced by Antonio Benvenuti and directed by Juan Carlo Grinella but it was definitely produced and directed by Gross. It was shot in New York City and on location in Puerto Rico.

The movie stars Arlene Tiger as sultry Mediterranean beauty Angelique, only Arlene Tiger was actually Arlene Sue Farber and she hailed from New York City. Pretty much everything in the credits is a lie.

Female Animal supposedly takes place on an island although I’m pretty sure the name of the island is never mentioned. It does try for a vaguely Mediterranean atmosphere, which gets intriguingly mixed up with an American sexploitation atmosphere.

Angelique is a poor peasant girl who lives with her very disapproving aunt. One day Angelique has some bad luck. She is riding her bicycle when she is almost run over by a big car. But it’s really good luck because she’s not hurt and the car belongs to the fabulously wealthy Count Medici and the count not only buys her a new bicycle he offers her a job in his palatial house. Or maybe it’s not good luck after all. The Count does make one condition. She must stay away from his ne’er do well son Alain.

Of course Angelique doesn’t listen. She never does.

The acting is mostly passable. Arlene Farber is actually very good. The most important thing she has to do is to make Angelique seem rather innocent and at the same time slightly cynical and more experienced than such a girl should be. She does this extremely well. Angelique is too calculating to be a conventional good girl heroine but not calculating enough to be a conventional bad girl. She thinks she knows what she’s doing and she does, up to a point. Beyond that point she is dangerously out of her depth.

Farber also looks extremely beautiful. Oh, and she takes her clothes off as well.

Angelique is not the only one to get out of her depth. The tense adversarial relationship between the Count and his spoilt rich son is getting badly out of hand and now they have something new to add fuel to the flames. They both want Angelique. It’s not just a romantic triangle since - the Count’s mistress adds further perilous complications.

Female Animal has some of the feel you associate with the sex psycho-melodramas that Joe Sarno was making at that time. And some of Sarno’s films of the late 60s were shot in Europe so it’s not unlikely that they were the reason Female Animal was made as a fake-European film. Given the huge success of Sarno’s 1968 Swedish-shot Inga it actually starts to sound like a plausible theory. The main difference is that Sarno was better at both the sex and the melodrama. Female Animal was also inspired by the 1968 Swedish Fanny Hill, also a big money-spinner.

The pacing is a problem. The plot is very straightforward but it needs to be moved along more quickly. Gross doesn’t quite succeed in building enough of a feeling of imminent catastrophe to keep the viewer interested.

This is a problem because the movie’s erotic content is rather sparse and rather tame. Apart from that there’s not really much nudity at all. Given Arlene Farber’s undeniable hotness this could certainly be seen as a flaw. It is basically a melodrama but it’s a melodrama centred on sex and it needs a lot more sexual heat.

The scene in the casino with The Count and his son as the players and Angelique as the stake is quite effective although it’s not quite clear why the usually ruthless control freak Count is suddenly showing such recklessness and poor judgment.

At this point you’re probably getting worried because I haven’t told you if this movie contains any go-go dancing. You can rest easy on that score. There is indeed go-go dancing. In fact Angelique herself does some of it.

Female Animal has an unexpected ending. Unexpected endings can be a good thing. In this case it’s a bad thing.

The Retro-Seduction Cinema DVD is a typical release from that outfit. The transfer is letterboxed and it’s adequate at best. There’s a certain amount of visible print damage. The transfer is not anamorphic but at least It’s letterboxed which is something.

This DVD dates from the period when Seduction Cinema had the idea of pairing classic 1960s sexploitation films in their Retro-Seduction Cinema line with contemporary Seduction Cinema softcore films on vaguely similar themes. What this mostly achieved in practice was to demonstrate how much more interesting the erotic movies of the 60s were. In this case you get Master’s Plaything which is best avoided unless you’re a very very keen Misty Mundae fan.

Female Animal doesn’t quite make it. Despite the heroic efforts of Arlene Farber it fails to ignite. Worth a look if you’re an Arlene Farber completist, if such a thing exists.

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