Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Diciottenni al sole (1962)

U.S. One Sheet Poster

Diciottenni al sole (aka Eighteen in the Sun), directed by Camillo Mastrocinque, finds Catherine in all of her teen star glory as Nicole Molino, a French teenager on vacation at the Italian resort island of Ischia (where the movie was filmed).  Besides Nicole, the film follows the adventures of several other young people on vacation, looking for fun and romance.  Gianni Garko, in the role of Nicola Molina, is Catherine's love interest.  Confusion, comedy, and romance ensue when Catherine's "Nicole" is accidentally booked into the same hotel room with Gianni's "Nicola."  Nicole and Nicola have a love/hate relationship for much of the film, before predictably falling for each other.  Lisa Gastoni ably plays the part of a seductive, bikini-clad woman who is variously pursued by Nicola's friends.  Fabrizio Capucci plays the part of Matthew, who, along with his brother, are trying to scheme their way out of a gambling debt to one of the local tough guys.

Garko had just appeared with Catherine in La voglia matta, as had Capucci.  Presumably, Catherine and Capucci continued their off-screen romance that ignited during the previous film.

Shot in the summer of 1962, this film was Catherine's first to have been shot in color, and the Italian DVD release is a beautiful print.  Catherine is lovely, as is the scenery, and there is really not anything to dislike about this movie.  It is similar to a typical American beach movie of the era, positioned between films like Where the Boys Are and Beach Party.  It is similar to Where the Boys Are, in that it follows several story lines involving young people in pursuit of romance in a beach setting, but unlike that film, it does not address any particularly serious themes.  It is more light-hearted, like the Frankie and Annette beach movies for American International Pictures, but I think that it is funnier and more well-made than many of the AIP beach movies.  It contains the requisite bathing-suit-clad females and music, although not as much as a typical American-made beach movie.

Two particular Catherine scenes stood out to me.  First, she was just perfect in the scene where Nicole and Nicola first find out that they have been assigned to the same room.  The indignant banter between the two is quite humorous and shows off Catherine's comedic abilities that served her so well during this period in her career.  Second, is the scene where Nicole starts doing the twist on a restaurant terrace with another guy, trying to make Nicola jealous.  This is the type image of Catherine that helped shape her into being viewed as the representative of European teens at the time.  She stated in interviews of the era that she liked to go out to clubs and twist in her leisure time.

Typically, there are hints at "scandalous" nudity by Catherine's character.  Nicola is arrested for sunbathing nude, which of course is due to police confusion between the names Nicola Molina and Nicole Molina, as it was Nicole who was actually sunbathing nude.  While there is discussion of this "nude" sunbathing incident at the police station, no such beach scene is actually included in the film.  Nevertheless, the U.S. half sheet poster (as shown further down this blog post) heralds "topless excitement." 

On a little side-note, after having viewed the film several times, I started to notice that Catherine's hair appears to be much longer in some scenes than it does in others.  It is also evident in the stills shown below.

One other item of note, the song "Guardo come dondolo" by Edoardo Vianello was featured in this movie (as well as in Il Sorpasso, another Catherine movie later in the year).  Apparently it was a hit in Italy at the time.  You can do a quick search and view performances of the song on Youtube.  I don't understand a word of it, but it's one of the catchiest tunes that I have ever heard.  Whenever I watch either movie, I get that tune stuck in my head!

In conclusion, Diciotenni al sole is one of my favorite Catherine films and should be considered required viewing by all Catherine fans.  

The film was released in Italy in 1962, although I do not know the exact date.  IMDB indicates that it premiered in New York City on December 15, 1964, but I have found no other information about that premiere.  As you can see from the numbering on the U.S. items below, they all come from a 1966 Richard G. Yates Film Sales, Inc. release.  That release is the only one for which I have ever seen any promotional material.  Also, Thunderbird Films promoted the movie in 1965 under the title Beach Party Italian Style as part of a package of first-run movies being marketed for TV syndication.  I do not know if that syndication was in the U.S. market, the Canadian market, or both.  Shown further down this blog post are the front and back of an 8x10 promotional card used by Thunderbird Films in its 1965 marketing efforts.

The September 1, 1965 issue of Variety noted that "Harry Goldstone has acquired N.Y. and New Jersey distribution rights to two Richard Yates-controlled Italian films, 'Eighteen in the Sun' and 'Passionate Ghost'."

The September 5, 1966 issue of Boxoffice contains a review of Eighteen in the Sun, listing it as an 88-minute Goldstone release.  The review stated in part:

"[D]epending upon the degree of local-level exploitation, this can generate a surprisingly strong boxoffice response.  It has Catherine Spaak, a likable, lissome lovely...and the atmosphere of beach-bum life that can be applied to anywhere, USA, as well as Italy. ... Camillo Mastrocinque has directed with poise and no small awareness of la belle beach.  Richard Pallottini's photographic effects, in handsome Eastman Color, contribute strongly to the swinging mood.  Miss Spaak's name is widely known already and this newest import should aid and abet her career's stateside impact."  

The January 23, 1967 issue of Boxoffice charted the hit releases of the fall quarter of 1966 based on releases with five or more playdates.  There is no mention of Eighteen in the Sun.

It is unclear how all of this information ties together.  In 1994, Richard Yates died at the age of 74 in Boca Raton, Florida.  His obituary states that he was the youngest son of Herbert Yates, founder of Republic Pictures, where Richard served as a Vice President and was responsible for trying to sell movies and serials to television.  In the 1960's he founded Richard G. Yates Film Sales in New York to specialize in bringing foreign films to American television.

Other than the review discussed above, I have found no other mention of the film in Boxoffice magazine.  Until I learn further information, my theory is that Eighteen in the Sun received a very limited theatrical release in the New York area at the end of 1964 in an effort to capitalize on Catherine's growing name recognition in the U.S. during 1964, followed by an attempt at another wider theatrical release (probably on the east coast and/or in Canada) in 1966 and in conjunction with Harry Goldstone in the N.Y./New Jersey area.  The promotional material that is shown in this post relates to that 1966 release.  In the meantime, Richard Yates likely marketed the film to television, including the version promoted by Thunderbird Films.  Regardless of the details, it seems fairly clear that the film received limited theatrical and television exposure in the U.S. and was not widely seen.

Here are some on-set photos:

Now, images of the promotional material.  First up, the U.S. trailer (not in the great quality of the Italian dvd release):
The U.S. One sheet is pictured at the beginning of this post.  Here is the U.S. Half Sheet:

Those were the only two posters available for the U.S. release.  Lobby cards came in a set of 4, as pictured below.  Catherine only appears on one of the cards (bottom right).  Note that the bottom-left card includes a scene (which is also shown above on the half sheet poster) that does not appear in the Italian DVD release for the film, and I can't identify the female pictured.  Lisa Gastoni is featured in the top two cards. IMDB shows a running time of 100 minutes, the Thunderbird Films card below shows a running time of 95 minutes, and the Italian DVD release shows a running time of 96 minutes.  As mentioned earlier, Boxoffice clocked the Goldstone release at 88 minutes.  It would be interesting to know whether there is any real difference between the various versions.  Perhaps that explains the missing scene from the DVD that is shown on this promotional material.

An Italian locandina poster and the Italian soundtrack album:
Stills, mostly promoting the U.S. release:

The U.S. pressbook cover:

The front and back of the Thunderbird Films promotional card used in regard to TV syndication:
Japanese material:
A Spanish poster:
Mexican lobby cards:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

La voglia matta (1962)

La voglia matta (1962)

U.S. Half Sheet Poster

After completing work on Le puits aux trois verites, it appears that Catherine then worked on five more films by the end of 1962.  I have not yet found definitive information concerning the order in which these films were shot, so I am going to post about these films in the following order (based on my best estimation concerning the order in which they were filmed):  La voglia matta, Diciotenni al sole, Il sorpasso, L'amore difficile, and La Parmigiana.  My guess is that La voglia matta was shot in the fall of 1961.

In La voglia matta, directed in black and white by Luciano Salce and scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone, Catherine plays the role of precocious teenager, Francesca, who is staying with friends in a seaside cottage at the end of the summer season.  The great Ugo Tognazzi is Antonio Berlinghieri, a 40-ish engineer from Milan who is en-route to visit his son at a boarding school following a business trip to Rome.  Traveling in his Alfa Romeo Spyder convertible, Antonio encounters Francesca and her friends, who drive old cars.  In a series of comic events, Antonio ends up providing assistance to the teens and hanging around with them for a couple of days.

Catherine makes a grand entrance in the film, as Francesca, standing in the middle of the road wearing a top that stops just below her bum as she flags down Antonio, who is approaching in his convertible.  When Antonio stops to help the out-of-gas teenagers, his eyes keep wandering back to Francesca.  Finally, she playfully asks him if he wonders whether or not she is wearing anything under the top, informs him that she is wearing her swimsuit under the top, lifts it slightly to prove her point, and laughingly calls him a dirty old man.

Although Antonio considers the teens to be reckless and rude, he is undeniably attracted to flirtatious Francesca.  In a humorous scene soon after they meet, Antonio and Francesca discuss their ages.  He insists that he is 39, but we can read between the lines that he is really a little older than that.  Francesca meanwhile is proud that she is 16 (or is about to be 16, at least).  "1-6" she insists when, to her consternation, he guesses that she is 14.

Antonio finds himself more and more obsessed with a crazy desire for Francesca, a desire which he knows is not rational.  He is often made the butt of jokes by the teens, and he is constantly pulled into juvenile games and contests with the boys.  Francesca seems amused by his affections and plays along with his expression of a desire to marry her.  The summer must end, however, as must Antonio's crazy desire.  Antonio must return to the real world and forget his crazy desire that seems more like an odd dream.

Although the film likely raised eyebrows in 1962 (as it surely would today) with its portrayal of the flirtatious relationship between a grown man and a teenage girl (in addition to portraying a group of male and female teenagers sharing a cottage together for the summer, smoking and drinking in the process), it was a great success in Europe and catapulted Catherine to major-star status.  She came to be viewed as the face of that generation of Italian teenagers.  Her look in the film became known to teenagers as "The Catherine Spaak Look" (short hair with bangs, St. Tropez slacks and halter, and an over-sized pullover worn with a bathing suit).  Salce referred to the film as "a 'dolce vita' of the teenage generation."

Clearly, in this film, Catherine has found her footing for moving forward with her career.  All of the things that made her a big star are present:  the look, the mega-watt smile, the screen presence, and her wonderful ability to deftly handle comedic material.  "Adorable" is probably the best adjective to describe Catherine's on-screen persona during this period.  Besides her age, she was also distinguished among European starlets of the era in that she had a taller, lankier look than what was typically seen at the time.  She was around 5'8" tall and weighed about 110 lbs.

I liked this film the first time that I watched it, but my appreciation of it has grown on subsequent viewings.  Although most Italian films of the era are in black and white and beautifully shot, I can't help but think that this film, given its beach setting, might have benefited from color treatment.  Regardless, this is one of the films that would be considered required viewing for anyone interested in Catherine's career.

Of particular note, Catherine met future husband Fabrizio Capucci on the set of the film.  He played Rico, one of the teenagers staying in the cottage.  It was said that he was the only male who was not hitting on her, so she set her cap for him.  In a 2002 interview, Catherine indicated that Tognazzi made a pass at her in his car and kicked her out after she rebuffed him.

La voglia matta was filmed on location at a Mediterranean seaside resort, San Felice Circeo,  midway between Naples and Rome.  Filmed in seven weeks, much of the shoot was improvised, and many of the scenes were shot at a cottage constructed on a secluded strip of beach.  That cottage was used to house the male cast members, who did much of their own cooking and cleaning.  Salce also assembled a supporting cast of non-professionals recruited from among the young people on vacation in the area, including Oliviero Prunas (son of the Italian ambassador to Great Britain), Corrado Pantanella (heir to an Italian pasta fortune), and Lylia Neyung, an exotic-looking girl of mixed French and Indonesian parentage (who was visiting friends in the area). 

Of interest in regard to the film's eight songs, "Chanson d 'Ete" is performed by Catherine, and she wrote the song especially for the film.  "La Tua Stagione" was written by Salce. 

Besides catapulting Catherine to stardom in Europe, the film apparently caught the eye of producer Joseph E. Levine, who championed Catherine's career in the U.S. and brought several of her films to North America through his Embassy Pictures Corporation.   An add promoting worldwide sales of the film at the Cannes Film Festival appeared in the May 2, 1962 edition of Variety (which referred to it in English as That Certain Urge).  The film premiered in Italy on March 24, 1962 and in New York City on July 2, 1964 under the title Crazy Desire.  (Note that its U.S. release followed close on the heels of the U.S. premieres of The Easy Life on December 22, 1963, The Empty Canvas on March 10, 1964, and Of Wayward Love on March 23, 1964.)  Based on the reports in Boxoffice Magazine, the film did average business in the U.S. but was not considered to be a "hit."  I have also read that it was shown on TV in some U.S. cities around 1969-1970.

In the New York Times, Bosley Crowther gave the film a scathing review, stating in part:

"[Tognazzi's] dismally dead-panned submission to the toothy coquetry of Catherine Spaak, a lanky lass who wears a wearying assortment of bikinis, blouses and slacks, is painful, mainly because the young creature and her companies are so monotonous and dull.

The easiest thing is to tell yourself that nobody would be so foolish as this fellow, and let it drop.  After all, this is only a movie, and a pretty skimpy and poor one at that."

I can't help but wonder what film ol' Bosley was watching.  Unless 1964 Americans considered a white one-piece bathing suit to be a bikini, I'm a little confused as to what assortment of Catherine's bikinis he is referring to.  Regardless, any man that could consider an assortment of bikinis to be "wearying" should have his head examined!

U.S. press material for the film included the following quotes about Catherine:

"A new teen-age Belgian sex kitten..." - McCall's Magazine
"Has things in common with Bardot; an ingenious way with a bath towel!" - Saturday Evening Post
"Combustible males in the audience might well start flaming!" - New York Post

I think that it is safe to say that those press quotes would be frowned upon today in the U.S. with regard to a teenage movie star.

Now for the promotional material section of our in-depth look at La vogila matta. The number of countries represented in this material gives an idea of how much exposure Catherine received from this film on an international level.  The U.S. One Sheet and Half Sheet posters, as well as the pressbook, are presented, but I have never come across the 40x60 poster or any of the lobby cards.  Presumably, the lobby cards were in a set of 4, as was the case with Catherine's other films brought to the U.S. by Embassy Pictures.

Here is an Italian language trailer for the film (note that it also includes a trailer for Diciotenni al sole; the trailer for La voglia matta starts at the 3:59 mark):

Here is the U.S. one sheet poster, courtesy of the archives at emovieposter.com:
An Italian locandina poster, as well as 12 Italian fotobustas, courtesy of the archives at emovieposter.com:
Some more Italian fotobustas:

An Argentinian and a Spanish poster:

A French poster courtesy of the archives at emovieposter.com:

Italian posters from a re-release:

Here are a number of stills, mostly promoting the U.S. release of the film:

The U.S. pressbook:

A German program:

A Japanese herald courtesy of the archives at emovieposter.com (for a later re-release):

A Japanese magazine clipping:

A Mexican lobby card:
 A 45-rpm record: