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
An Italian locandina poster, as well as 12 Italian fotobustas, courtesy of the archives at
Some more Italian fotobustas:

An Argentinian and a Spanish poster:

A French poster courtesy of the archives at

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 (for a later re-release):

A Japanese magazine clipping:

A Mexican lobby card:
 A 45-rpm record:


  1. The Spanish posters (from Spain). The Argentinian you had got before.

    And an Italian you've missed

    This film is very good with Tognazzi at his best.

  2. As always, thanks. Update done. I agree, good film, classic Tognazzi.