Thursday, May 15, 2014

Il marito e mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pare (1967)

Italian Poster

Il marito e mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pare is an Italian comedy directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile (the second of four films in which he directed Catherine) and produced by Silvio Clementelli (who produced nine of Catherine's films).  The only version of this film that I have seen is an Italian DVD release, which came out in 2009 without any subtitles.  Here is the English language plot summary from the official studio program for the film:

"For a few years, Allegra and Ignazio (she twenty-he well past fifty) have been leading an incredibly unusual but happy married life.  Allegra is sincerely in love with her husband regardless of the age difference, and she is fascinated by his strong artistic personality (Ignazio is a famous, wealth musician).  Ignazio, on the other hand, is continually surprised and entertained by Allegra's strange personality as a young wife, and gives her such deep tenderness and love, that he even worries about finding her a good successor for when she shall be left a widow.

Together, in complete agreement, they are on the lookout for a 'fiance' for Allegra, who will take over when  Ignazio shall no longer be around.

One day she meets a poor but young nonconformist named Leonardo, and he falls in love.  But Leonardo is impatient, and can't wait for nature to take its course...he wants Allegra now.

Leonardo begins to examine the possibilities of getting rid of Ignazio.  His murder plans are so original and fantastic that Allegra, who now loves him, is already used to the idea that she is a widow, and thinks about her husband as a past memory.  But in reality, Ignazio continues to stay alive notwithstanding all the attempts on his life, which become more and more fantastic and funny.

Ignazio goes through all the traps set by the two diabolic lovers without even realizing anything:  finally Allegra, exasperated, decides that if she and Leonardo can't manage to live together, then there is nothing left but die together.

Though Leonardo is a typical rebel, the idea of dying together doesn't appeal to him very much, and he desperately makes one last try to do away with Ignazio.

At the same time, Allegra has arranged a trick to get Leonardo to commit suicide together with her:  but Ignazio falls into the trap instead.

The two youngsters are finally free to live together, thinking all the while that they are fiendish lovers.

Ignazio-who once more has escaped from the trap-will not show up any more.  He will live to a ripe old age peacefully, together with his music and the knowledge that he has contributed to the happiness of the two youngsters whom regardless of everything, he loves with the happy indulgence of the wise and crazy."

My impression from watching the film with the above plot in mind is that, if you took an early 1970's Italian sex comedy, took out the sex, took out the T&A, and added a dog and a chimpanzee, then you would be left with Il marito e mio e l'ammazzo quando mi pare.  That does not seem like a winning combination.  Granted that I cannot fully appreciate the film because of the language barrier, that is the way that the film looks, sounds, and feels to me.  I watched Hywell Bennett, thinking that he seemed like someone who should be in a 1970's British sex comedy, looked him up on IMDB, and saw that he is indeed a British actor.  Clearly, I'm not familiar with his work.

On a more positive note, the film gives Catherine lots of screen time and a chance to work with light comedy, something at which she was always good.  Even with the language barrier, it is clear that she did a fine job handling many of the comedic elements of the film.  The comedy in this film seems far sillier than anything that Catherine had previously done.  With Hugh Griffith as Catherine's husband, it almost seems absurd, but then again, Julia Roberts married Lyle Lovett, so who's to say.

Perhaps I am underestimating this film, because seven out of fourteen voters on IMDB have given it a 10 rating.  Nonetheless, my overall impression is that it is a competently made film that few would consider among the better films of Catherine's career, even if it does have some bright spots.

Known in English as Drop Dead, My Love, the film was shot between September and December of 1967 in the Rome suburb of Frascati with a working English title of He's My Husband and I'll Kill Him When I Please.  In Frascati, exteriors and interiors were filmed at the Villa Borghese, a former papal residence.
  • The June 28, 1967 Variety, in a story on Clementelli's projects for the year, stated that this film was scheduled for an August start date.  
  •  The August 16, 1967 Variety reported that Hugh Griffith had been signed for the film.
  • The October 4, 1967 Variety reported:  "Director Festa Campanile started cameras rolling in the Rome suburb of Frascati for 'He's My Husband and I'll Kill Him When I Please' with Catherine Spaak, Hugh Griffith & Hywell Bennett."
  • I have also seen a press photo stamped on the back with information indicating that the film was being shot in Rome in September of 1967.
  • The December 6, 1967 Variety reported:  "Producer Silvio Clementelli is winding final scenes for 'He's My Husband and I'll Kill Him When I Like' at the Villa Borghese in Frascati-once a papal residence for Paul V, Pius VII, Benedict XIV, and Pius IX.  Sanctified past of ancient chateau is not cramping director Festa Campanile, filming his sophisticated sex comedy with Catherine Spaak, Hugh Griffith and Hywel Bennett on garden exteriors and natural interiors." 
It appears that the film was released in Italy around March of 1968, and it was the official Italian entry at the San Sebastian Film Festival that summer.

Variety gave the film a tepid review in the March 13, 1968 edition, with a Rome, February 27 dateline, first noting that "Producer Silvio Clementelli joins Italian filmmakers now in throes of creative readjustment to fashioning product for the American market and for global distribution through a Yank major.  In 'Drop Dead, My Love,' most formula elements are present - above-average director of mass consumption pix, international cast and original English track dubbed into Italian for local market.  Formula-wise, production is neutral with respect to specific nationality while mounting is colorful and lush." It went on to say that the filmmakers were "on the verge of achieving a solid situation comedy," but that at times the "comedy plods where it should prance." "Color lensing, sets and costumes are all topnotch" but the music soundtrack was tabbed "inadequate."  Griffith was considered "excellent" and Bennett "flawed."  "Catherine Spaak goes about her murder mission with a disarming gaiety that belies the atrocity of [the] basic story point."  Finally, Variety noted:  "Evident is producer's effort to unload for Yank general audiences and tv, which he will once pic is tightened.  Although literal translation of Italo title is 'He's My Husband, I'll Kill Him When I Please,' producer Clementelli prefers the 'Drop Dead, My Love' translation (as will most theatre owners with small marquees)."

I have found no information indicating how the film performed at the box office.  Despite Clementelli's reported targeting of an American audience, I have seen no indication that the film was ever released in any English-speaking country.

Here are some fantastic on-set publicity/modeling photos:

Here are some more modeling photos that appear to be associated with the film (the same general look and the same hair style):

Cast publicity photos/stills:

Italian posters:

Here is the studio's promotional program for the film:

Italian soundtrack album:

A couple of Turkish posters:

A Spanish poster:

Mexican lobby cards:

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