onsdag 20. februar 2008

Disco Crazy/Brillantina Rock

Italy, 1979

Directed by Michele Massimo Tarantini

Monty Ray Garrison, Cecilia Buonocore, Auretta Gay, Mauro Frittella, Mimmo Bua, Sergio Borelli, Jimmy il Fenomeno, Christine Kenneally, Fiamma Maglione

Aah! Those wacky Italians! It would seem that every time a big Hollywood hit was released, various Italian producers hurriedly put together a couple of cheap knock-offs that were released in quick succession – usually resulting in a short-lived trend that disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. One of the Hollywood films to inspire a bunch of Italian imitations was the John Travolta starring vehicle Saturday Night Fever (1977). Unfortunately, most of these Italian disco films don’t appear to have been dubbed into English and are tricky to find these days. The most well-known of these films is probably Claudio Giorgi's American Fever (1978) but director Michele Massimo Tarantini – best known for a string of teen sex comedies and the mediocre police thriller A Man Called Magnum (1977) – also tried his hand at the genre with the super-cheesy and hilarious Disco Crazy.

Rather than trying to pass itself off as an American product, Disco Crazy is actually set in Italy for a change. We meet Robbie (Monty Ray Garrison), a goofy kid with enormous amounts of grease in his hair, and a comb up his sleeve – just in case!

Robbie’s pride and joy is Lizzie, his Russian motorcycle with a side-car. He has glued pictures of his hero John Travolta over the side-view mirrors, and as the opening credits play to the strains of John Paul Young’s big disco hit “Love is in the Air”, we see Robbie riding through the streets of the city on his beloved Lizzie.


Handy with the comb

Robbie and his bike

Both Robbie and the crowd he hangs with are a bunch of lazy kids who seem to spend their entire days doing nothing but slouch off, and then dancing the night away at the local disco. The only one in the gang who has a regular job is Robbie’s kind but dim-witted buddy Oscar (Mimmo Bua), who ends up spending most of his earnings on buying disco tickets for the rest of the lazy kids.

Robbie’s rival is Rick (Mauro Frittella), a “bad” kid who is the leader of another gang of lazy youngsters. Rick and his gang wear all black clothes, though, to signalize that they are the bad kids in town.

The rivalling gangs

So the kids decide to settle the score – on the dance floor. Using their best moves, they try to out-dance each other to teach their rivals a lesson they won’t soon forget! Ooooh!

The battle of the dance floor

Anyway, in the midst of all this competing, the new girl in town makes her arrival on the dance floor. She is Cindy (Auretta Gay), an American, upper-class girl with a fondness for wearing kitschy leopard suits. The mere sight of this disco-loving southern belle is enough to completely bewitch Robbie, who makes it his goal to woo Cindy. This might prove a difficult task, though, as Cindy is quite the popular girl and she likes playing hard to get.

Cindy and her leopard outfits

Robbie and Cindy eventually get closer, even though the class difference between them is obvious. When a big dance competition to crown the “king and queen of rock” is announced, Robbie goes bananas and manages to convince Cindy to be his partner in the competition. However, Cindy is a highly independent woman who doesn’t want to belong to anyone, so when bad boy Rick starts putting the moves on her, the conflict between Robbie and Rick grows more serious as the two boys start competing for Cindy’s affections.

The rivals...

... and the girl they're competing for

Wow! Disco Crazy is a really crazy piece of work. No one would ever mistake this for a good film. It’s extremely idiotic and moves along very predictably up until its final climatic dance competition. But whatever short-comings the film may have, it more than makes up for with its insanely cheesy charms, wacky dancing and bad but catchy disco songs.

All is settled in the climatic dance competition

There’s no way to really describe the songs in the film. Most of them are really, really bad but in a good way. One fun high-light is “Honey With Bears”, sung by Daniel Danieli, whose terrible grasp of English makes the lyrics sound more like ‘Honey With Bars’. We also get the Rolling Stones hit “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” performed in extremely accented and phonetic English by some woman who is about as good at singing as she is at pronouncing words in English. But what’s really mind-blowing is the fact that most of the music was written by Gianfranco Reverberi, the same guy who did the wonderful scores for the Polselli films The Reincarnation of Isabel (1971) and Delirium (1972).

The actors strut their stuff to trashy music

There’s more cool stuff too. One particularly agreeable number called “La Papaya” is just wickedly catchy, not to mention an instrumental oddity that is some sort of country/disco hybrid. To be honest, it sounds like it’s more suited for a barn dance. Actually, I don’t understand the film’s Italian title Brillantina Rock, or why they are crowning the king and queen of rock in the competition because there aren’t really any rock songs in the film at all. Still, the absurdity of it all, really just makes the film all the more enjoyable. I dig the Italian title and – silly as it may be – it’s hard not to tap your foot or clap along to many of the catchy songs (country/disco number included).

Country disco

La Papaya

Even the geeks join the fun

But the film isn’t only about kids dancing to stupid songs. Director Michele Massimo Tarantini can’t resist the temptation of throwing in some fighting and a couple of action scenes, such a motorcycle race and a car chase, to keep the audience’s interest up.

Fighting fun

Robbie messes up a car

There’s no denying, however, that it’s the disco scenes that are the film’s raison d’être but the fun doesn’t come from the silly songs alone – the garish costumes (Cindy’s leopard outfits are real jaw-smackers) and the crazy dancing moves certainly help too. One-film wonder Monty Ray Garrison is just so insanely goofy and his dance moves are completely hysterical. The guy obviously knows how to dance and he was probably a real-life dancer even, but that doesn’t stop him from looking totally wacky as he jumps about like a lunatic with his über-cheesy dance moves. As far as Garrison’s acting goes, he doesn’t exactly come across like a particularly likeable character, either. He’s lazy and he generally takes advantage of everyone, including his friends and family.

Robbie shows off his moves

Robbie without grease in his hair

Another important character in the story is that of Sandra, Robbie’s old childhood friend with a secret crush on him, and who used to hang out with the rest of the disco gang until she got a job and made something of herself. Initially shown as a somewhat more responsible and mature character, we eventually learn that Sandra got her job simply by sleeping with her boss. So much for ideals! Still, Sandra is by far the most sympathetic and likeable of the leading characters and is played with a great deal of charm and sweetness by Cecilia Buonocore. This is Buonocore's only film apperance but she was a popular singer in Italy at the time this was made and could be seen on TV a lot. Here she proves that she is quite the good dancer too.

The charming Cecilia Buonocore

One of Cecilia's records

However, the most welcome face in the cast is arguably that of Auretta Gay in her first film role. Gay is a well-known face to most Euro-cult aficionados thanks to her performance as Susan in Lucio Fulci’s gory horror favorite Zombie (1979) but she has remained quite enigmatic as she only appeared in a handful of films before vanishing completely from the acting scene. Here, she looks marvelous with long dark hair and numerous tight leopard outfits. She too does an impressive job with her dancing scenes considering she wasn’t a professional dancer (at least I don’t think she was).

The mysterious Auretta Gay

Well, there isn’t much more to say really. Disco Crazy is just plain silly. Some scenes actually go for intentional comedy, like a scene in which Cindy brings Robbie to a snobbish restaurant, where he starts goofing about and causing some fuzz because he doesn’t know how to eat the fancy food he’s served. However, this scene isn’t particularly funny. It’s the rivaling dance acts, the catchy songs with heavily accented lyrics and the cheesy dubbed dialogue full of laughable “insults” that really make this a terrifically enjoyable experience. Now, when are we going to get a CD release of the soundtrack!?

The film scores a 10 on enjoyability factor

© 2008 Johan Melle

The cast:

Monty Ray Garrison as Robbie

Cecilia Buonocore as Sandra

Auretta Gay as Cindy

Mauro Frittella as Rick

Mimmo Bua as Oscar

??? as Giulio

Jimmy il Fenomeno as Gas station attendant

??? as Franca

??? as Bartender

Fiamma Maglione (right) as Robbie's sister

??? as Sandra's boss

2 kommentarer:

Ian Miller sa...

"Brilliantine" is a certain style of extra-shiny hair grease, which makes sense in this context. Love the blog, btw!

Johan Melle sa...

Haha! I wasn't aware of that but your're right - it makes a lot of sense in this context!

And thanks for the kind words. I'm always happy if my movie ramblings can be of amusement to others :)