mandag 28. februar 2011

Play Motel

Italy, 1979

Directed by Mario Gariazzo

Anna Maria Rizzoli, Ray Lovelock, Enzo Fisichella, Marino Masé, Mario Cutini, Antonella Antinori, Anthony Steffen, Patrizia Webley, Patrizia Behn, Marina Frajese, Mario Novelli, Bob Balisteri, Vittorio Ripamonti

Welcome to Play Motel, a nice little motel just outside of town, where rich and respectable men come to secretly live out their perverted sexual fantasies with busty call-girls. In the film’s opening sequence we are introduced to Rinaldo Cortesi (Enzo Fisichella), a respectable upper-class citizen who discreetly picks up a sexy blonde woman named Loredana (played by the notorious Swedish porno diva Marina Frajese) in the lobby of Play Motel, and brings her to a room upstairs. Here, Mr. Cortesi reveals his depraved nature as he dresses up in a devil’s costume while Loredana dons a nun’s habit. Her half-naked body is soon caressed with a pitchfork before they get down to the nitty gritty.

The nun and the devil

But unbeknownst to Mr. Cortesi, his raunchy bed-hopping is secretly photographed from the room next-door through a two-way mirror, and it doesn’t take long before he receives an envelope with compromising photos and a letter with instructions to pay up unless he wants the pictures handed over to the media. And Cortesi is far from the only one to suffer this fate. It turns out that an organized blackmailing ring is operating from Play Motel, and there is no shortage of rich and kinky clients for them to prey on.

Forbidden photos

When Cortesi’s estranged young wife, Luisa (Patrizia Behn), who is having an affair with her husband’s lawyer, finds out about the blackmail plot, she immediately delivers the photos to police inspector De Sanctis (Anthony Steffen). Thanks to the police’s “archive of pornographic publications” (!!), De Sanctis is able to determine that the girl with Cortesi in the blackmail photos is pornographic photo model Loredana Salvi. Wow! Who knew the Italian police kept an archive of porn magazines!? It sure came in handy, though!

Anyway, inspector De Sanctis is quick to seek out Loredana but this is observed by the other employees at the porn publisher she works for. One of Loredana’s co-workers is clearly afraid that she will expose the profitable blackmail operation because later that day she is strangled by a mysterious black-gloved killer hiding in the backseat of her car.

After hearing of the murder, Luisa Cortesi decides to play amateur detective and rents a room at Play Motel. While snooping around, she enters the linen room and discovers the two-way mirror used to get the blackmail photos but before Luisa can do anything more, the black-gloved killer sneaks up behind her and strangles her.

The killer claims another victim

At this point we are finally introduced to the film’s main characters: handsome theater actor Roberto Vinci (Ray Lovelock) and his hot, blonde girlfriend Patrizia (Anna Maria Rizzoli), who have just rented a room at Play Motel so they can enjoy a little quickie. After checking out, they start driving home but get a flat tire. Upon opening the trunk of the car they are shocked to discover that Luisa’s corpse has been dumped there. They immediately call the police, and inspector De Sanctis figures that Roberto and his acting skills might be an asset to the investigation. He asks the couple to do some amateur sleuthing at Play Motel and they agree – thereby putting themselves in inevitable danger...

"Honey, there's a corpse in the trunk!"

Wow! A giallo taking place in the world of porn and prostitution! Play Motel must surely be a real giallo classic, right? Well, no, not really. It is actually a rather poor giallo in the sense that it is unable to mount any discernible suspense or tension. This is no doubt because writer-director Mario Gariazzo is far more interested in bombarding the audience with one sleazy, explicit sex scene after the other. However, I must hasten to add that this isn’t really a bad thing because it makes the whole film amazingly fun to watch. I mean, how can you not get a kick out of watching a guy in a devil costume doing a hooker dressed as a nun, or a nutty old guy who likes to put champagne bottles where his dick ought to go? It’s not classy, no, but one has to admire the incredible level of sordidness on display here.

Kinks aplenty!

While the numerous kinky softcore scenes really push the envelope in terms of sexual explicitness, that is clearly not enough for Gariazzo, who seems hell-bent on pushing the sleaze factor to its absolute maximum – a goal he achieves by throwing in a couple of scenes featuring full-on hardcore pornography.


It must be said that the amount of hardcore footage is pretty sparse (it is mostly relegated to the opening sequence with Marina Frajese, as well as some brief bits here and there) but it nevertheless adds that extra layer of sleaziness that you only find in the seediest of Italian thrillers from this period, such as Mario Landi’s infamous Giallo a Venezia (1979). It is quite interesting to compare Play Motel to Giallo a Venezia because they are obviously similar in that they are both ultra-trashy gialli with a strong emphasis on the sexual content. But at the same time they are very different – the main difference being that Giallo a Venezia has an extremely grim, joyless and nihilistic tone that enhances its sordidness even further, whereas Play Motel has more the kind of jolly tone that you’d expect to find in a sex comedy. This prevents it from having any serious impact as a thriller but as a trash film it’s all great fun.

Obviously, one of the main appeals of a film of this type is the attractive female cast. Taking center stage is the blonde and shapely leading lady Anna Maria Rizzoli, who looks absolutely stunning and whom the camera appears to be in love with. She is ably supported by an impressive assembly of voluptuous trash movie regulars who have no qualms of any kind about shedding their clothes at regular intervals. Busty blonde starlet Patrizia Webley, who appeared exclusively in grade Z trash such as The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance (1975) and Malabimba (1979), is delightfully uninhibited as a kinky blackmail victim; raven-haired Antonella Antinori from the endearingly silly zombie flick The Nights of Terror (1980) gets the dubious pleasure of being fucked by a champagne bottle; while porno queen Marina Frajese (not yet a star at this point) ups the sleaze value by dressing up as a nun for the film’s most prominent porn sequence.

There's certainly no shortage of sexy ladies on display

In addition to doing numerous sex scenes, the film’s sexy actresses also get plenty of opportunities to strut their stuff in several nude photo-shoots accompanied by a soundtrack of very cheesy but deliriously catchy disco songs. These trashy songs fit the film’s atmosphere perfectly and are very amusing. The title song ("Stop on by at Play Motel and have a lot of fun" etc) is a particular hoot and it’s very catchy so don’t be surprised if it gets stuck on your brain for days and weeks after watching the film. The musical score is good too – with top honor going to its addictive and oft-repeated bass-driven suspense track.

Naturally, this isn’t the sort of film you look to for great acting but Ray Lovelock and Anna Maria Rizzoli – who also starred together in Umberto Lenzi’s enjoyable comedy Excuse Me, Are You Normal? (1979) around the same time – are quite nice together as the attractive leading couple. The most fun is provided by the male supporting cast, though, with Marino Masé, Enzo Fisichella and Vittorio Ripamonti pulling out all the stops and no doubt having a ball playing the various perverts that go about conducting their "business" at Play Motel.

As you can probably tell, I quite enjoyed Play Motel but I’m not really sure if it is something I’d recommend to serious giallo fans, who might be disappointed by the lack of genuine thrills and gory set pieces. Furthermore, the film never really pays proper attention to its mystery plot, which is little more than a hook to draw us in, while the real raison d’être are the non-stop scenes of kinky and graphic sex. So, yes, Play Motel is no great shakes as a thriller but it is, however, an absolute must-see for anyone who prides themselves on being trash movie lovers.

© 2011 Johan Melle

The cast:

Anna Maria Rizzoli as Patrizia

Ray Lovelock as Roberto Vinci

Enzo Fisichella as Rinaldo Cortesi

Marino Masé as Max Liguori

Mario Cutini as Willy

Antonella Antinori as Anna De Marchis

Anthony Steffen as Inspector De Sanctis

Patrizia Webley as Valeria Marzotti

Patrizia Behn as Luisa Cortesi

Marina Frajese as Loredana Salvi

Mario Novelli as Play Motel receptionist

Bob Balister (???) as Attorney Alfieri

Vittorio Ripamonti as Guido Toselli

Grand Hotel gallery #5: Susy Andersen

This autographed photo of 1960s starlet Susy Andersen was originally printed in Grand Hotel issue No. 921 from February 15, 1964. Honestly, this photo does her no justice at all as Susy was far more attractive than this picture would have you thinking.

In spite of her blonde hair and Nordic-sounding name, Susy Andersen is actually an Italian actress, and she was born on April 20, 1940 in the Italian town Pola (which is now a part of Croatia) as Maria Antonietta Golgic. She started her career as a fashion model, and under the name Susy Valgoi she made her film debut with a supporting role in Pietro Francisci's peplum adventure The Warrior Empress (1960), which starred American actress Tina Louise. When interviewed by Grand Hotel, Susy revealed that she and Tina Louise didn't get along at all during shooting. Apparantly, Tina felt intimidated by Susy and was particularly bothered by the fact that Susy had better-looking legs, so she ran to director Pietro Francisci and demanded him to not film them below the knees. Francisci, however, doesn't seem to have paid much attention to Tina as both her and Susy's legs are prominently displayed throughout the film. Of course, it's hard to say whether or not this story is actually true - especially since just about every European actress I've read interviews with have made similar claims about driving famous Hollywood divas mad with jealousy - but it's a fun little story nonetheless.

Susy in her first film, The Warrior Empress

Anyway, Susy soon changed her her last name from Valgoi to the more internationally sellable Andersen and quickly started to get leading roles. She appeared in two more peplum adventures: Antonio Leonviola's silly but enjoyable Thor and the Amazon Women (1963) and Giuseppe Vari's interesting War of the Zombies (1964). However, most people remember Susy best for her performance as the beautiful Sdenka in the famous "The Wurdalak" segment from Mario Bava's anthology horror film Black Sabbath (1963). And it's no wonder people tend to remember this role with such affection, as Susy really looks enchantingly beautiful here.

Susy as the gorgeous Sdenka

Susy spent the rest of the 1960s appearing in a wide variety of different films, such as Antonio Pietrangeli's comedy The Magnificent Cuckold (1964), Antonio Margheriti's Eurospy adventure The Killers Are Challenged (1966), Nunzio Malasomma's spaghetti western Fifteen Scaffolds for the Killer (1968), Alfonso Brescia's exploitative mondo-style sex flick The Labyrinth of Sex (1969) and Siro Marcellini's crime movie Gangster's Law (1969).

Unfortunately, Susy seems to have vanished off the face of the earth after 1969 and I have no idea what became of her. She is fondly remembered by a lot of movie fans, though, which is impressive for someone who only appeared in 13 movies - most of which were done over a 7-year period.

Black and white photo of Susy from 1964

Susy in Thor and the Amazon Women

One of Susy's final roles was as a nymphomaniac in the trashy The Labyrinth of Sex