Cult Epics' special edition box set comprises of three remastered classics from Italy’s master of eroticism, Tinto Brass, presented uncut, and with abundant extras. Despite the director’s popularity in Europe this collection, consisting of THE KEY (1983), MIRANDA (1985), and ALL LADIES DO IT (1993), marks the first major release of his works in the USA, and that, in itself, is cause for celebration.
Set against a lavish 40s Venetian backdrop featuring Mussolini’s rise to power, THE KEY is a softcore melodrama featuring Stefania Sandrelli (STEALING BEAUTY) as Teresa Rolf, raunchy housewife to aging husband, Nino (Frank Finlay, revisiting the subject of family sexual tensions some eight years after completing the superb British drama BOUQUET OF BARBED WIRE). Discovering his wife’s secret admiration for future son-in-law Laszlo (played by Brass regular, Franco Branciaroli) prompts a reawakening of Nino’s diminishing libido which results in him manipulating the couple into a series of sexual liaisons much to the detriment of Laszlo's inexperienced fiancée, Lisa (Barbara Cupisti, THE CHURCH, OPERA).
Featuring confident performances from Sandrelli, and Finlay, THE KEY is an accomplished early piece by Brass that managed to break several cinematic taboos; one sequence has Nino drug his voluptuous wife, and take lewd photographs of her with Nino’s borrowed camera, whilst the kinky scenes of Teresa making love to her daughter’s suitor challenges viewer perceptions as regards the sanctity of parental relationships.
MIRANDA concerns buxom Italian beauty, Miranda Rostogni (Serena Grandi, ANTHROPOPHAGOUS) who decides that the best way for her to contain the grief she feels after losing her husband, presumed killed by opposition forces towards the end of WWII, is to strike up a number of sexual relations with various men at different seasons of the year. Miranda runs a guesthouse that serves as a brothel, and she also finds herself the centre of attention for a bisexual whore played by Malisa Longo (MACHO KILLERS and CAT IN THE BRAIN) who joins Miranda and young truck driver Berto Franco Interlenghi) for a (rather brief) threesome.
The film is one of the director’s least accomplished due to the rather restrained use of nudity and the fact that the sex scenes are short and void of anything approaching the sensual heights of the likes of ALL LADIES DO IT and CAPRICCIO (1987. Nevertheless, Serena Grandi (once voted “the sexiest woman in Italy”) gives a performance of note, at ease with Brass’ camera during several of the film’s more voyeuristic moments that tend to focus on Grandi’s hirsute nether regions. Also engaging is Franco Branciaroli who plays Miranda’s ‘Summer’ lover, tavern employee Tony, whom Miranda ends up marrying.
It is interesting to note that MIRANDA is the first of Brass’ films to develop a reverence for the female buttocks, and it has to be said that Grandi’s backside really does have that Greek Goddess look to it. The director also experiments with syntactic use of colour to explore female desire; Miranda sports an assortment of red dresses, hats, undergarments, and dyes her hair from black to red as her “mourning period” is left behind, as an increasing number of lovers join her in bed. That’s not to say that Brass is associating the colour with that of a 'scarlet harlot' but merely utilising colour sense to reflect the character's heightened sexuality. Reminiscing the past shared with her husband, Miranda’s wantonness is less pronounced, and so Brass has his actress wear white and pale blues, used not to signify virginity but to display a relaxed and comforting sense of unity with the one she truly loves. At the end of the film when Miranda falls in love once more and eventually marries her partner, she can once more be seen wearing a blue wedding dress and undergarments, though the final bedroom sequence is shot through a bright red filter to denote Miranda’ heightened sexuality as she once more gives way to her sizzling desires.
ALL LADIES DO IT took the Brass film to new levels of eroticism with the inclusion of hardcore footage for European audiences for the first time (the X-rated scenes included in CALIGULA (1979) were shot by the film’s producer Bob Guccione, without Brass’ prior knowledge and spliced in during post production). The director’s increasing infatuation with the female derriere lead to the casting of the heavenly formed Claudia Koll as Diana, extrovert wife to Paolo (Paolo Lanza) who, despite loving her husband dearly is drawn by her libido to sexually experiment outside of marriage. When Paolo discovers that his wife has been cheating, he is outraged and dumps her, but lust is not as strong as love and his jealousy eventually subsides, but not before Diana has enjoyed sex with a sodomy obsessed poet (Franco Branciaroli), screwed her cousin (Marco Marciani), seduced a young black priest (Jean Rene Lemoine) at a drug fuelled outdoor rave, and allowed a group of young revellers to grope her drunken form.
Considered by many to be Brass’ greatest work, due in part to its ravishing lead, and stark depictions of eroticism that includes fellatio, penetration, and several acts of masturbation. The film also heralds delightful appearances by several Italian nymphs that include Ornella Marcucci who strips down to her suspenders and little else in order to seduce Diana’s husband, and Isabella Deiana in blonde wig getting humped by her greasy boss played by Renzo Rinaldi (PAPRIKA).
Featuring wonderful cinematography by Silvano Ippoliti and Massimo Di Venanzo, accompanied by a score by Venetian composer Pino Donaggio that captures the sensual decadence of Venice perfectly, this recent Cult Epics release remains the best introduction to the films of Tinto Brass. The fact that this version is totally uncut and in the original Italian language, with removable English subtitles makes it a worthwhile investment. Even if your wallet won’t extend to this fabulous box set, ensure you at least pick up a copy of ALL LADIES DO IT, as all three films are available separately.
Carl T. Ford
THE KEY Directed by Tinto Brass
English language version with Italian sequences subtitled in English
Italy / 1983 / 106 minutes
Exclusive Interview with Director
MIRANDA Directed by Tinto Brass
ALL LADIES DO IT Directed by Tinto Brass
THE TINTO BRASS COLLECTION