This 1999 volume from Manlio Gomarasca and Davide Pulici of Nocturno Cinema is dedicated to the stars and starlets of the Italian B cinema. It is divided into four parts, the first three in Italian and the fourth an English translation of the second and third, without pictures and in a smaller typeface.
Part one, running approximately 60 pages, presents comprehensive career profiles of some 46 female stars from A (Patrizia Adiutori) through to Z (Zigi Zanger). Part two, the longest at around 150 pages, presents longer and more in-depth career-spanning interviews with 15 actresses, including Erica Blanc, Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet, Daniela Giordano, Zora Kerowa and Monika Zanchi. Part three, the shortest, does the same for directors Tinto Brass and Fernando Di Leo.
If there are not quite 99 Donne as the title promises, with the odd striking omission like Susan Scott / Nieves Navarro and Florinda Bolkan, and perhaps a sense of overfamiliarity to some of the interviewees – I don't know about you, but I think I now have three or four somewhat similar Bouchet interviews / profiles – this is nevertheless a very welcome volume for the fan of Italian cult cinema, for the reason that it approaches its subject with knowledge and enthusiasm (reading the interviews one is often struck by the difference between Gomarasca and Pulice's reverence for 30 year old films that to the actresses themselves frequently represented little more than a soon-spent paycheque for a few days routine work on a soon-forgotten job) to draw out all sorts of behind the scenes details, insights and plain old style scandal, Cinecittá Babylon style.
Thus, for example, Blanc recounts how the simple fact of changing her hair colour from blonde to red brought about a change in roles, from victim to victimiser, whilst Daniela Giordano's recollection of colliding with co-star Brett Hasley during a love scene in Four Times that Night and accidentally knocking the caps off three of his teeth makes for an interesting counterpoint to his complaint, in an old European Trash Cinema interview, that she had terrible body odour.
The point is not so much the truth or otherwise of such statements – as with Bava's Rashomon inspired film we're dealing with perspectives on what really happened, after the fact recollections and reconstructions – but the composite pictures they paint of what it was like to be a young, glamourous starlet in the Italian B cinema during its heyday and / or decline.
That the industry and these careers are now essentially in the past also means, however, that there's less that sense of self-censorship by which all but the worst individuals and experiences are defined so positively as to require serious reading between the lines. Rather, there's more a settling of accounts and and acknowledgement of good, bad and ugly alike. There is also, however, a certain consistency to the praise or criticism given a number of directors, co-stars and others that seems to confirms much of what one already felt. Thus, for example, Aristide Massaccessi (to whom the authors dedicate the volume) repeatly emerges as a supremely talented craftsman who could have done so much more had the environments in which his work was produced and received been more favourable – an evaluation that, on reflection, also seems to pertain to so many of the careers detailed herein.