Rocco is an aspiring Italian-born actor and screenwriter, resident in New York, who in the meantime performs whatever hustles he needs to to get by, ranging from stripping to acting in porn films and as an escort, and endeavours to extricate himself from the various tricky situations these tend to get him into with gangster lowlife types.
Though not framed as a mondo, with the only voice-off we hear a vaguely Taxi Driver style one of Rocco's working in his room on the screenplay in which he is the main character, the film actually ends up capturing more of a particular time, place and world than many a comparable documentary might through the presence of several actual porn performers of the time including Wade Nichols, Carter Stevens and Susan McBain; a roughie shoot that results in an accidental piece of quasi-snuff, and lots of actuality shots of 42nd Street type locations. (I say quasi-snuff because, to their credit, the filmmakers avoids the more obvious and sensationalist scenario of a film being made with the intention of murdering its female performer at the climax.)
Another reference point is Sylvester Stallone, a poster of whom as Rocky adorns Rocco's wall, encourgaging us to think of the actor's parallel struggles to bring Rocky to the screen and not so hidden porn past with The Party and Kitty and Stud's / The Italian Stallion.
If Taxi Driver is a film about the relationship between film and real life, Travis Bickle taking inspiration from the heroes of the western film and trying to apply their mythic solutions to the real-world situation of New York circa 1976 with decidedly ironic results, Blue Nude performs a similar function for the relationship between Italian-American actors and filmmakers of the period such as Stallone, De Niro and Scorsese and its own Italian protagononist.
Rocco's voice-off as he works on the screenplay in which he is the protagonist echoes Bickle's reading / writing of his diary serves to suggest that, whilst certainly possessing more self-awareness than Bickle and a fundamentally different attitude of being able to adapt to circumstances, also fails to adequately recognise the difference between his situation as an Italian immigrant and those of his Italian-American models.
A telling exception is Rudolf Valentino, though Rocco's need to identify who Valentino is to his new girlfriend signals that there is a problem here as well. Valentino and the Latin Lover type he represented were, after all, figures from half a century ago. Yet the myth of the American Dream, as promulgated by Hollywood, has endured. (In that it was inspired by the real life case of Chuck Wepner, the almost unknown boxer who went the distance with Muhammad Ali, Rocky provides a partial exception to this rule.)
One difficulty in making sense of all this is that the dubbing of the film into Italian makes it harder to ascertain how far Rocco is actually out of place. We don't know if he is thinking and writing in English rather than Italian, or if his screenplay suffers from translations of the “hill of boots” variety, although a reference to linguistic misunderstanding in the dialogue does sees Rocco correct a fellow immigrant on the distinction between Scorsese and Scozzese.
Rocco's misunderstandings perhaps thus appear more in terms of attitudes and his awareness of the porn demi-monde in particular, as when he wonders about the mixture of milk, whisky and honey he and the other male performer are served – apparently the 1970s equivalent of viagra – and later attacks his colleague, failing to recognise that the man and his new girlfriend are only acting when declaring their affections for one another in the course of the shooting of another film.
Renato Romano / Raf Valenti is credited as executive producer and Giacomo Rossi Stuart as assistant director besides their acting roles.
A sense of continuity with director Luigi Scattini's earlier mondo films is provided by Piero Umiliani's music, with snippets of score (and dialogue) from Sweden Heaven and Hell audible on the audio track. The main theme here, with acoustic guitar, electric piano and commentative lyrics about New York, rather than vocalism and organ, is quite different from most of the composer's other work for Scattini.