Given Joe D'Amato's prodigious work-rate and his willingness to engage with just about any filone, it comes as little surprise that he should have made a mondo film, Follie di Notte.
The closest points of comparison are probably the two Jimmy Matheus / Bruno Mattei entries hosted by Laura Gemser and released about the same time, Le Notti porno nel mondo and the self-explanatory Emanuelle e le porno notti nel mondo n. 2, the latter co-scripted by Mattei and D’Amato.
Though Gemser is absent here, her stand in being Amanda Lear – a popular singer of the time, who book-ends proceedings with performances of a couple of her songs in a nightclub – it’s otherwise largely business as usual:
A touch of stock footage of Brazil in an unsuccessful attempt to convince us that the routine there, featuring a panther woman and some J&B bottles, wasn't conveniently filmed in Rome; voice-over documentary type scenes of highly dubious authenticity, such as a black mass cum orgy and a look inside a S&M club filmed with a rather noisy ‘hidden’ camera where outwardly respectable men enjoy being whipped and humiliated; doubts over that Lear knew what she was actually commenting on in her bridging scenes; and the overlaying of the mass of dialogue-free material with stock library music, much of it forming a Piero Umiliani greatest hits collection.
Being a D'Amato production, it's also a touch more sexually explicit than Mattei's films and others of the time, with brief masturbation and fellatio shots amongst the simulated fumblings between the likes of two 'primitive' dancers and a couple of 'lesbian' ‘ballerinas’.
The Amanda Lear variety hour?
There’s even a touch of reflexive self-justification as one segment sees a reporter interview a porn actress, who remarks that there’s no essential difference between porn and other types of cinema and discusses her unusual relationship with her impotent, voyeuristic husband, as clips from one of her movies – or maybe another of D’Amato’s– play on the screen before her and the interviewer. (There is no doubt that Marina Frajese / Hedman appeared in several porn films, including many for D’Amato, more that she is really representing herself here rather than a character.)
The thing that is lacking about this supposedly shocking material is, however, its ability to actually shock anyone who has sat through the full version of the director’s Emanuelle in America – as a film whose fake snuff scenes are far more disturbing than the S&M here, in diegetically going beyond the safe, sane and consensual – or any of the sex and horror themed crossovers he would soon engage in.
On the plus side, D’Amato’s presence as cinematographer under his real name, Aristide Massaccessi, grants proceedings a touch more visual dynamism as he attempts to mimic and further embody the performers delirium rather than just record it.
The film may also encourage us to think about the longer history of the mondo film, as a continuation of the hitherto repressed anti-narrative, exhibitionistic, spectacular and shocking tradition of the early “cinema of attractions”.
Yes, trash meets the avant-garde yet again...