Sunday, 28 December 2008

Quando le donne avevano la coda / When Women Had Tails

This prehistoric comedy might perhaps be glossed as a live action version of The Flinstones done in the style of the commedia all'italiana meets The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges, with an effective mixture of physical and visual humour, which comes across regardless of the language one is watching it in, and wordplay, which obviously requires a knowledge of Italian - at least in the version under discussion here.

The always-welcome Senta Berger plays Filli, a thoroughly modern looking cavewoman dressed in figure-accenting furs.


Frank Wolff, Guiliano Gemma, Aldo Giuffrè and company play the five cavemen who adopt her - or are adopted by her, insofar as they are that bit more primitive, wielding clubs whereas she uses a parrot as an opener in true Flintstones style and being made up so as to be almost unrecognisable. (Indeed, her Cheetah-like companion chimpanzee is smarter than the cavemen as well, placing coconuts beneath their dinosaur-bone framed hut so that they will break the shells when they land.)

The cavemen

To differentiate then each of the cavemen has a particular trait: Wolff's werewolf-looking figure combines a more inquisitive nature with a bad temper; another has a propensity to lose parts of his anatomy in accidents, but for a time regrow them, before spending the latter part of the film as just a head; while a third, complete with a Harpo Marx style hairdo, is coded as gay and soon falls in love with a more civilised, trickster-conman type caveman played in characteristic self-deprecating manner by Lando Buzzanca.


Buzzanca's character, meanwhile, predictably seeks to take advantage of the five cavemen's relative guilelessness to win Filli away from them whilst also ridding himself of his own bride - at least that's what I think he / she was...

When Women Had Tails is a very different experience from the otherwise comparable Hammer prehistoric epics, fur bikinis notwithstanding. As already noted, language is more important. It is also an exclusively studio based project, with all the action taking place in an expansive papier-mache, plasterboard and polystyrene type landscape with painted backdrops of volcanoes and so on.

One major point of note about the film is that it was written by future art-house favourite Lina Wertmuller, though unsurprisingly seems to be the sort of film that she and her supporters would prefer to downplay. Nonetheless, the battle of the sexes aspect is telling, with the imbalance in numbers between them also perhaps hinting at a connection to Seven Beauties, as a later inversion with one more civilised man and seven less civilised / attractive women, whilst the isolated prelapsarian setting recalls Swept Away.

Another point of interest, in relation to the history of gay characters in the cinema, as outlined by Vito Russo in his pioneering study The Celluloid Closet, is the inevitable end that befalls the only gay caveman: suicide.

Might make for a nice double-bill with Themroc.


Nigel M said...

one important question you seemed to have forgot to answer there, but here is the obvious one- is it funny?

You have already sold this one to me but I was just wondering mate.

K H Brown said...

A good question and one I'm not sure I can answer definitively.

I would say that, in terms of the visual and physical humour, it was amusing more than funny, with some of the jokes a bit too obvious or repetitive.

I didn't enjoy it in a laugh out loud way as with some of the Fulci comedies, for instance, while most the cast aren't primarily comedians in the Franco and Ciccio way.

But as humour can be so subjective, your mileage my vary.

Nigel M said...

amusing will do just fine keith and Buzzanca has this way of cracking me up every time I look at him.

I think I will track down this one :)

Anonymous said...

Correction: The movie you've reviewed is When Women Lost Their Tails/Quando le donne persero la coda, the sequel to When Women Had Tails. Giuliano Gemma and Aldo Giuffre don't appear in this movie.

K H Brown said...

Thanks for the correction. I had wondered if I was just not seeing Gemma and Guiffre beneath all that makeup.

Were there two or three of these films? I have the Ding-Dong one, dubbed into English, but haven't got round to watching it yet.

Highlander said...

Do you know if there is an English subtitles file for this movie?

Anonymous said...

KH - there are technically three. When Women Lost Their Tails is a direct sequel to When Women Had Tails. Ding Dong is basically a ripoff and doesn't have any of the same characters. Lost is by far the best of the three.