For fans of obscure European cinema and associated culture, the Bizarre Cinema archives series by Glittering Images are pretty much indispensible in my opinion, particularly for the English-language reader.
This is because they’re a source of material that is difficult if not impossible to find elsewhere, be it advertising materials, fotoromanzi and cinemaromanzi, images of obscure soundtrack releases and, above all, translated interview and review fragments.
Their bibliographies are also invariably excellent, albeit generally limited in their usefulness if one is not a reader of English, Italian and French, with access to archival sources of a copyright library level. (One of the good things about where I live, Edinburgh, is that it has one of the UK’s copyright libraries, the National Library of Scotland, and so has a copy of just about everything besides so-called ‘grey literature’. Being able to go there and consult issues of Continental Film Review or Cinema X in a separate reading room is a particularly fond memory; it’s also funny to think of their having complete runs of many UK pornographic magazines, likely including those that are now unacceptable due to having 16- or 17-year-old nude models.)
These two recent Glittering Images volumes, published in 2011 and 2012 respectively and curated by mainstay Stefano Piselli are no different. Mondo Sexy deals with the mondo film in its various incarnations, while Eroticissimo presents sequences from a number of cinemaromanzi (i.e. photo-stories) of European sexploitation films made between 1969 and 1973.
As its title suggests, Mondo Sexy takes a somewhat different approach to the mondo filone than the likes of David Kerekes and David Slaters’s Killing for Culture (a substantially revised third edition of which is due for publication in the new year) and Mark Goodall’s Sweet and Savage.
Whereas those volumes, especially the former, emphasise the death and shockumentary side of the mondo film, as epitomised by the likes of Africa Addio and The Wild Eye, Mondo Sexy focuses more upon the earlier erotic and exotic side of the genre, beginning in the late 1950s and ending in the mid-1960s.
The filmography of Italian sexy mondos is presented chronologically, making it easier to chart the course of the filone over this period. This said, to fully do so the reader will also need to cross-reference with the second and possibly third filmographies. The former of these is of other Italian mondo and mondo-related films, such as Mondo Cane and Cannibal Holocaust respectively. The latter is of non-Italian productions. Some of these, such as Primitive London, are basically sexy mondos in their subject matter and approach, while others, such as Exhibition, illustrate the shift to hardcore that had come to dominate the sex(y) film by the 1970s.
For the general reader -- to the extent that there is such a thing as a general audience for specialist publications like these -- Eroticissimo is perhaps the better option if finances are limited; as followers of Glittering Images will know their books are neither particularly easy to get hold of (I got these from an Italian-based seller on Ebay, and have got some previous volumes from Italian online retailer Bloodbuster), nor particularly cheap.
This is principally because rather than featuring mostly now-forgotten erotic and exotic performers from circa 1959-65, as its counterpart does, Eroticissimo instead features many of the best known and most beautiful starlets of Italian and European cult cinema of a decade or so later, including Rosalba Neri, Edwige Fenech, Janine Reynaud and Sandra Julien.
The films the images of these women and the stories they are part of also showcase the work of some of European trash cinema’s more interesting auteurs, including Jose Larraz (with Whirlpool), Jose Benazeraf (Frustration) and Renato Polselli (Mania).
There are, however, two main criticisms I have of the book. First, Pilselli does not particularly contextualise the fotoromanzi extracts shown. This makes it difficult to know how representative they are. Did the typical fotoromanzi tell the same story as the film it was based upon, or merely offer edited (sexy) highlights in a manner akin to an 8mm version of a feature? Second -- and perhaps more in the way of wishful thinking -- might it be possible for Glittering Images to republish a fotoromanzi or two in their complete form, such that we might then be better able to understand its particular aesthetics in relation to the film and the comic book?