Not Tonight, Josephine

Scaramouche

Enzo G. Castellari’s The Loves and Times of Scaramouche (1976 – originally Le aventure e gli amori di Scaramouche) has been released on DVD in the UK by Cornerstone Media. It’s an Italian/Yugoslavian co-production set at the time of the French Revolution, with Michael Sarrazin as the eponymous philandering hero. The animated title sequence promises Carry On-style bawdy farce, but the movie is tamer, a slapstick period comedy. Scaramouche escapes Paris and via unlikely circumstance, he and his comrade, a barber named Whistle (Giancarlo Prete), end up in the French army fighting the Austrians and Russians.

The Loves and Times of Scaramouche was shot in Italy (the familiar tiered Monte Gelato waterfalls in Lazio appear) and in Yugoslavia, and boasts a good battle sequence and first rate costumes and settings. Aldo Maccione played Napoleon Bonaparte as a buffoon and the film’s mocking tone constantly ridicules the French (who significantly had no financial input into this Euro co-production). The cast is filled with familiar faces from Italian genre cinema. Lee Van Cleef’s stunt double Romano Puppo played Napoleons’ sultan-like bodyguard, Sal Borgese appeared as an inept assassin, Riccardo Garrone was a French captain, and Michael Forest played secret service agent D’Anglade. Also keep your eyes peeled for Peter Berling (from Aguirre, The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo), Massimo Vanni, Dante Cleri, Enzo Fiermonte and stunt coordinator Rocco Lerro. Gisela Hahn played Babette, one of Scaramouche’s conquests, and ‘Alan Collins’/Luciano Pigozzi was her understandably irate husband.

The film’s trump card is the presence of Ursula Andress, as Napoleon’s Josephine. Andress shot to fame as ‘Bond Girls’ Honey Ryder in Dr No (1962) and Vesper Lynd in Casino Royal (1967). The ‘sex goddess’ wasn’t nicknamed ‘Ursula Undress’ for nothing. She was often employed throughout the 1960s and 1970s in such adventures as Scaramouche, to add a little spice and to disrobe, as what might be termed ‘set undressing’. She did this regularly in films, including The Blue Max, The Southern Star, Perfect Friday, Red Sun, The Sensuous Nurse, The Fifth Musketeer, Mountain of the Cannibal God, Stateline Motel and Mexico in Flames, to name a few. In 1965 she posed nude for Playboy magazine. When asked why, she simply answered, ‘Because I’m beautiful’.

Castellari completists will want to see Scaramouche, as it’s one of the cult director’s films not to have seen the light of day on DVD. Andress and James Bond completists will want to see it for the brief moment towards the end when Andress parodies her star-making walk from the surf in Dr No. The many fistfights, swordfights, duels and trampolining acrobatics imitate the physical style of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer’s comedies of the period. The Euro-pop sing-along theme song and bubblegum score by Bixio-Frizzi-Tempera are guaranteed to grate on your nerves after a while. While Castellari is an excellent action director – check out Kill them All and Come Back Alone, Eagles Over London, The Marseilles Connection, The Inglorious Basterds, 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Keoma for evidence of his finest work – he’s no farceur. The non-stop zaniness on display here eventually becomes tiresome and the running gags barely stumble. Euro-completists will view it from a historical perspective, as it’s yet another little-seen 1970s comedy, and it’s good that it has finally had an official UK release. The Region 2 DVD is fullscreen (the picture’s a bit soft and may be from a videotape source), with the English language dub, and is available from Amazon UK.

For more information on Castellari’s work, read Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult, which has recently received two more reviews, in Electric Sheep magazine (read here) and the Canadian Chronicle Herald (read here)

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