SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN AMUCK
Color, 1974, 96m.
Directed by Alfonso Brescia (Al Bradley)
Starring Aldo Canti, Marc Hannibal, Malisa Longo, Hua Yueh, Magda Konopka
Color, 1971, 84/98m.
Directed by Silvio Amadio
Starring Farley Granger, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri, Umberto Raho, Patrizia Viotti
Code Red (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), BCI (US R0 NTSC), EuroVista (US R0 NTSC)
SUPER STOOGES VS. THE WONDER WOMEN
Now's here's a double feature for you: two Italian films with nothing in common except they were both made in the '70s and shot in scope. That said, there's a whole lot of fun to be had here as you manage to get a heaping dose of violence, slapstick, and wildly gratuitous sex in a tidy three-hour presentation. The packaging lists the films in order as Super Stooges vs. the Wonder Women and Amuck, though the order is actually reversed on the DVD and neither of the prints actually carry those titles.
The first title is presented under its general export title of Amazons and Supermen, and no matter what you call it, this thing is certifiably bonkers. Director "Al Bradley," Alfonso Brescia, is probably best known for his trashy run of Star Wars rip-offs like War of the Planets and the infamous Beast in Space, but here he managed to mount an elaborate, very silly Italian/Hong Kong co-production made in association with none other than Shaw Brothers. It's sort of a successor to his 1973 film, Battle of the Amazons, a more straightforward Italian actioner, but here the decision to throw in lots of kung fu and goofball comedy (not to mention a huge amount of violence) turns it into something completely alien to modern sensibilities. Things start out on a feverish note as we meet our titular tribe of amazons, a particularly ruthless bunch who get their kicks by standing contestants on tall wooden stilt platforms and having them fire arrows into each other. They're hell bent on conquering every village in their path, with their sights set on one governed by the mysterious "sacred flame" that can supposedly imbue the power of immortality. There we have our trio of superheroes -- Aru (Canti), Moog (Hannibal), and Chung (Shaw Brothers star Hua Yueh from Come Drink with Me and The Water Margin), who get into lots of comical fights for no good reason. The "immortal" village leader, Dharma, turns out to be quite a scam since it's really a string of guys donning the same mask and pretending to live forever, with Aru picked to be next in line. Once the amazons show up, it's a free for all to see who will come out on top.
This one's been trotting around under a variety of titles over the years, with BCI issuing a pretty dire-looking DVD a while back from a mediocre tape source. The Code Red presentation (licensed from Ovidio Assonitis of all folks) looks pretty great with robust colors and far less print damage than any prior version. It's also one of the longest editions out there at 96 minutes, including a brief exchange during the climax (the demonstration of the yo-yo weapon) that switches to Italian, which makes about as much sense as anything else in the movie and was probably never dubbed into English. The mono audio sounds fine, with the standout element being the energetic, highly memorable score by Franco Micalizzi, up there with his funky work on Beyond the Door and The Visitor.
Italian murder mysteries don't come any sexier than Amuck!, originally titled Alla ricera del piacere ("In the Pursuit of Pleasure"). Though the story may be another retread of the old Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? gimmick of a seemingly innocent assistant turning out to be much more than they appear, there's thankfully much more here than meets the eye. Lovely blonde Greta (Barbara Bouchet) has just begun a new job as the secretary to prominent writer and art snob Richard Stuart (Farley Granger), who lives in an isolated Venetian country home with his perverse wife, Eleanora (Rosalba Neri). After the wife and secretary enjoy a slo-mo tumble in the sheets, it turns out Greta has actually come to investigate the disappearance of the Stuarts' last assistant, Sally, who happened to be Greta's lesbian lover. During a petting party, Richard shows off a porno version of Little Red Riding Hood which he shuts off abruptly when Sally appears in the frame. Then a casual hunting trip into the marshes turns nasty when Greta nearly loses her life in quicksand, and Richard's latest whodunit novel begins to bear a sinister resemblance to the deadly events occurring inside his house...
Thanks to the inspired teaming of Eurocult goddesses Bouchet and Neri, both of whom have copious nude scenes ensuring a strong fan following, Amuck! succeeds as a slinky thriller guaranteed to raise one's temperature a few degrees even if the mystery angle itself is rather limited. All three leads offer enthusiastic performances, with Granger's shifty, wooden demeanor actually serving him well in contrast to some of his less limited giallo turns in So Sweet, So Dead and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? Meanwhile Neri takes top acting honors for her nasty bitch in heat routine, which really comes into play during the feverish drawing room climax. For once all of the sex scenes and bare skin are genuinely integral to the story, which features a haunting flashback near the end accompanied by Teo Usuelli's catchy, repetitive theme song in which a woman repeatedly purrs, "Sexually!" This nifty piece has become a retro music staple in recent years thanks to CD compilations, gaining a familiarity to rival Vampyros Lesbos, but the entire score is sublimely catchy and evocative.
The first DVD of this film was a legally dubious edition from EuroVista, taken from a complete (98 mins.) but brutally pan-and-scanned VHS master complete with dropouts (with one particularly nasty one during the finale). Overall it looks like a very good, colorful, sharp bootleg videotape, which is obviously well below the standards for DVD. The original 2.35:1 Cromoscope compositions are thoroughly lost, though thanks to the static camerawork, the effect is at least not as disastrous as many other similar titles. Extras include some spicy promotional photographs and two warm videotaped 2001 interviews with Bouchet and Neri, both of whom offer some nice reminiscences about making the film. Apparently the two are still next door neighbors, which makes you wonder what on earth goes on in that neighborhood. A VHS and DVD-R edition also popped up from Something Weird under the title Leather and Whips(!), drastically pared down to under 78 minutes but at least presented in 2.35 non-anamorphic widescreen (with pretty terrible image quality).
Splitting the difference is the Code Red disc, which is correctly framed and features much better quality than the SW transfer. However, colors are significantly paler than the EuroVista, so hang on to that version if you have it. The running time clocks in at 84 minutes, and it actually works pretty well here; the necessary material cut from the Leather print is back here (mainly during the finale), with the trims mainly consisting of Bouchet's snooping and some minor linking footage. The awkwardly inserted title card on this one is Maniac Mansion, another alternate title to add to this list. Extras on the disc include the great theatrical trailers, with the one for Amuck playing up its salacious content and promising audiences will see it uncut (sorta kinda). On top of that you get some great audience reactions ("I never saw so much sex and nudity in a movie! I can't believe they would put that on a screen!"), most of which probably won't be repeated among this film's target audience.