Color, 1972, 93m.
Directed by Mario Caiano
Starring Rosalba Neri, Christa Linder, Peter Landers, Toni Ucci, Orchidea De Santis, Linda Sini
One 7 Movies (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

The Real Decameron

After the smash international success of Pier Paolo Pasolini's ribald anthology film, The Decameron, and its more extreme companion The Real Decameronpieces The Canterbury Tales and The Arabian Nights, Italian producers scrambled for two years trying to duplicate the formula with earthy sex comedies loosely connected to literary classics. Few of them saw any play at all outside their native country, probably because... well, if you've seen your share of quickie Italian comedies, the reason should be obvious. Anyway, screens were temporarily flooded with titles like Decameron's Jolly Kittens, The Black Decameron, More Sexy Canterbury Tales, Decameron Proibitissimo... you get the idea.

That brings us to The Real Decameron, the DVD retitling for a film sold to international buyers as The Sexbury Tales but featuring the original Italian title card as I racconti di Viterbury: Le piĆ¹ allegre storie del 300. Incredibly, this was the second film of this kind in less than a year for sexpot actress Rosalba Neri (after 1972's very obscure Decameron 300), who was in the middle of her busiest period with titles like The Devil's Wedding Night, Smile Before Death, Amuck, Lady Frankenstein, and Slaughter Hotel all vying for attention on movie marquees. She'd been a busy actress throughout the '60s, but it was here with the cinematic freedom for sex and violence that she really flourished, enlivening everything from spaghetti westerns to slasher films with her carnal presence. Unfortunately she would retire from the screen in 1976 (probably due to sheer exhaustion), but she left behind a very impressive legacy.

That said, this film is kind of an odd showcase for Neri as it's an anthology in which she only appears for a few minutes. Everything kicks off with a bunch of saucy prostitutes spending the afternoon outside washing clothes and swapping dirty stories about the locals to pass the time. In the first, sexually ambiguous beautician tells Antonio, a young man looking for a wife, to go sniffing after Madonna Brenda (Don't Torture a Duckling's Sini), whose daughter Alice has just been liberated from a convent. They speedily marry, but he's forbidden to see Alice's veil-covered face until their wedding night... which predictably leads to a decidedly unsexy punchline. Antonio has no idea what to do in bed, so his mother-in-law has to provide a few lessons that culminate with him barking like a dog in bed. Then we have the tale of Tonia, whose boyfriend Menico dresses up as a scarecrow so he can grab a quick one away from the watchful eye of her domineering father. The ruse continues when Menico tries to sneak into their house in a wine barrel, which daddy orders to be filled up with manure. How much can he take to be with his beloved?The Real Decameron

Then in the most amusing story, a chain-clanking ghost forces a newlywed couple to call in an exorcist, but of course there's much more than meets the eye as the supernatural shenanigans turn out to have a few surprises in store. The young wife, Bona (Neri), in particular gets a rough time of it as she deals with a midget lover in the wings, a voyeuristic turkey, and the exorcist eager to explore her body for the "mark of the devil," leading to a very weird bedroom farce with a really twisted gag at the end. But that's nothing compared to the story of Flora (The Night of a Thousand Cats' Linder), an uninhibited blonde who goes skinny dipping with her friends and gets a prawn stuck somewhere really unfortunate. She confesses she isn't a virgin and uses the mishap (including a doctor to free her from "that lewd beast") to cover up the fact, with varying degrees of success. (The fact that Linder spends The Real Decameronall of her screen time naked should make this one popular with '70s softcore fans.) After that a homely peasant named Niccolo is stuck with a sexy blonde wife who won't sleep with him because of her sex-induced nightmares about a red-headed monster trying to eat her. "If you try my monster, your nightmares will disappear!" is his helpful advice, but soon his "little hen" gets way, way out of control. Finally, some crusaders tangle with a local whose sexy dying wife is about to give confession to a passing bishop, which soon erupts into silly, violent bedroom shenanigans as her castrato husband has more than a bit of a temper.

The Real Decameron certainly doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, cinematically speaking, with writer/director Mario Caiano hiding out under the pseudonym Edoardo Re (presumably since he had the more respectable Shanghai Joe coming out at the same time). A textbook example of a gun for hire, Caiano started out with spaghetti westerns and peplums like Goliath and the Rebel Slave, though he's now best known for his trashy gothic horror favorite Nightmare Castle. As with most Italian sex comedies of the era, there's a weird tension here between leering sexuality (including tons of bare flesh and an odd fixation with animals) and a morally conservative streak a mile wide, particularly the obsession with virginity as a woman's most valuable social asset. How "funny" this all is will probably vary from viewer to viewer, but it's definitely eccentric enough to warrant a look and way more twisted than anything you'd see on a movie screen today. There's also a reasonably bouncy score by Franco Bixio, who was working on and off with Fabio Frizzi and Vince Tempera throughout the decade on films like The Psychic.

One 7 Movies' track record on DVD has been all over the map, to put it mildly, but they have to be saluted for digging up some unbelievably rare titles in their first English-friendly editions ever. You can chalk this up as one of the better ones; the anamorphic transfer won't be a demo piece by any means and looks a bit dated, but it's perfectly clean and watchable throughout. The mono Italian audio sounds fine as well, though the optional English subtitles have their own quirks including every "i" being capitalized and some goofy spelling and grammar glitches. In this case, however, it seems oddly appropriate.

Reviewed on April 26, 2014.