THE WILD PUSSYCAT
B&W, 1968, 84 mins. 41 secs. / 86 mins.
Directed by Dimi Dadiras
Kostas Prekas, Gisela Dali, Maria Foka, Kaiti Ibrohori, Dimitris Kleris, Vagelis Traiforos, Tasos Ramsis, Marianna Tsiouma
Color, 1970, 78 mins. 10 secs.
Directed by Christos Kefalas
Starring Hristos Politis, Franca Parisi, Stephanos Stratigos, Giorgos Oikonomou, Alexandra Kyriakaki, Gisela Dali
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD)
Continuing to plumb the wild depths of Greek exploitation cinema,Mondo Macabro comes up with another stunner with The Wild Pussycat, a mixture of sex, trauma, violence, and melodrama that won't bore you for a second. Shot in English with other actors dubbing in the dialogue, this production was given a typical grindhouse release in some countries but took a few years to come out in its native country in heavily altered, censored form.
The fun starts right with the first lines of dialogue: "Who's that, baby?" / "It's the slut I've been living with!" That's the opinion of philanderer Nick (Prekas), or Michali in the Greek version, who's in the process of kicking out his girlfriend, Vera (Imbrohori, credited as "Kathy Impro" on the English version). Completely destroyed, Vera goes stumbling out into the street and, in a daze, gets fatally hit by a car. Vera's sister, Nadia (Dali), shells out some spare cash to the landlady to get her hands on Vera's diary and learns the horrible truth about Nick, who punished her for getting pregnant and forced her into a life of prostitution to pay the bills. In between flashbacks, Nadia takes her fluffy white kitty in tow and proceeds to play seductive mind games with Nick, eventually chaining him up in a hidden soundproof room where she exacts a sexually tortuous revenge plot via a two-way mirror. After all, "In this room, no one can hear you scream."
If that synopsis sounds familiar to fans of Italian sleaze, that's because The Wild Pussycat (or Hot Revenge as it was known in Greece) was remade without credit as the amazing Emanuelle's Revenge (a.k.a. Emanuelle and Françoise) by Joe D'Amato in 1975. Luckily this original version is just as crazed with a sleazy streak a mile wide as Nadia torments her captive by having sex with a variety of men and women. The emphasis on physical anguish (not just from Nick) gives the film a particularly sweaty, nasty edge that still feels potent, right down to the savage, E.C. Comics-worthy finale. Unfortunately the film became extremely difficult to see for years, with an English print briefly popping up in the '00s but no home video releases to be found anywhere until the 2019 Blu-ray from Mondo Macabro. As an opening disclaimer notes, about 25 minutes of the full-strength version was replaced in the Greek cut with a subplot involving a cop trying to break up the local drug trade, which has a tenuous connection to Michali and doesn't really go anywhere interesting beyond a shoot out scene. That version (in Greek with English subtitles) is okay as a seedy crime film, but go with the export version for the full-strength experience with several scenes that go further than you'd expect from a 1968 film including loads of nudity. (Weirdly, a full frontal shot of Prekas is in both versions, which would normally be the first thing to get censored.) The Greek version is presented in pristine quality from the original negative with optional English subtitles and DTS-HD MA mono audio, while the export version is a composite of the negative and scenes from a theatrical print (which also looks good quality-wise but is easily identified by a vertical scratch running through much of it); one brief scene halfway through switches to Greek with subtitles, presumably due to element damage.
Also included on the disc is a second (or technically third) feature, The Deserter, a Greek-Italian co-production about a young man, Alexis (Politis), who's so distraught by the traumas of combat that he goes on the run into the woods. After smashing his gun to bits against a tree and tearing into his uniform, he strips down for a swim only for a passing mute farm girl, Lisa (Kyriakaki), to playfully steal his clothes. They share a moment of near passion before she bolts off, so he heads to the closest farm where sexually frustrated Ermina (Parisi) offers him shelter in their barn. When she isn't dealing with her piggy, money-obsessed husband, Yiannis (Stratigos), Ermina grows carnally close to the new arrival, who also starts sleeping with the farm girl, who turns out to be Ermina's cousin. When soldiers arrive looking for the deserter, his near drowning while hiding in a barrel pits the two women against each other in an escalating seduction contest that involves erotic grape munching, mud wrestling, a nude bloodletting consultation with the local love witch (Dali again), and a feverish climax you won't believe.
Since we're dealing with the subject of unofficial copying here, it's worth noting right off that bat that the fantastic music score (credited to Giorgos Paris) was recycled nearly verbatim a year later by Alessandro Alessandroni in The Devil's Nightmare, albeit with a less funky arrangement than it has here. Given that Bruno Mattei was an editor on this film and other Italians were on the crew, it's possible that regular arranger and performer Alessandroni had some sort of hand in this, especially since it sure sounds like his trademark whistling on the soundtrack. You'll also spy a few narrative similarities to The Beguiled, though that's likely a coincidence, as well as a strong stylistic similarity at the end to Don't Look Now of all things. At a lean 78 minutes the film never wears out its welcome and, like its companion feature, goes to some pretty outrageous places by the end that must have raised a few eyebrows. Like Pussycat, it looks like this one was shot in English but the only surviving version seems to be the Greek version seen here, with optional English subtitles (which have a few weird typographical quirks). Also included on the disc are a promo trailer for The Wild Pussycat (2m3s) and a "publicity material mini-movie" (5m3s) collecting a bunch of promotional stills and posters, plus an updated Mondo Macabro highlight reel.
Reviewed on April 2, 2019.