Color, 1997, 93 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Tinto Brass
Starring Cinzia Roccaforte, Cristina Rinaldi, Erika Saffo Savastani, Gaia Zucchi, Tinto Brass, Laura Gualtieri, Alessandra Antonelli, Gabriella Barbuti, Carla Solaro
Cult Epics (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), RHV (DVD) (Italy R0 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Dutch Filmworks (Holland R2 PAL)
Spurred on by the success of The Voyeur (his seventh erotic epic in a row), Italian filmmaker Tinto Brass had established himself as the Stradivarius of skin and cultivated a public image as a cigar-chomping imp with a passion for women's backsides. Naturally that meant the time was right for him to take center stage as the star of one of his films, and the result was P.O. Box Tinto Brass, a random collection of vignettes strung together by the framing device of the auteur himself enjoying letters and videos mailed to him detailing the erotic tales sent in by avid female viewers. The result is pure Tinto, something like a collection of Penthouse Forum letters hijacked by Bugs Bunny.
A jealous housewife, a woman's fascination with her new bidet, and various other situations round out an amusing batch of stories. In the first, Milena (Gualtieri) reveals how an afternoon at the beach with her boyfriend took a very exhibitionist turn when they spied another couple doing the deed in some nearby sand dunes. Then housewife Elena (Savastani) shares the tale of her computer programmer husband found a stray condom in her purse, triggering a revelation that she spends her afternoons turning tricks with farmers at the home of a prominent countess. And then we have Betta (Antonelli), the world's oldest-looking 19-year-old, who puts on a show for a Japanese tourist, Renata (Zucchi) and her chef husband learn how to spice up their marriage through erotic photography that progresses to videography in public, and Rosella (Barbuti) turns to phone sex thanks to a neglectful hubby, Francesca (Solaro) discovers the world of swingers' parties, and Ivana (Rinaldi) comes up with a novel way of dealing with her husband's rampant gambling problem. All the while, the stories are read out loud by his bubbly secretary (Riccaforte) who eventually shares a wild fantasy of her own.
Featuring a Riz Ortolani score recycled from his work for The Voyeur, this episodic confection makes for a surprisingly solid introduction to Brass' style if you're a newcomer. None of the stories overstays its welcome, and overall it's an amusing sampler of some of his trademark visual touches and anatomical obsessions. This isn't close to his strongest film of course, but seeing Brass play himself for the entire framing device is a lot of fun. Essentially this is a feature-length dry run for his 1999 erotic video anthology series Tinto Brass Presents Erotic Stories, which he also presented in a bid to become the Italy's dirty equivalent to Alfred Hitchcock.
Brass' film first appeared on DVD as an English-dubbed Dutch release (later imported into the U.K.) that's full frame, just like the Italian prerecord version, and also includes a still gallery and the Italian theatrical trailer. The disc also contains Dutch subtitles, which are removable. Unfortunately both the Dutch and UK releases represent the censored export cut, which omits a few of the edgier shots involving prosthetic phalluses and a brief moment of unsimulated urination during the forest tale. A subsequent Italian DVD release is widescreen and features a Brass interview (15m16s) with English subtitles as well as the trailer; being PAL, it runs faster than standard speed and comes in at 89m30s. In 2020, Cult Epics brought the film to Blu-ray as a two-disc set featuring a new 4K scan that adds more image info to the frame, sports crisper detail, and slightly shifts away from the browner appearance of earlier transfers. It looks quite beautiful in motion, and unlike most earlier Brass films composed for 1.66:1 (and mangled in the vast majority of presentations), the 1.85:1 framing has been the constant and appears to be correct. The sequences aren't consistent in quality (the first beach story is heavily diffused and poses some unavoidable compression challenges), but it's definitely a massive upgrade over any prior version and is a fine way to mark the film's American debut in any format. The default audio option is Italian DTS-HD 2.0 stereo, with Dolby Digital Italian 2.0 mono and the English mono dub also provided (with optional English subtitles). The Brass interview from the Italian DVD is carried over here (now 16m1s at corrected speed), and a gallery (1m25s) of fun production photos and lobby cards is also included along with the usual Italian trailer. As for the second Blu-ray disc, there you'll find the entertaining 2013 Massimiliano Zanin documentary Istintobrass, a career-spanning look anchored by an extensive interview with the maestro himself along with exclusive contributions from the likes of Helen Mirren, Ken Adam, Franco Nero, Serena Grandi, Gigi Proietti, Adriana Asti, Franco Branciaroli, and more. It's loaded with great stories and observations including thoughts on Brass' positive portrayals of women (as the "subject" rather than the "object"), his often overlooked early experimental and satirical work, and amusing personal notes like Grandi's first screening of the film Miranda for her son. Also included are an interview with Zanin (18m25s) about the making of the doc (complete with behind the scenes footage), a photo gallery (2m48s) of Brass at work and play over the years, a "Praise" (2m49s) interview outtake, and a teaser and trailer. The very thick insert booklet features an appraisal of Brass by Ranji Sandhu and a cavalcade of production photos over the course of his career.
Cult Epics (Blu-ray)
Reviewed on July 3, 2020