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Plot: feisty columnist challenges her editor-in-chief to a bet. Hilarity ensues!

In the Edwige Fenech 80s comedy canon Sballato, gasato, completamente fuso (or High, Gassed, Completely Melted, released in the English-speaking world as simply An Ideal Adventure) is probably the least talked about. Directed by master satirist and genre specialist Steno this is another riot-inducing romp that delivers exactly what it promises, but with an important difference. An Ideal Adventure might possibly be the only comedy in Fenech’s massive body of work that is both a spoof and a satire. While An Ideal Adventure has Edwige making fun of herself Steno uses it to take a critical look at then-contemporary gender roles and societal expectations towards women and through out it all the audience gets to take a good look at Edwige Fenech au naturel. As far as these things are concerned her many on-screen partnerings with Lino Banfi seldom were this fun, although they weren’t exactly lacking to begin with.

As one of the most enduring icons of Italian genre cinema, domestic and abroad, Edwige Fenech had quite the distinguished career. Starting out as one of the many models-turned-actress in French and German comedy Fenech was lucky enough to ride the embers of the jungle goddess subgenre with Samoa, Queen Of the Jungle (1968) into the then-booming giallo explosion with Top Sensation (1969). It were the Martino brothers who catapulted Fenech to superstardom. With Luciano producing and Sergio directing Edwige was one part of the giallo holy trinity of leading ladies along with Spanish sex kitten Nieves Navarro and fellow French model Barbara Bouchet. Navarro would team up with Fenech in All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and Bouchet would be coupled with Edwige’s erstwhile co-star Rosalba Neri in Amuck (1972). Whereas Fenech, Bouchet, and Navarro all at various points would co-star with either Ivan Rassimov or Argentinian import George Hilton never would there be an instance where a production had all three ladies together in a giallo at the same time. Fenech and Bouchet transitioned into comedy once the giallo wave crested Navarro, like Femi Benussi, would soon find herself working with sleaze specialists as Joe D’Amato and the like. It’s testament to either Fenech’s unwillingness to debase herself and the business acumen of her handlers to think in the long-term interest of their client.

The wicked and wild seventies had been kind to Edwige. She had been the queen of giallo, an absolute royalty and one of the subgenre’s most iconic and beloved leading ladies. Parallell to that she was the once-and-future queen of commedia sexy all’Italiana – and, rightfully so, she was fiercely proud of holding both crowns. Now in her mid-thirties (34, if you want to put an exact number on it) and visibly comfortable in her own skin Edy divested herself of her sexbomb image and settled into what only can be described as cougar roles. After a decade of projecting herself as a wanton sex kitten and professionally undressing in front of the camera for just as long Fenech, understandably, wanted more out of the roles she played. Instead of the silken seductress she now was the slightly older, more experienced, and self-made woman, unafraid to demand what was rightly hers.

That these roles still required a load of nudity was, of course, exactly what you’d expect out of a male-dominated industry. Edy never failed to deliver on that end. In An Ideal Adventure all the Edwige-related nudity is relegated to a mostly performative third act vignette and is, unbelievable as it may sound, actually detrimental to everything that came before. Here Steno takes a stab at Italian social conservatism, the partriarchy, and machismo and has him relentlessly poking fun at the inherent absurdities of the genre and in what’s arguably her most self-parodist role miss Fenech makes fun of her well-known penchant for getting naked. While gloriously irreverent An Ideal Adventure may not have been the great deconstruction of the commedia sexy all’Italiana that la Fenech made a living out of nor for that matter is it as incendiary and transgressive as To Be Twenty (1978). This is probably the funniest comedy this side of Wife On Vacation… Lover In Town (1980).

Patrizia Reda (Edwige Fenech) is an ambitious and bright journalist for the Roman weekly La Settimana who’s stuck writing unrewarding pieces for the black and pink pages. At the office she’s constantly forced to deal with getting ogled by her colleagues and the continual unwanted advances of her elderly editor-in-chief Eugenio Zafferi (Enrico Maria Salerno). Tired of writing unfulfilling pieces of no real journalistic importance and wanting nothing more to prove her worth she challenges Zafferi to a daring bet. If she can write a frontpage-worthy article of his designation she’ll grant him that which he’s always desired: a passionate night of carnal delight between the sheets with her. At the office old man Zaffari is constantly beset by the demands of his two high-strung shopaholic daughters Cinzia (Cinzia de Ponti) and Claudia (Ivana Milan). Zafferi takes Patrizia’s proposal to senior editor Orietta Fallani (Liù Bosisio) who will take the final decision. Fallani vetoes that the challenge is only to go through if she may assign Patrizia an article that she deems worthy of her talents and interest. With that in mind she orders Reda to write a story pondering the all-important question, “what does the average Italian male consider an ideal adventure?” During her inquiry Duccio Tricarico (Diego Abatantuono), a foul-mouthed taxi driver from the south who shows almost immediate interest in the well-spoken and cultured journalist, will be driving her from one appointment to the next. Patrizia initially is turned off by Tricarico’s oafish, brutish exterior but soon discovers that he has a heart of gold. Hilarity ensues when Patrizia mistakes slightly deranged valet Pipo (Mauro Di Francesco) for acclaimed filmmaker Brian De Pino (Peter Berling). In the end Patrizia must decide who she loves, Eugenio or Duccio?

Granted, it’s an absolute minimum of story but most of Edy’s 60s and 70s comedies weren’t exactly packed with a lot either. In fact they frequently gave her less to do. While mostly existing as a vehicle to, for once, give Edy something more to do than just taking her clothes off and strutt around An Ideal Adventure contains more than enough references to things that were either timely or related to Fenech’s past work. First there’s La Settimana which Mariano Laurenti made several comedies about, the entire Brian De Pino is not only a jab at New Hollywood filmmaker Brian De Palma but also recalls Fenech’s early 1970s gialli, it briefly uses a sting from Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975), there’s a riff on the “Here’s Johnny!” scene from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), and a torn up poster from Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (1981) can be seen on the walls. During Duccio’s hospital fantasy vignette, Edy dresses up in a white habit like Mariangela Giordano in Malabimba (1979) and during the heist vignette Edy poses as a store dummy and wears the kind of flowery hat recalling her days in German comedy, especially something like The Sweet Pussycats (1969). The entire bit with the masonic P3 loggia sort of channels All Colors Of the Dark (1972) briefly. Other than that An Ideal Adventure is a fairly straightforward 80s Fenech comedy. It’s not quite as slapstick-oriented as most of her Lino Banfi comedies from around this time. It must have been a relief for Edy to get paid to keep her clothes on. In her mid-thirties Edy was a dashing appearance with that patrician grace that only true divas possess.

Unique in Fenech’s massive body of work for being the only comedy to possess even a shred of self-awareness An Ideal Adventure is at the very least a nice change of pace. For once the entire thing doesn’t revolve Edwige Fenech undressing and here she gets the chance to emote and play a more dramatic role. Which doesn’t mean that there won’t be any comedy or naked shenanigans. In fact, there’s plenty of both. Now that she had arrived at more matronly roles at least Edy was no longer forced to shed clothing constantly. All through the sixties and seventies la Fenech had been taking off her clothes professionally for much of her waking life, and after a decade and a half anyone would be looking to branch out at least marginally. While the roles she was offered ostensibly got better with the years the capacity in which they required nudity never diminished significantly. To her credit, Edy took it all in stride – and was keenly aware exactly why producers and audience took a liking to her. An Ideal Adventure toys with the usual commedia sexy all’Italiana formula enough to be different from the immediate competition but not nearly enough to call it an outlier or anomaly. An Ideal Adventure is a lot of things, but To Be Twenty (1978) it, sadly, is not.

Plot: in a post-apocalyptic wasteland two starlets seek a sacred stag reel.

John Michael McCarthy is probably the closest America has come to having a Josh Collins. Collins was the master of ceremonies behind Pervirella (1997) (with Emily Booth) and Superstarlet AD is cut from a very similar cloth. Pervirella (1997) was a Victorian steampunk cosplay extravaganza with enough boobage and bounce to make Jim Wynorski proud. Superstarlet AD on the other hand is a monochrome tribute to the Russ Meyer and John Waters repertoire, 1950s science fiction, and 60s drive-in exploitation fare (delinquent youth, nudie-cuties, roughies, various countercultures) complete with colored The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) campy musical numbers and comedic interludes, striptease routines, and lesbian histrionics. In other words, Superstarlet AD is a mostly forgotten nouveau retro antecedent styled after Barbarella (1968) pre-dating Anna Biller’s exquisite feminist manifesto The Love Witch (2016) (with Samantha Robinson) by over a decade and a half. It premiered on the 2001 SXSW Film festival alongside Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros (2000), Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), and Lukas Moodyson’s Together (2000) and it was part of the seventh annual Chicago Underground Film Festival at the Fine Arts in Michigan in 2000. Since then it has become a beloved cult item no matter how much of an obscurity it might be.

Shot alternating in color and black and white in and around Memphis in just 16 days on a miniscule budget of $16,000 and promoted with the tagline, “when man turns to ape woman turns to womanSuperstarlet AD is a curio even in cult circles. Like Eraserhead (1977), Begotten (1989) and 964 Pinocchio (1991) it’s pervaded with that cold industrial feel of stark alienation and dystopian desolation. The cast consists of enthusiastic amateurs with Kerine Elkins, Gina Velour, and Michèle Carr in the principal roles. All three ladies fill their bras more convincingly than their roles, although nobody can be accused of not bringing any gusto, vigor, and enthusiasm to their respective parts. While there are planks of wood with more acting talent the trio throw their all into the roles, most of which are dialogue-heavy with Velour providing near-constant narration. Despite, or rather in spite, of obvious budgetary limitations Superstarlet AD is very artsy and quirky at times. For a no-budget indie it’s custodian to number of beautifully composed shots and frequently looks far more expensive than what it cost. Very much like Galaxina (1980) before it this is a spoof that plays its humor completely straight.

After an unspecified extinction level event simply referred to as, “the Cataclysm” has reduced to the world to a smoke-shrouded barren post-nuclear wasteland and what little remains of the male population has literally reverted to Neanderthals. As the “homosexual” fashion industry was obliterated during the Cataclysm ammunition, clothing, and lipstick are in short supply. This is Apocalypse Meow. The women of this wasteland have flocked together in a make-shift gyno-centric society always on the brink of war. “Beauty cults” or violent gun-toting all-girl gangs of a specific hair color and dress code roam the streets. Three major gangs have emerged from beneath the remains of yesterday’s world. First, there are the Satanas (modeled after Tura Satana) presided over by Verona (Michèle Carr, as Michelle Carr). Then there are the Phayrays who fashion themselves after Fay Wray and Mamie van Doren and are led by Ultramame (Rita D'Albert). Lastly, there are the treacherous Tempests (as in burlesque dancer Tempest Storm) who congegrate in the Replay Lounge and worship a sewing machine that they don’t know how to operate. Velvet (Katherine Greenwood, as Odessa Greenwood) is the only of the clan who can, but she adamantly refuses. Not even a good whipping from resident dominatrix Cathy X (Kitty Diggins) can sway her. Jezebel (Kerine Elkins) is the 13th mistress to rule the gang. All three engage in open war and territorial disputes are commonplace. The Phayrays and Satanas desire nothing else but to topple the power-hungry Verona and claim her crown and its attendant power as their own.

In the abandoned city of Femphis dark-haired Naomi (Gina Velour) and her platinum blonde girlfriend Rachel (Alicja Trout) set out on a perilous quest raiding every movie theatre they come across in hopes of finding her grandmother’s sacred stag reel or some dye converts. During one such excursions the two find subversive, hot rod-riding, clothes-wearing redhead Valentine (Katherine St. Valentine, as Kate St. Valentine) - apparently an actress from the 1950s who was comatose when the world ended - and is understandably confused in and by the present day. Naomi is the pacifist leader of a new beauty cult, the Superstarlets, where hair color is of no importance. When Naomi learns from Valentine about a place called Retro Metro, the last in Femphis where dresses can be found, a turf war seems imminent. The Phayrays desire to recruit Rachel into their ranks and Valentine’s knowledge furthers the interests of the Satanas. Jezebel is wise enough to put her petty dreams of dominating all gangs aside and let the encroaching chaos do her dirty work for her. Negotiating a truce between the Satanas, the Phayrays, and the Tempests will clear the path for her future usurpation of all power and their fragile coalition will last long enough to destroy their clear and present problem, the dissident Naomi. In a world "gone nudie-cutie, Armageddon style,” and in a war waged by mostly by hair-pulling and jiggling over-sized busts will there be enough stockings, garter belts, suspenders, and vintage bustiers for things to come to a peaceful resolve?

All of the women are pretty enough, although they might not appeal to those not into that whole underground punk/retro pin-up aesthetic. Admittedly, we’re no fans of some of the thicker make-up that Kerine Elkins can be seen wearing either but other than that there’s very little to complain. The biggest and obvious references on that front are Bettie Page, Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren, Wendy O. Williams, Kitten Natividad, Betty Brosmer, Uschi Digard, Monique Devereux, and Tura Satana. Or full-figured, healthy-looking women who weren’t afraid to showcase their wealthy, natural curves and whom - at least by some of today’s unrealistic and unforgiving beauty standards that seem canonize the sickly and skeletal thin above all else - would either be described as plus-size or plain fat. As near as we can tell most of the cast seem to come from either the Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, exotic dancer, or the underground punk pool. It does raise one question: why were the Julies, the late great Strain and K. Smith, not in this? Superstarlet AD was something right in their wheelhouse, boudoir, or lingerie closet rather. Strain had taken her top off for lesser filmmakers and on scanter budgets in those unrewarding post-Sidaris years. Those who love vintage lingerie will get an absolute kick out of Superstarlet AD as these gun-toting belles brandish more than enough stockings, garter belts, suspenders and such to satiate anyone’s craving. With that in mind, this is probably the greatest monochrome post-apocalyptic sci-fi Andy Sidaris and Jim Wynorski never made

Nostalgia. That most addictive of drugs. That’s indeed what propels Superstarlet AD forward. Pinpointing when exactly the nouveau retro movement started is anyone’s guess. Superstarlet AD is probably a good place to start. American horror was firmly in the post-modern grip of the self-referential and the meekly comedic, and Asian horror (specifically Japan) was experiencing some of a resurgence.

If something like this were made today it practically begged for curvaceous cuties as French Instagram sex bomb Green Cat From Hell, French-Canadian alt model Ardaeth, American go-go dancer and devil-do-all Toriikills, Ukrainian belly dancer Diana Bastet, Icelandic booty babe and Playboy Playmate of the Month (September, 2014) Arna Bára Karlsdóttir, Australian-British OnlyFans sensation Leah Wilde, or American adult stars as Natalie Monroe, Kayla Kiss, or Reya Reign, to name just a few. Karlsdóttir, Wilde, Kiss, Reign, and even Green Cat From Hell (despite the obvious language barrier) could very well pull it off considering the roleplay they all frequently engage in. With nostalgia stronger than ever before and the longing for simpler times the question is whether there would an audience for such a thing. It is another discussion entirely who would be best qualified to helm such a feature. Wynorski descended into caricature and parody around the time this came out, and it’s safe to assume he’s a lost cause at this point. Unless by some divine intervention he regains his composure suddenly. That leaves the younger generation to meet the demand. Benjamin Combes, Neil Johnson, and Rene Perez have all shown an affinity and knack for such a thing.