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Plot: two sisters inherit a mansion and convert it into a pension. Hilarity ensues!

In the post-La Liceale (1975) years things weren’t always easy for Gloria Guida. No doubt la Guida had the luxury of picking the roles she was interested in but the general quality of the sex comedies she appeared in was never exactly high to begin with. The Landlord (released domestically as L'affittacamere) is surprisingly tolerable and something of a minor cult hit despite being released at the tail end of Gloria’s turn as the iconic high school girl. Surrounded by some of the best comedic talent of the day, written and directed by some of the country’s most experienced specialists The Landlord might not be a masterwork of high comedy exactly, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It shows extraordinary resilience not to revert to the kind of lowbrow slapstick shenanigans that Lino Banfi (with, or without, his trusty sidekick Alvaro Vitali) often indulges in whenever Gloria isn’t cavorting around in the nude. Even when Guida isn’t naked The Landlord is good fun. This was probably one of the better Guida offerings in those trying and challenging years before To Be Twenty (1978).

In the five-year span from 1974 to 1979 Gloria Guida had worked with some of the best and brightest in the commedia sexy all’Italiana industry. After Fernando Di Leo’s politically-charged To Be Twenty (1978), and having played just about every male wish fullfillment - and fantasy figure, perhaps it was time for Miss Teen Italy 1974 to branch out and spread her wings. Night Nurse (1979) was a semi-serious melodrama with the usual comedic interludes, and when glorious Gloria finally disrobed it was well worth the wait. The Landlord ramps up the situational – and slapstick comedy quotient and there’s at least one good chuckle-inducing moment where Gloria loses her dress and has to make a run across the street in only her translucent white lingerie (complete with stockings and garterbelts, for those who care for such details) in a scene probably “inspired” by the corresponding Nadia Marlowa scene in Sergio Grieco’s fumetti Argoman (1967) and something she would do in The High School Girl Repeating Class (1978) two years later. Fran Fullenwider’s sleepwalking episodes are memorable for all the wrong reasons, and at least she ended up working in Italy for a number of years after her roles in The Mutations (1974) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). If anything but that must have been a nice little opportunity to vacation while she was there. Lino Banfi is suprisingly tolerable (he doesn’t engage in his usual odious slapstick and the mugging is minimal), but it’s really Giuseppe Pambieri who’s responsible for most of the actual comedy. Vittorio Caprioli always elevates every scene he’s in and here it’s no different. The man was a genius. The Landlord is far from quintessential Italo comedy, but it’s far better than most base Gloria Guida swill.

Giorgia Mainardi (Gloria Guida) and her sister Angela (Fran Fullenwider) inherit a mansion in the countryside near Bologna after their aunt-contesa (Flora Carosello) passes away. Once the notary (Dino Emanuelli) and lawyer Mandelli (Giancarlo Dettori) get the necessary paperwork out of the way, the girls agree to convert the building into a pension and name it Pension Paraiso (or Pension Paradise). Angela designs the flyers and when Giorgia distributes flyers across town their new business venture attracts not only the attention of the printer (Aristide Caporale), but also that of judge Damiani (Adolfo Celi), the local arbiter of wisdom and moral values; as well as playboy jockey Anselmo Bresci (Giuseppe Pambieri) and professor Eduardo Settebeni (Luciano Salce). The pension is fully booked almost overnight, and quickly the rumor spreads that Pension Paraiso is not a pension but a casa d'appuntamento, if one is willing to part with 50,000 lire “for a night in paradise” with the hostess, so to speak.

This, of course, attracts the attention of Angela’s boyfriend Lillino Scalabrin (Lino Banfi). Lillino books himself a room, as does professor Eduardo Settebeni. Among the clientele are Pasquale Esposito Ramazzini (Enzo Cannavale) and the honorable judge Vincenzi (Vittorio Caprioli) who gladly pay a pretty penny to have Giorgia over. Also staying overnight are judge Damiani’s wife Rosaria (Marilda Donà) and Settebeni’s wife Adele Bazziconi (Giuliana Calandra), the latter hoping to catch her husband in flagrante delicto and the former to meet her lover Anselmo Bresci. Professor Settebeni has been prospecting the property with eye on converting it into a clinic once he retires. Hilarity ensues when everybody ends up between the sheets with each other, and Mandelli and Giorgia come up with a last-minute plan to salvage the planned sale. In the end Settebeni pays Giorgia 50 milioni lire for the building, allowing Angela and Lillino to marry, and the trio decides to move to a luxurious mansion in Puglia. There Giorgia devises a plan to turn the house into a pension now that she has a strategy.

Like in Night Nurse (1979) a few years later The Landlord director Mariano Laurenti is more concerned with the group dynamic and the interpersonal dramatics than showcasing Gloria Guida’s exposed form, although there’s enough of that too. It wasn’t even the first time Guida had worked with Mariano Laurenti. He would direct her in The High School Girl Repeating Class (1978) two years later, and would do so again in How to Seduce Your Teacher (1979), and The High School Girl, the Devil, and the Holy Water (1979). While she often could be found sharing the screen with buffoons Lino Banfi and Alvaro Vitali whose combined physical-situational comedy is best described as odious, Gloria was fortunate to share the screen with some of Italy’s greatest comedians, be they Vittorio Caprioli, Enzo Cannavale, or Nino Castelnuovo. In case of The Landlord it is Lando Buzzanca. Buzzanca made his debut as a Jewish slave in William Wyler’s big budget peplum epic Ben-Hur (1959), and started to specialize in comedy as early as 1961. He has shared the screen with just about every major and minor Eurocult queen imaginable. Buzzance and Guida shared the screen together just the year before in The Mammon Cat (1975). Fran Fullenwider is mostly remembered around these parts for her small role in The Mutations (1974). What can be said about Giuseppe Pambieri? Some guys have all the luck. He crossed paths with Gloria (and with a pre-Cicciolina Ilona Staller) earlier in La Liceale (1975), with Edwige Fenech in Confessions of a Lady Cop (1976), and with Chai Lee in Yellow Emanuelle (1976) (also with Staller). Vittorio Caprioli was in To Be Twenty (1978) with Guida and Lilli Carati.

By 1979 Gloria Guida was probably in a different headspace, she had been making a living taking her clothes off for about 5 years, and her spreads in Playboy, Playmen, and Skorpio showcased her to those who never caught any of her many comedies. The long and short of it was that anything after would be fairly redundant now that she had shown all in print magazines across the world. She had traveled to Mexico to work with René Cardona Jr. on The Bermuda Triangle (1978) (the sole horror entry in Guida’s filmography). Guida had a brush with relevance with Fernando Di Leo’s brilliant satire To Be Twenty (1978) most of her post-1978 oeuvre gravitates towards slightly more serious or darker toned material. As limited an actress as she was it’s puzzling that Guida never became involved in the giallo (and, by extent, horror) genre like so many of her comedy contemporaries did. In truth by 1978 Gloria was no longer believable as la liceale, and the world was forever denied a movie with her as a l’insegnante. It was evident that Gloria was winding down from acting and two years away from meeting her future-husband Johnny Dorelli. A year later she woud retire from acting and shift focus on her personal life and singing career. The Landlord is the last Guida comedy worth seeing as it sets its sights slightly higher than usual.

Plot: two teen girls, one hot summer, a lifetime of blasphemy and heresy.

It was really Jean Rollin who paved the way for the French fantastique. Not by some grand design or clever promotion but rather the accident of circumstance. When The Rape of the Vampire (1968) hit cineplexes across the country it did so during the student riots, general - and worker strikes opposing the Charles de Gaulle administration. In other words, it was the only thing in town. However, It was the follow-up The Nude Vampire (1970) that would consolidate Rollin’s oneiric visual style. Suddenly every two-bit producer and director with a few spare francs and some croissants was scrambling to launch their own fantastique, erotic and otherwise, and follow Rollin’s lead. Of all the imitators that inevitably followed only three have stood the test of time: Mario Mercier, Bruno Gantillon and Joël Séria.

Whereas Mercier was a real-life shaman whose Erotic Witchcraft (1972) and A Woman Possessed (1975) felt more like occult rituals captured on celluloid rather than formal narratives; in contrast the careers of Gantillon and Séria followed a similar trajectory after a single horror outing. Both men transitioned into other more marketable genres before graduating into television. Gantillon had his mesmerizing Girl Slaves Of Morgana LeFay (1971) and Séria had his iconoclastic and irreverent Don’t Deliver Us From Evil. Also not unimportant was that that year saw the release of offerings as diverse as Hammer’s Lust For A Vampire (1971) and Twins Of Evil (1971), Jesús Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos (1971), the Belgian-Canadian co-production Daughters Of Darkness (1971), and the El Hombre Lobo breastacular The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971). If there ever was a year to premiere this sort of erotic horror, 1971 was the year of choice.

Coinciding with the witchcraft and Satanic Panic cycle of the seventies Joël Séria’s irreverent coming of age tale Mais nous ne délivrez pas du mal (or Don’t Deliver Us From Evil, internationally) isn’t merely a tale of the sexual awakening of two impressionable young girls under the guise of an occult horror. More than anything else it is a scathing and damning indictment of the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, the laissez-faire attitude of the bourgeoisie and the injustices of the French social hierarchal system. Loosely inspired by the Parker-Hulme murder from New Zealand in 1954 and Séria’s memories of his own Catholic upbringing Don’t Deliver Us From Evil was banned in the Fifth Republic on charges of blasphemy and heresy. Séria’s debut feature was a fairytale that remains little seen outside of Eurocult circles and that’s a pity. Even 50 years after its original release it has lost none of its power. More importantly it was the French precursor to Juan López Moctezuma’s Alucarda (1977) and Fernando Di Leo’s widely misunderstood and incendiary satire To Be Twenty (1978) with commedia sexy all’Italiana lolitas Gloria Guida and Lili Carati. That Séria abhors Catholicism (who in the right mind could disagree with him?) should be fairly obvious as the title is a slight alteration from a line of the Pater Noster prayer.

Anne (Jeanne Goupil) and Lore (Catherine Wagener) are two post-pubescent Catholic schoolgirls living in the rural province of Anjou. Both are 14, neighbors and best friends, and both come from affluent, conservative, aristocratic families. Both are bored and confused with the hypocrisy they witness at their convent boarding school and within their own families. Anne’s parents are the Count de Boissy (Jean-Pierre Helbert) and the Countess (Véronique Silver) who have their own interests and leave her in the care of gardener Gustave (René Berthier). One night Anne reads erotic literature she stole from one of the nuns and the two girls solemnly vow that they will live their life together, in service of Satan, from now on. After a particular gloomy sermon from the local priest (Serge Frédéric) at mass the two denounce their faith, mock the clergyman, and begin their journey into wanton depravity. When Anne’s parents leave for a two-month holiday they sent her to live with Lore’s parents, monsieur Fournier (Henri Poirier, as Henry Poirier) and madame Fournier (Nicole Mérouze). United for the summer, the two are free to commit as much mischief as they could possibly want.

Anne reads the misanthropic, misotheistic poetic novel The Songs of Maldoror from Comte de Lautréamont and les filles initiate themselves in the dark arts. Anne begins torturing small animals, commencing with her pet cat and graduating into canary-poisoning and sparrow-strangulation. In those lazy, hazy days of summer the two girls explore their own sexuality, experiment with lesbianism, and the all-too-easy seduction of mentally challenged cowherd Émile (Gérard Darrieu). In lieu of getting what they want the two commit arson and when a motorist (Bernard Dhéran) turns the tables on them during a game of seduction the two take to cold blooded murder. Anne and Lore consecrate their union in a Black Mass ceremony wherein church artefacts are desecrated. When a commissioner (Jean-Daniel Ehrmann, as Jean Daniel Ehrmann) is assigned to investigate the case the girls fear that they will be separated. The two decide to commit one final act of defiance during the fall term school play. To a wildly enthusiastic audience the girls dramatically recite part of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers Of Evil before committing self-immolation in the ultimate act of mockery.

Understated. If there’s one to describe Don’t Deliver Us From Evil it’s that. Joël Séria is content to merely observe as the girls descent from youthful mischief into full-blown profanation and cold blooded murder. That Don’t Deliver Us From Evil is irreverent and iconoclastic is evident. The detached, documentary-like camerawork and quiet, folkish score serve brilliantly to create a false sense of security. It starts out like every other French coming of age feature and only the subtle hint here and there provide clues that not everything is what is it seems. There’s a whole lot more boiling beneath the surface, some of which becomes only clear upon multiple viewings. It dabbles in the general territory of Jean Rollin and Bruno Gantillon’s Girl Slaves Of Morgana Le Fay (1971), but Don’t Deliver Us From Evil is wholly its own beast. The enduring ability of Don’t Deliver Us From Evil to shock audiences doesn’t lie so much in what it shows (it’s surprisingly low on both blood and gratuitous nudity) but rather in the profundity of its implications. Suggestion, when wielded in the right hands, is probably the most formidable weapon. Adding immensely to the overall ick and sleaze factor is that Jeanne Goupil and Catherine Wagener (21 and 19, respectively, at the time of filming) truly do look like unspoilt minors. The brunt of the nudity falls on Wagener, but Séria would have Goupil in a state of constant undress in his oddball romance Marie, the Doll (1975).

By 1971 France had been pervaded by existentialism by philosophers Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Simone de Beauvoir. In a post-World War II the movement rose to prominence as a response against Nazi despotism. Don’t Deliver Us From Evil arrived at just the right time to benefit from the lesbian hysterionics following Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy, the advent of erotic vampire horror in continental Europe, the women’s liberation movement as well as the looser, permissive mores following the Summer of Love. The societal circumstances and socio-political climate were right for something like this to materialize. Joël Séria was a proverbial crusader hellbent on dismantling the French church and state.

We would be remiss to mention that Don’t Deliver Us From Evil immediately found its place in cult cinema history by being presented at the Directors' Fortnight, in parallel selection of the 1971 Cannes Film Festival and allegedly being banned the land of ‘Liberté‘ on grounds of blasphemy. The banning remains somewhat contentious as we weren’t able to find any substantial evidence to support said claim. Exposing the hypocrisy of the church is never a good idea anyway. With his following features Séria took to thoroughly dismantling the state and the French national identity. To do that with silly comedies of all things makes it all the more poignant. Obviously Séria had an axe to grind with his country, culture and traditions. If anything, without Don’t Deliver Us From Evil there would be no Vampyres (1974), no Satánico Pandemonium (1975) and certainly no Alucarda (1977). Not bad for a little shocker over half a century old.