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Plot: reporter uncovers a grand conspiracy within the English government

An Italian conspiracy thriller that simultaneously rips off Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966), Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and British television series UFO (1970–1973) from a director that makes Alfonso Brescia, and Emimmo Salvi look competent in comparison. Mario Gariozzi was a hack on the level of Ferdinando Merighi, Pier Carpi, Ciro Ippolito, and Raúl Artigot. In the near thirty-year period from 1962 to 1993 Gariozzi was active as both a writer and director. Only Eyes Behind the Stars, the spoof Very Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind (1978) (with María Baxa and Mónica Zanchi), and The Brother from Space (1988) are the most remembered from his modest filmography. If there’s anything that can be said about Gariozzi it’s that his lovably dopey Eyes Behind the Stars (1978) probably ended up as one of the possible inspirations behind Chris Carter’s The X-Files (1993-2003), by far the most enduring property and the popular series of the 90s. On all other fronts Eyes Behind the Stars (1978) is stunningly, headscratchingly incompetent and then some. Not helping in the slightest is Franco Garofalo as the proxy-leading man early on.

During a fashion shoot in the English countryside photographer Peter Collins (Franco Garofalo) and his model Karin Hale (Sherry Buchanan) inadvertently capture evidence of extraterrestrial activity in the region. Collins realizes that something is afoot and embarks on an investigation of his own once Hale has bid her farewell. The photographer disappears and Hale offers the negatives to hardnosed cop-turned-reporter Tony Harris (Robert Hoffmann) after which she too disappears without a trace. The string of disappearances send Harris on an investigation on his own. Together with his assistant Monica Stiles (Nathalie Delon) he follows the clues where they take him and soon he’s conferring with ufologist Perry Coleman (Victor Valente). Not only has Harris to deal with the aliens neutralizing witnesses and evidence, but also law enforcement in the form of Inspector Jim Grant (Martin Balsam) who makes his investigation considerably more difficult. On top of that Harris has not only come in the crosshairs of the aliens but also of a clandestine government covert ops codenamed The Silencers whose leader (Sergio Rossi) is a high-ranking official. Is it all a grand government conspiracy and/or is there a traitor among Harris’ allies?

While the movie is headlined by Austrian actor Robert Hoffmann, there’s the prerequisite faded American star in the form of Martin Balsam, French import Nathalie Delon (one of the ex-wives of Alain Delon) as well as peplum, giallo and spaghetti western pillar George Ardisson and cult queen Sherry Buchanan. Balsam won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1965 and obviously he’s a far way from On the Waterfront (1954), 12 Angry Men (1957), Psycho (1960), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Mitchell (975), and All the President's Men (1976). Sherry Buchanan never quite was a one-hit wonder like Belinda Mayne, Sarah Langenfeld, and May Deseligny but she never ascended to cult superstardom the same way as Caroline Munro, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri or Nieves Navarro either. Buchanan rose to fame with What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974) and Tentacles (1977) but sadly never managed to escape the muck of exploitation she made a name in. Among her more memorable undertakings are Last House on the Beach (1978), Zombi Holocaust (1980), Escape From Galaxy 3 (1981), and Tinto Brass’ Capri Remembered (1987). Like Evelyne Kraft her tenure in Italian exploitation was as brief as it was intense. By the time her star burned bright her career fizzled out without much fanfare.

Arguably Eyes Behind the Stars is a just a tad too ambitious for its own good. Mario Gariozzi’s screenplay contains enough material for two, nay, three features. The vanishing of photographer Franco Garofalo and his model Sherry Buchanan after they discover something fishy in one of their pictures is liberally borrowed from Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966). Eyes Behind the Stars only becomes interesting once Robert Hoffmann’s reporter character is introduced. Once ufologist Victor Valente and Natalie Delon join Hoffmann Eyes Behind the Stars turns into a conspiracy thriller that is dreadfully slow even by late seventies standards. Despite the aliens zapping witnesses and stealing evidence there’s no sense of urgency to any of the proceedings. At least the comparisons to The X-Files aren’t entirely unwarranted. Gariozzi has all the classic elements: mysterious disappearances, clandestine covert ops, government and aliens conspiring together and a massive cover-up. Yet none of it amounts to anything. Robert Hoffmann and Natalie Delon obviously were no match for Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Neither does the schmaltzy screenplay capitalize nearly enough on the covert ops The Silencers. Imagine what Antonio Margheriti, Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi, or Enzo G. Castellari could have done with a premise like this. Since Gariozzi doesn’t possess a fraction of talent Eyes Behind the Stars is not only terminally dull and completely uneventful but hideously ugly to look at to boot.

Had Eyes Behind the Stars been directed by Antonio Margheriti, Sergio Martino, or Enzo G. Castellari then it probably would have been a whole lot more lively and fast-paced. It was released in 1978 smackdab in between the still ongoing wave of foreign – and domestic Star Wars (1977) imitations and the nascent post-nuke craze following immediately in the wake of George Miller’s The Road Warrior (1981). Eyes Behind the Stars, for all intents and purposes, positions itself as a “serious movie” on the subject of UFOs, alien invasions, and government conspiracies. It makes the cardinal mistake of casting Franco Garofalo as the proxy-leading man and insists that Sherry Buchanan keeps her clothes on. Then again, Eyes Behind the Stars was produced by Armando Novelli. Novelli produced among many others, the kitschy gothic horror potboiler The Playgirls and the Vampire (1960), the giallo The Beast Kills In Cold Blood (1971) with Rosalba Neri, and a number of Fernando Di Leo movies, including his Milieu trilogy as well as a few erotic thrillers near the end of the eighties and early nineties. In a move that was bold even for late 1970s Italian exploitation standards Marcello Giombini’s score liberally plagiarized a very obvious motif from Jean-Michel Jarre’s 1976 Oxygène suite. Giombini doesn’t bother hiding his plagiarism by changing a few notes around but freely lifts the melody in its original form. In that sense it’s similar to the little seen Hong Kong-Taiwan ghost romance Ghost Of the Mirror (1974) with Brigitte Lin.

If it’s remembered for anything Eyes Behind the Stars is nearly as incompetent as Raúl Artigot’s failed gothic horror throwback The Witches Mountain (1975). This thing is as dull and uninvolving as these Italian potboilers tended to come. Somebody, anybody, could’ve made this a whole lot more interesting. Whether it was an experienced action movie director or even somebody like Andrea Bianchi, Umberto Lenzi, or Luigi Cozzi. Anything would have improved Eyes Behind the Stars from becoming the stillborn wreck that it is. What we're left with is the sort of tedious dross that not even the petite and always enchanting Sherry Buchanan can possibly liven up with her radiant looks. Poor Sherry could never catch a break. To go from something as hideously boring as this to the double-whammy of Marino Girolami’s Zombi Holocaust (1980), and Adalberto Albertini’s Escape From Galaxy 3 (1981) in just two years is a frightening prospect, indeed. Eyes Behind the Stars looks as if it was a lost Alfonso Brescia production. Hell, we’d go as far to posit that even Jess Franco’s worst from around this time were better than this hot mess. An interesting premise is one thing, but not even a miracle could save this one…

Plot: good girls go to heaven, Valeria goes everywhere…

Silvio Amadio was a promising director that helmed two interesting giallos with Amuck (1972) and Death Smiles On A Murderer (1973) that saw him working with some of Italy's finest leading ladies Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet and Ewa Aulin. Compared to them Gloria Guida was but a starlet, willing and able to shed fabric if required, of questionable acting talent. Obviously Amadio’s best days were truly well behind him and not even Guida’s ascent in the commedia sexy all’Italiana could pull him from the morass of mediocrity. Amadio would work with Guida on another three occassions with So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious... (1975), That Malicious Age (1975), and Il Medico... La Studentessa (1976) but suffice to say no amount of Guida in the buff can mask how routinous and daft these are. The Minor was the last hurrah of a director well above this kind of daft melodramatic swill. There’s only so many ways for Gloria Guida to undress until that grows stale too.

The Minor was only glorious Gloria's second feature and the follow-up to the rather innocuous Monika (1974). Guida was a year removed from Blue Jeans (1975), the feature that would launch her legendary derrière to Eurocult superstardom, and her role as everybody's favorite promiscuous Catholic schoolgirl or la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975). That Gloria couldn't really act was manifest in her debut outing but at least she's given something to work with here. In her scenes with veteran actor Corrado Pani he does most of the heavy lifting for her. Guida's non-acting is charming at first but tends to grow tedious the farther one progresses into her filmography. While it stands to reason that la Guida did more than just taking her clothes off in Blue Jeans (1975), and That Malicious Age (1975), it wouldn't be until To Be Twenty (1978) a few years later that she proved that she could actually act. It's true that Gloria Guida was handed terrible scripts banking heavily on her willingness to shed clothes, but even with a good screenplay she wasn't exactly an Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet, or Femi Benussi. Let alone that she was able to match ubiquitous bedroom farce queen Laura Antonelli. 

To its credit at least The Minor attempts to do things a little differently in its opening 15 minutes. Just like Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975), The Minor opens with a pair of legs in the shortest blue skirt imaginable. The skirt and the legs in them, of course, belong to everybody’s favorite raunchy comedy darling Gloria Guida. From there it takes a page from the Christina Lindberg romp Exponerad (1971) as she’s chased, surrounded and then raped by a gang of bikers. We learn that Guida is Valeria Sanna and she’s summoned to the doctor’s office for a medical check-up. Right when the doctor is about to get naughty with her, her class mates burst in, wearing colorful corsets, and Valeria punishes the medic with castration. By this time sister Angela (Nicoletta Amadio) has found the schoolgirls in the woods and Valeria attempts to corrupt the good sister with some sapphic seduction. In her next flight of fancy Valeria finds herself topless and crucified by evil men and women of the cloth until a band of schoolgirls and nuns come to her rescue. She’s brought before the court of the headmaster (Giulio Donnini) and is instructed to return home for the summer and spent time with her dysfunctional family.

Things take a turn towards well-charted and rather daft commedia sexy all’Italiana and melodramatic territory when Valeria returns home. Her absentee father (Marco Guglielmi) has an office affair with his secretary. Her young and attractive mother (Rosemary Dexter) has an affair with wealthy entrepreneur Carlo Savi (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, as Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) while their in-house maid Carlotta (Gabriella Lepori) is in a tryst with Valeria’s constantly horny brother Lorenzo (Luciano Roffi). Valeria herself is the object of everybody’s attention as she can’t sunbathe topless without being spied on from nearby boats and no less than twice do a gang of schoolboys break-and-enter into her house to watch her undress. One day while wandering the beach she makes her acquaintance with Spartaco (Corrado Pani), a middle-aged sculptor living in a shack. An unlikely bond develops between the two and soon Valeria finds herself torn between interest in boys of her own age and her growing affection towards the cultured and worldly social pariah Spartaco. In a scene towards the end Giacomo Rossi-Stuart’s Carlo has Valeria dressing up as a internment camp prisoner while he poses as a Nazi officer and tries to lure Valeria in bed. At that point her mother enters the room and she’s none too pleased with her lover. It is then that Valeria realizes that she’s no longer interested in the adolescent boys that cause her so much grief, but in old Spartaco instead.

There are far and few Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana that are truly mandatory. The Minor is too routine and by-the-numbers to warrant recommendation outside of the opening 15 minutes that have Gloria partaking in various of daydreams. The Minor offers ample opportunity for Guida to shine as she’s put in (and out of) various alluring garments; be it the schoolgirl outfit with a skimpiest blue skirt and diaphanous knee-high socks, miniscule see-through lingerie and the blue bikini that features in most of the beach scenes. Seeing Guida is always a delight but no amount of bare skin can mask just how hideously banal The Minor truly is. Guida never shied away from nudity and The Minor has enough of Gloria in the buff to satisfy anyone’s cravings, the plot however is as trite as many of these comedies were wont to be. Gloria Guida might not have been the most gifted of actresses, but her shapely derrière and her willingness to shed clothes allowed her a steady career in bawdy commedia sexy all’Italiana. Obviously not all of her comedies and melodramas were created equal, but at the very least most were enjoyable in the basest sense of the word.

Granted, Gloria Guida was no Barbara Bouchet, Femi Benussi or even Evelyn Kraft. If The Minor proves anything it is that even Guida was too good to waste on mediocre swill like this. The creativity that it manifests and the goodwill that it generates in the first 15 minutes is too easily squandered as The Minor is yet another coming-of-age melodrama that banks entirely on miss Guida’s willingness to generously disrobe in front of the camera. The screenplay by Piero Regnoli has nothing significant to add to the genre – and not even the on-screen romance between Guida and Corrado Pani was all that novel by this point. Guida had been romancing men old enough to be her father before and after in Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975). That The Minor plays out almost exactly like the earlier Scandinavian Exponerad (1971) proves just how moot the entire exercise was, even if it’s livelier than its Swedish predecessor. The opening 15 minutes alone manifest more creativity than the remainder of the feature can ever be bothered to muster. The Minor is far from director Silvio Amadio’s best, but it more than signifies that his best days were very well behind him now. While Guida’s ass was at least as famous as Benussi’s, Femi possessed a kind of vibrant versatility that Gloria never quite got a hold of.

Whether one can stomach the average Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana is entirely dependent on one's tolerance for Benny Hill slapstick shenanigans from buffoons as Lino Banfi and Alvaro Vitali as well as the usual amount of tragedy that was obligatory in these features. Nobody in the right mind watches these things for the story and the reason why everybody is here is to see Gloria Guida in the buff. The Minor is slightly more creative than the usual fare that Guida found herself in, but it is never able to consolidate that initial and early promise. Each and every excuse is still good enough to have glorious Gloria undress but it hardly guarantees an engaging, let alone compelling experience. Thankfully Gloria would be soon become a superstar with her role as the luscious la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975) (released in North America as The Teasers) and the controversial satire To Be Twenty (1978) with Lilli Carati. The Minor isn’t necessarily terrible – but it’s not good enough to warrant recommendation either. It’s a commedia sexy all’Italiana on auto-pilot, and it shows.