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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.

little-witches

Plot: Catholic schoolgirls dabble in witchcraft…

The Craft (1996) was a lot of things. It proved that Neve Campbell could do more than look misty-eyed as she did in Party Of Five (1994-2000). It was her other big movie of that year next to Wes Craven's self-reflexive Scream (1996). It confirmed that Fairuza Balk was destined for bigger and better things. It proved that Rachel True probably deserved a bigger career than she ended up getting and that Robin Tunney - who would all but bury her Hollywood career with the double-whammy of End Of Days (1999) and Vertical Limit (2000) - was better served on the small screen. Thankfully her career was resurrected by a guest role in the House, M.D. (2004) pilot and her role as Teresa Lisbon in The Mentalist (2008-2015). It also inspired several knock-offs including Little Witches and The Coven (2015).

Canadian-American production Little Witches was bankrolled to capitalize on the success of The Craft. It was shot in 18 days over a three-week period in Santa Barbara, California and it was released direct-to-video and in foreign markets a month after The Craft (1996) hit cineplexes. It features a bunch of fresh, young faces. Young actresses hungry enough that they didn't mind taking their clothes off. Among these a very young Clea DuVall, Jennifer Rubin and designated bad girl Sheeri Rappaport. The screenplay by Brian DiMuccio and Dino Vindeni is endemic of direct-to-video shlock in that it's so incoherent and bad that not even the frequently naked Rappaport can save it. Little Witches was written, directed, and acted so poorly that director Jane Simpson has since come out and disowned it. Lalaneya Hamilton, who has since understandably quit the acting profession and apparently found religion, denounced it by saying, “In my life... I would have to say that acting in Little Witches is one of the most regrettable things that I have ever done. I am very sorry that I took part in it. As a Christian I would not recommend this movie.

Simpson started out in animation, moved into commercials, and later music videos. She had directed one movie prior to Little Witches, and has returned to her work in commercials, and music video since. Prior to Little Witches writing duo Brian DiMuccio, and Dino Vindeni had penned the screenplay to The Demolitionist (1995), a flagrant, and low-rent RoboCop (1987) plagiate that sold itself with the tagline, “Hell hath no fury, like a woman transformed!” and had none other than Baywatch star Nicole Eggert in the lead role. Producer Donald P. Borchers was responsible for a swath of exploitation cult favorites including The Beastmaster (1982), Children Of the Corn (1984), Tuff Turf (1985, the screen debut for Cat Sassoon) and the Drew Barrymore thriller Doppelganger (1993). Special effects and makeup men Gabriel Bartalos, Clayton Martinez, and John C. Hartigan have since worked on a multitude of big-budget Hollywood productions. Most of the teen cast, or at least those that weren't either Clea DuVall or Sheeri Rappaport, didn't do much of interest after. Most of them quit acting altogether.

Little Witches opens in a Santa Carlita Academy classroom in California where Sister Sherilyn (Jennifer Rubin) teaches English class. Asked whether they can identify a Latin phrase, resident brunette Jamie (Sheeri Rappaport) blithely remarks that she, “doesn’t speak dead language!” In her stead a nearby blonde blurts, “It’s Virgil from the Aeneid”, in response Jamie offers the non-witty repartee, “kiss-ass nerd!” “Knowledge is power!”, the still unnamed blonde quips, “but ignorance is bliss” retorts Jamie. “Is this your idea of a ten-page paper on Plato?” asks Sister Sherilyn “If you assign us cooler stuff, I might get more inspired”, when asked what “cooler stuff” entails Jamie replies with, “Macbeth”. Her grievances duly noted the class receive an assigment for a ten-page paper on Macbeth. Shakespeare’s Macbeth also had witches – but the exchange is of no importance to, and will have no bearing on, the plot. Rising from her chair Jamie, now visibly inspired or agitated, gabbles “Fair is foul, and foul is fair, hover through fog and filthy air.” Cue a jump-scare. Well, no. In fact Little Witches opens with a prologue set 100 years in the past involving an orgy of naked girls around a smoke-filled cauldron. The orgy comes to a halt when men of the cloth barge in, and kill the heretics. After the carnage, a mostly-unclad woman imparts, “I am the Lord’s guardian. The Horned Demon cannot come as long as I’m alive!” This will become of some importance later, and expose a glaring plothole.

Along with five others Jamie is sent to confessional with Father Michael (Jack Nance). Just like in The Craft the students wear plaid skirts, knee-high socks and half-open shirts. At their weekly confession it is learned that Jamie is the queen bee of the school’s resident misfits clan. Next to Gina (Lalaneya Hamilton), the prerequisite sassy black girl, there's also the token chubby student. “Do you have any sins of a non-dietary nature to confess to?” inquires Father Michael after Erica (Melissa Taub) catalogs that week’s list of culinary transgressions. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” says the still-unnamed blonde as she settles in the booth. After a few sobby lines about parental abandonment and the passing of her father, the nearly comatose Father Michael notes that, “Faith, you must begin to realize that you’re a part of God’s plan!” Oh, great. So Little Witches not only rips off the decidedly secular and better The Craft, but it pushes a Christian agenda to boot. How lovely...

Eight minutes in and we finally learn this character’s name! Since this is a movie called Little Witches and the blonde is called Faith it's safe to wager a guess that this will be our main character for the remainder of the feature. Things aren't exactly looking up as Mimi Reichmeister (later Mimi Rose) is a cut-rate Piper Perabo or Meredith Monroe and thus barely a decent television actress. If this was a sixties over seventies movie the blonde could've been Danielle Ouimet and we'd all be a lot better off. Alas, she is not just Faith, but Faith Ferguson cos alliteration is fun and Little Witches tries very hard to be educational whenever Sheeri Rappaport isn't deviously traipsing around the screen, often with very little clothes on. Not that we'd mind. Little Witches would've been a whole lot better if it focused on Rappaport's character instead of Reichmeister's. Rappaport can actually act too. Faith, as we just learned, is apparently having a crisis of faith. Cos she's Faith.


On that note Jamie steps into the booth with whorish aplomb and chirps, “Father, I’ve been a bad girl” before she unbuttons her shirt, spills out her left breast, lifts her skirt (a skirt longer than those that Gloria Guida wore in the 70s) and proceeds to writhe suggestively into the boot. “Jamie, you’re going to have to find another way of dealing with your family problems without these performances of yours. Continuing disrespect will only lead you into darkness!” Father Michael, now looking as if he’s recovering from a hangover, sternly advises. Barely two scenes in and Little Witches has revealed exactly what it is. A turgid and immensely belabored romp with a heavy-handed moralizing screenplay that is neither scary nor sexy enough to pass the muster by any reasonable metric you're willing to employ. The only good thing is that shortly we'll be introduced to Clea DuVall and her character.

In fact the group is slightly bigger than in The Craft but the make-up is entirely the same, including the token minority character: Faith is - as her name not-so-subtlely suggests - the wholesome, studious Christian girl and thus the Robin Tunney character. Jamie is not the brooding goth reject that Fairuza Balk was in The Craft. instead she has the look of a 90s Aerosmith music video girl. Lalaneya Hamilton stands in for Rachel True and DuVall's Kelsey is the closest to Neve Campbell's character. Daniel (Tommy Stork) - Faith’s designated love interest and this movie’s Skeet Ulrich - takes his shirt off several times, much to the delight of female audience members, to expose his washboard abs. To its credit at least Little Witches has a little bit for everyone. The depiction of witchcraft is, as expected of these kind of productions, goofy and cartoony. At least the Calling of the 4 Quarters is portrayed somewhat accurately. There are plenty of skyclad incantations recited from dusty, leatherbound Latin tomes around smoke-filled cauldrons in mouldy caves, should Little Witches not be enough of a hint for the especially dense.

Since Little Witches revolves around “sexy witches” it is at least consistent in its nudity, which is both gratuitous and demure. Every member of the group gets completely naked, even the rounder girl partakes in as much frontal nudity and sacrilege as her more traditional looking peers. Suprisingly, no spell is cast to make her thinner and more conventionally attractive. Probably because that cost money and that was one thing that Little Witches didn't have. A first act running gag involves Erica being at the receiving end of several food-related jokes and insults. In a similar vein does Angie, the token minority character, have less nude scenes than the Caucasian cast. Despite the Catholic school girl and witches angle, there are no sapphic allusions or suggestions, there’s not even implied lesbianism in the convent. The girls’ disrobing is used as a metaphor for gaining power and control, whether it is over nearby construction workers, or channelling power in an arcane ritual. There’s a distinct sexual undercurrent as at least one of the Little Witches is “penetrated” (death-by-impalement) by the very demon they desired to summon.

While Mimi Reichmeister is tolerable enough, she's clearly no Clea DuVall. DuVall clearly should've been the main character here, but Reichmeister was blonde. What it does prove is that DuVall was a burdgeoning talent. However, it is Sheeri Rappaport that Little Witches gets the most mileage out of. In a scene directly scribbled from The Craft a character asks about Jamie’s promiscuity and mischief. Faith answers with, “what didn’t she do?” - a slight variation on what Robin Tunney’s character said in The Craft. After a racy skylight striptease set to ‘Who’s Going to Make it Rain?’ by Mr. Jones and the Previous, Faith asks, "what if somebody saw you?" "That was kind of the point," Jamie dryly remarks. The only character arc worthy of the name is Faith’s meet-cute and gradual infatuation with Daniel and his washboard abs. To sabotage Faith’s date with Daniel one of the girls moves the clock back to 7:25 (when it was at 7:50), in the next shot it’s back at 7:50. Apparently there are no wrist watches in this universe. Jamie - not content to only corrupt seraphic men of the cloth and summon antediluvian demons - just fresh out of the shower, seduces hunky Daniel and his washboard abs by pushing him on Faith’s bed and dropping her towel. Daniel - an able-bodied, athletic construction worker and architect-in-training - is somehow unable to repel the bare-naked schoolgirl. Instead of resolving said conflict, Daniel becomes the subject of human sacrifice in the final ritual. Cos this movie is called Little Witches and human sacrifices is exactly the kind of thing witches would do to summon their infernal lord, right?

In lieu of having to replicate several of The Craft’s effects scenes Little Witches has three wicca scenes, of which only one involves practical - and creature effects. The first - and second act concern themselves with the girls involving themselves with witchcraft and preparing to invoke He-Who-Comes, or Lucifer. Coming to the conclusion that none of them understands Latin, Faith walks in. “Gee, what a coincidence. I can read Latin”, she shares. When He-Who-Comes materializes into the corporeal realm the scaly monster suit looks worse than that in The Loreleys Grasp (1974). He-Who-Comes must be stopped before Good Friday, before the supreme evil can be unleashed. Jamie acts as his designated licentious concubine. The eleventh hour manifestation of telekinetic powers in Jamie is simply shrugged off by the script as unimportant. The conclusion has Faith, who has since regained her faith in the Christian god, and Sister Sherilyn screaming “You are NOT the Devil’s mistress!” at Jamie in unison, and Kelsey experiences a different kind of penetration than the one she always imagined. "Lucifer himself is stealing your souls. Look in the mirror, you see what I say is true", Sister Sherilyn yells. Two of the girls are killed, a dessicated corpse is unearthed from the temple ruins, two/three members of the clergy die violent, unnatural deaths – yet none of it is important enough to warrant an investigation. "So who knows, maybe some other good little girls really did call the devil up from Hell. That's my confession, Father", we hear Faith say at the end.

Of all the criticisms that can be leveled at Little Witches its most egregious shortcoming is that it doesn’t go quite as far as you’d imagine. Aside from the blatant thievery, its heavy-handed Christian propaganda rherotic, and skewed view on wicca – there’s little, not to say nothing, that is even remotely transgressive about Little Witches. The nudity - frequently gratuitous and risqué compared to the average Hollywood production - is prudish and thus very much a product of its time. Lucifer is mentioned in name only once and even the Illuminati, who are all hot teens girls and act as protectors of the Church, make their not exactly hotly anticipated appearance during the anticlimactic, nearly incoherent conclusion. It all goes to show just how conservative and lamentably lame Little Witches actually is. It’s a miracle that DuVall and Rappaport were able to walk away from this cinematic abortion and maintain/build a career. If there’s anything redeemable about Little Witches, it's Sheeri Rappaport getting naked so much that you'd get the mistaken impression that this a 90s occult take on a Gloria Guida commedia sexy all'Italiana.