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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: bored socialites screw themselves, and others, over on opulent yacht.

The abolition of the Hays Code in 1968 finally allowed American filmmakers to capitalize on the Sexual Revolution that was taking place in various places around the world. No longer restricted by its stifling regulations and free of its rigorous censoring directors could finally push the envelope in a more liberated fashion. In parallel movement erotic cinema surged in Canada thanks to Danielle Ouimet and her fellow stars of Maplesyrup porn (which is something of a misnomer as many productions of the cycle were soft erotic movies by and large) and the commedia sexy all'italiana turning up the heat in view of the more looser societal norms.

Leading the charge in terms of sexual liberation and gratuitous display of skin was Top Sensation (released in North America as The Seducers through Jerry Gross' Cinemation Industries), a thriller mostly remembered for being the only thriller, or early giallo, to pair together Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech, two of Italy's most desirable exploitation starlets. In a number of ways Top Sensation laid the groundwork for Nico Mastorakis’ deeply cynical Hellenic proto-slasher Island Of Death (1976). Dismissed on release as an exercise in pulp and tedium Top Sensation has since garnered the reputation of something of a cult favorite. Its formula proved strong enough that it even spawned one or two imitations of it own. Not bad for a movie about a bunch of unlikeable, bored rich people.

Ottavio Alessi had been second unit directing in various capacity since 1940, so it seems only logical that he would eventually ascent to the director’s chair to helm his own features. His only directing credit prior to Top Sensation was the Totò comedy What Ever Happened to Baby Totò? (1964). Handling second unit direction for the production was Rosalba Neri, who had over a decade of experience in front of the camera by that point. Based upon his earlier writing, and the decadence that would give Top Sensation its repute, Alessi was hired to co-write the screenplay for The Snake God (1970) with Nadia Cassini and to later provide the story for the Joe D’Amato directed Black Emanuelle installments Emanuelle Nera: Orient Reportage (1976), and Emanuelle in America (1977).

Top Sensation takes the central premise of Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water (1962), one part of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), and spices it up with a healthy dose of Mediterreanean eroticism. Directed by screenwriter Ottavio Alessi Top Sensation works despite its minuscule budget and solitary location. In fact Top Sensation spawned imitations of its own with Giuliano Biagetti’s Interrabang (1969), with Haydée Politoff, and Ruggero Deodato’s Waves Of Lust (1975) with Deodato’s wife-to-be Silvia Dionisio in what looked like a constant state of undress. Not that Top Sensation is in any way lacking in terms of bare skin and nudity on display. Capitalizing on the nascent pin-up culture Top Sensation puts its two leading ladies in the skimpiest of bikinis, and more often than not, out of them.

Central to the plot of Top Sensation is middle-aged oil heiress Mudy (Maud Belleroche, as Maud De Belleroche), a jetset socialite, who has taken her mentally challenged, socially stunted son Tony (Ruggero Miti) on a boating trip on her yacht. Tony lives isolated in his bunk and enjoys nothing more than playing with his toy cars, and starting the occassional fire. Invited along for the trip are the stunning Paola (Rosalba Neri) and Aldo (Maurizio Bonuglia), a young couple whose frolicking she hopes will spark the flame of sexual desire in Tony. Also on the yacht is Ulla (Edwige Fenech), a high-class escort, to ensure that Tony's first sexual experience is worth treasuring. To its credit the screenplay keeps how Mudy came into her fortune - whether she amassed it herself, or plainly married into it - rather vague. Circling around Mudy like vultures are Paola and Aldo, an upper-class gold-digging young couple, who take turns seducing the seemingly always cranky Mudy. Ulla partakes in the scheme but for entirely different reasons than Paola and Aldo. When the boat experiences technical problems near an island, and Tony takes a liking to naive, world-strange goat herder Beba (Eva Thulin, as Ewa Thulin) things go haywire when her husband Andro (Salvatore Puntillo) gets wind of the situation…

Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech spent most of their screentime in the skimpiest of bikinis, and about as much time out of them. Both women are highly sexual, and completely sexualized. In its defense at least Top Sensation makes no qualms or excuses about the fact. Early on Paola and Ulla notice Andro spying on them from the foliage. “God, I wish he'd move into the open more,” Ulla muses, “he ought to be hard by now” Paola notes in a near-porn exchange. The two girls lure him out by taking their tops off and oiling each other on the deck with sunscreen. When the boat first experiences trouble, Tony disappears and is seen on the nearest island. Aldo and Ulla volunteer to search the shore and return the young boy. At one point Ulla, wearing nothing more than a captain’s hat and a white shirt, runs into a wandering goat nearby Beba’s farm, something which greatly excites her. Aroused by the farm animal she spills out her left breast - which the goat happily indulges in suckling with reckless abandon - as the goat makes its way down she allows herself to be orally pleasured by the animal. Aldo, enthused at the shore-bound vista, wastes no time in documenting the salacious happening with a photocamera he brought along for the trip. Later on the boat Paola and Ulla ravage Beba by feeding her alcohol, and the two are only stopped when Mudy barges in on the lower deck.

The stars of Top Sensation are Rosalba Neri, at the height of desirability at 31, and Edwige Fenech, a freshfaced 21 year old model-turned-actress from France. Neri was regular in peplum, spaghetti western, Eurospy adventures and comedies throughout most of the sixties. Rosalba had also partaken in several Jess Franco productions by that point, back when doing so wasn't considered a surefire way to either sabotage, or end, one's career in the cinematic arts. Top Sensation marked Neri's trajectory towards more risqué productions. Not only did she direct second unit but also ensured that she looks amazing for the entirety of the production. In the seventies Neri would figure into, among others, The Beast Kills In Cold Blood (1971), Lady Frankenstein (1971), The French Sex Murders (1972) (an all-star giallo with Anita Ekberg, Barbara Bouchet and Evelyne Kraft), and The Devil's Wedding Night (1973). Even though Neri was anywhere and everywhere in the 1970s she never truly established herself as a leading lady, much in the same way as her contemporaries Paola Tedesco and Rita Calderoni. In short, Top Sensation is sensational and quintessential viewing for Rosalba Neri completists/fanatics.

In more ways than one Top Sensation was a career-defining performance from the nubile Edwige Fenech. Fenech owned much, if not all, of her acting career to director Sergio Martino. After Edwige's appearance in Mario Bava’s 5 Dolls For An August Moon (1970) Martino directed her in The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (1971) and All Colors Of the Dark (1972). The only thing of note that Fenech had done prior to Top Sensation was the amiable adventure Samao, Queen Of the Jungle (1968) along with that other famous comedic star of the 1970s, Femi Benussi. Thanks to her work in giallo with Sergio Martino, Fenech would establish herself as the royalty of domestic exploitation. In the following decade Edwige would make her return to the commedia sexy all'italiana where she originally found her footing. Like her co-star Rosalba Neri, Edwige Fenech doesn't shy from the near-constant or partial nudity that her role requires. She seems to be having a blast.

Top Sensation was the only acting credit for Maud Belleroche and the screen debut for Eva Thulin whose career lasted a brief two years and encompasses a total of four movies. Maud de Belleroche is a Baroness from the exclusive 17th arrondissement of Paris, France who gained some repute and infamy as a writer, journalist and sympathizer to the Collaboration. As a student she was the mistress of Jean Luchaire and eventually followed her second husband Georges Guilbaud in exile to Germany, Italy, Spain and Argentina. De Belleroche was a decorated sportswoman (French junior ice skating champion, French record-holder scuba-diving) and gifted orator for Amis de Versailles, Amis des Châteaux de la Loire, Alliance Française, Connaissance du monde. She published various book under the alias Sacquard de Belleroche and won the Prix ​​Broquette-Gonin of literature of the French Academy in 1963 for Five Characters in search of Emperor. Her memoire The Ordinatrice from 1968 was so popular that it warranted a follow-up a few years down the line. Ruggero Miti - whose acting career lasted from 1966 to 1972, and whose only other credit of note is La Rivoluzione Sessuale (1968) with commedia sexy all-italiana queen Laura Antonelli - has the look of a 1970s Milo Ventimiglia or rather a fairly standard 1970s Italian pretty boy.

There's plenty of the naked female form to be had in Top Sensation, but it is custodian to quite some rich subtext beyond the superficiality of the premise. First and foremost, Top Sensation is about corruption: the corruption of wealth, the corruption of innocence and its brazen transgressive sexual politics qualify it as a giallo. Every character, Beba excepted, is thoroughly reprehensible. Paola and Aldo are two bored upper-class yuppies, with Paola being a bisexual nymphomaniac to boot. Ulla is a first-class opportunist who will jump at every chance if it involves personal enrichment. Mudy is high-strung, bossy, and abusive to anyone in her vicinity, not only Tony. At one point she encourages Beba, battered once more by her inebriated peasant of a husband, to cast off the shackles of the subservient, submissive housewife role she has assumed. However, none of it is genuine, as Mudy only does so as a way of extorting money from Andro via Beba. In other words, every single person, with exception of Beba, on the boat is thoroughly corrupted by greed, jealousy, and emotionally manipulative in the worst of ways.

Bored with their wealth and bored with their lives the socialites on the yacht will stop at nothing to screw over someone, anyone, everyone if it helps in their personal enrichment. Paola and Aldo are hired by Mudy to get Tony interested in the fairer sex, but that doesn't stop the two from trying to seduce Mudy at various points. Paola only shows interest in Beba once it's clear that Tony cares for her. In the ultimate act of corruption Paola and Ulla feed Beba alcohol which leads into a memorable girl-on-girl three-way that makes Paola's sapphic liaison with Mudy pale in comparison. By proxy Ulla is the least morally bankrupt of the socialites as she's merely there on a contractual basis, although that doesn't make her any less culpable in what ultimately transpires. Top Sensation is transgressive and risqué at various points but it never quite develops into something that really pushes the envelope. It's the old warhorse: the decadent ruling class feeding on the proletariat.

Concluded by a quote from Ecclesiastes in hopes of redeeming itself Top Sensation manages to do a lot with very little. With only a single location at its disposal the premise hinges on how well the dialog is able to sell the characters. Terrible English dubbing notwithstanding every actor gives his or her all to the characters. Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech are a delight as a duo of nymphomaniac sex kittens that struggle to keep their clothes on, Maurizio Bonuglia revels in playing a sleazebag, whereas Eva Thulin shines as the innocent shepherd girl. Salvatore Puntillo enjoys the role of the somewhat dimwitted peasant, but in return is allowed to rub closely to both Neri and Fenech. Ruggero Miti is at his best in the scenes with Thulin, but his character is not nearly inculpable in the events that unfold. For a production as impoverished Top Sensation is a scathing indictment of the upper-class and reveals some surprising subtextual depth next to its rampant and near-constant showcasing of its generously formed and seldom clothed female lead duo.