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.