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Plot: dopey industrialist must procure a male heir and hires a maid. Hilarity ensues!

The Mammon Cat (or Il Gatto Mammone, released in Spain as the more descriptive El Impotente Seductor, which basically spoils the entire plot) was released during the marquee year that was 1975, probably the busiest year for everybody’s favorite commedia sexy all’Italiana Lolita. That year la Guida had no less than five (!!) other movies out and about in cineplexes, domestic and abroad. Whether it was Blue Jeans (1975), that beloved valentine to glorious Gloria’s world-famous derrière, the light-hearted fun of La Liceale (1975), or the melodrama of The Novice (1975), That Malicious Age (1975), or So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… (1975) Miss Teen Italy 1974 had something for everybody. In a year awash with more naked Gloria Guida than anybody could possiby ask for The Mammon Cat is a funny enough romp with a decent amount of Gloria in the buff and enough slapstick shenanigans for everybody else.

Nando Cicero was one of those directors who – after the obligatory spaghetti westerns, Eurospy romps, and peplum – specialized almost exclusively in commedia sexy all'Italiana. In that capacity he got to work with some of the finest leading ladies of the day, including but not limited to, Michela Miti, Carmen Russo, Helga Liné, Cristina Galbó, Marisa Mell, and Erika Blanc. Cicero is mostly remembered for The School Teacher (1975), The Lady Medic (1976), and the two-part Doctor Eva Marini saga (1977-1978) – all with Edwige Fenech, whenever she wasn’t working with Sergio and Luciano Martino, as well as L'assistente sociale tutto pepe (1981) with a post-StarCrash (1978) Nadia Cassini. Cicero closed the gates on Gloria Guida’s famous La Liceale series with his anthology The High School Girl, the Devil, and the Holy Water (1979). The Mammon Cat was that other instance he worked with Miss Teen Italy 1974 and just like with all her other melodramas that year Gloria Guida appears only in a supporting role.

Sicilian pasta factory owner Lollo Mascalucia (Lando Buzzanca) has been happily married for many years. All that time he insisted to the town priest (Franco Giacobini), the doctor (Umberto Spadaro), and the local pharmacist (Empedocle Buzzanca) that offspring is about the last thing on his mind. His loving wife Rosalia (Rossana Podestà) is apparently unable to conceive and to make matter worse her high-strung, geriatric mother (Grazia Di Marzà) is living with them. That’s not all. Lollo’s haunted by hallucinations during the day (and nightmares at night) about the fiery collision that killed his father and the remainder of his family. One day he’s asked to produce a male heir who’s to inherit his modest business empire. The couple decide that a surrogate mother is the way to go, and Lollo embarks on a quest to find a suitable candidate. A casual misunderstanding leads him into the grubby hands of an aging and very fertile (but hugely unattractive) widow (Sofia Lusy, as Sophia Lucy). Lollo is able to talk himself out of a very embarrassing predicament and escapes with his dignity intact.

At the local orphanage Lollo catches a glimpse of young Marietta (Gloria Guida). He arranges with Mother Superior (Adriana Facchetti) and the nun (Ermelinda De Felice) for her to start working as their maid with an eye on officially adopting her. Marietta is over the moon with her sudden change of fortune. She soon moves into the Mascalucia casa signorile and lovingly refers to Lollo as “papà”. Finally Lollo is able to seduce young Marietta and before long he ends up between the sheets with her. Time passes and after systematically trying (up to six times a day) the obviously healthy and fertile Marietta is unable to conceive too. Dismayed at the prospect of not being able to produce a male heir Lollo learns that he’s in fact impotent. Rosalia offers to give him a heir with the help of gypsy Zingaro (Tiberio Murgia), who she had an eye on. At long last Mascalucia will get his long-desired heir, but probably not in the way he imagined.

As can be surmised from the summary The Mammon Cat is not really a Gloria Guida vehicle. No, it’s a Lando Buzzanca comedy that happens to have Guida in a supporting role. Glorious Gloria is only billed third (after screen veterans Buzzanca and Podestà) but that doesn’t mean that Nando Cicero doesn’t get the most out of her relatively minor part. Since nobody subjects themselves to these things voluntarily - and you couldn’t make a graver mistake than taking these things seriously – the reason why any of these features have attained any sort of cinematic longevity is not the writing (which isn’t too shabby for once either, but that’s besides the point) but the promise of a good dose of naked Gloria Guida shenanigans. And la Guida does get naked, only you’ll have to be patient to get to the good stuff. Just like in La Liceale (1975), and So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… (1975) before and That Malicious Age (1975) Gloria can be seen soaping herself up in an extended foamy shower scene that solely seems to exist to showcase her world-famous and much beloved ass. Of course that shapely ass would get its own feature with the very lyrical and poetic Blue Jeans (1975). Also worth mentioning is that peplum and spaghetti western pillar Rossana Podestà, a ripe 41 here, looks quite fetching. Dagmar Lassander, ten years her junior, looked far worse for wear in the scathing melodrama So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… (1975). Lando Buzzanca plays the stereotypical self-absorbed Italian greaseball that so richly deserves to be ridiculed for his virulent machismo and, in fact, very thoroughly is. On the other hand Lando’s also allowed to play his usual dopey self – and is pretty harmless as such.

And what exactly is the Il Gatto Mammone, or The Mammon Cat of the title, you wonder? Well, for starters it’s a popular figure in Italian (and wider Mediterranean) folklore and superstition. The gist of the parable of the Mammon Cat (which we won’t detail here) is to keep children (and elderly) sufficiently scared so that they won’t leave their familiar and safe environs, and that jealously and envy seldom, if ever, lead to anything good. The Mammon Cat is referenced in literature from Marco Polo, Goethe, and even the Arthurian legends. It features prominently in the works from Giovanni Francesco Straparola, Vittorio Imbriani, and Gherardo Nerucci – and the folkloric tale still lives on to this day in the regions of Sardinia, Puglia, and Valdichiana. As for the Mammon Cat of our current subject, that appears to be one of jealousy and envy, as well as the proverbial stray cat that Gloria Guida plays. Not that she ends up scratching anyone. Well, she does scratch Lando Buzzanca’s itch and he does ends up learning a valuable life lesson while at it. Then there’s also the Vulgate Bible and New Testament entity Mammon that promises wealth and that’s typically associated with the greedy pursuit of gain. In that sense The Mammon Cat is almost like Disney, but with far more nudity, Italian machismo and decent amount of comedic incestual misunderstandings. And what is more Italian than the adulation and pursuit of ass? Nothing, that's what.

Gloria Guida was at her best when she could play off actors with far more (comedic) talent than her. Having shared the screen with Nino Castelnuovo, Giuseppe Pambieri, Mario Carotenuto, and Enzo Cannavale, it was just a matter of time before la Guida would be paired up with comedy royalties as Lando Buzzanca and Vittorio Caprioli. After having shared the screen with Caprioli in To Be Twenty (1978) there was no way Gloria (nor Lili Carati for that matter) was ever going to top Fernando di Leo’s satirical masterpiece.

Guida would persevere with more futile commedia sexy’all Italiana before marrying showman Johnny Dorelli in 1981 and focusing on her nascent singing career. Thankfully la Guida never had to lower herself to sexploitation dreck the way Solveig Andersson and Christina Lindberg had to back in Sweden. On the other hand, it begs the question why Gloria never had her own giallo or was picked up in the horror genre. Not that she was even remotely on the same level as Barbara Bouchet or Nieves Navarro, but la Guida often found herself engaging in the kind of low effort swill that she was too good for. Then there’s the fact that she was typecast almost immediately and never really escaped the looming shadow of her famous schoolgirl character. Not that glorious Gloria ever really faded in relevance or popularity (or at least not in her native Italy, internationally might be another discussion) but as Italy’s prime lolita she deserved better than to be forever cast as the empty headed sex-crazed bimbo.

Plot: exchange student pulls prank on class playboy. Hilarity ensues!

The careers of commedia sexy all'Italiana starlets Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati were irrevocably intertwined but didn’t exactly run parallel. Whereas la Guida made her ass a thing of national pride through a series of breezy comedies, Carati wasn’t so fortunate. Lovely, luscious Lilli… She who shone so fiercely, so brightly, and who crashed so spectacularly, so miserably, so undeservedly. Forever the bad girl. There’s no disputing that To Be Twenty (1978) was a career peak for both la Guida and la Carati. Moreso for Carati as Guida was already was an established star by that point and even had a few genuine box office hits to her name prior to La Liceale (1975). Fernando Di Leo had not only upstaged the commedia sexy all'Italiana formula by turning the conventions on its head, and even more importantly, he used them as a vehicle some of the most scathing socio-political commentary aimed at church and state alike. Before Carati got there there was La compagna di banco (or The Seatmate, for those in the English-speaking world) from Mariano Laurenti, which hardly was the worst, or the most odious, thing that Lilli ever lend her name (and figure) to.

Mariano Laurenti was one of many specialized directors that ushered the commedia sexy all’Italiana into its various forms and through multiple decades. He’s mostly remembered around these parts for the indispensible Edwige Fenech-Malisa Longo decamerotico Beautiful Antonia, First a Nun Then a Demon (1972). Laurenti was instrumental in helping Edwige Fenech reinvent herself after her tenure as giallo queen. He worked with miss Fenech on many an occassion, but their association was by no means exclusive. He helped sire the comedic careers of just about every comedic Eurocult leading lady including, but not limited to, Nieves Navarro, Femi Benussi, and Orchidea De Santis to Nadia Cassini, Dagmar Lassander, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, and Anita Strindberg. He was the creative force behind My Father's Private Secretary (1976) plus La Guida’s post-La Liceale (1975) romp The Landlord (1976), as well as her post-To Be Twenty (1978) efforts The Highschool Girl Repeating Class (1978), The Night Nurse (1979), and How to Seduce Your Teacher (1979). Once Gloria divested of her famous schoolgirl character in search of greener pastures he directed The Repeater Winks at the Headmaster (1980), or that illicit sequel wherein Anna Maria Rizzoli superseded Sabrina Siani as the horny and mischievous schoolgirl. In his twilight years he assistant directed the breastacular Saint Tropez, Saint Tropez (1992) (with the delectable duo of former Tinto Brass goddesses Debora Caprioglio and Serena Grandi).

Simona Girardi (Lilli Carati) is a beautiful 18-year-old student who has newly moved from Milan to Trani in the region of Apulia. As a transfer student and newcomer at Mamiani Lyceum she immediately attracks the attention of philandering lothario of class 3B Mario D'Olivo (Antonio Melidoni). After hearing from her new friends the blonde Mirella (Brigitte Petronio) and fashionably crewcut Vera (Susanna Schemmari) that Mario has broken many hearts and that he will break hers if she’ll let him. With that in mind the girls decide that a suitable bit of revenge is in order. Simona will seduce him and give him a bit of his own medicine in retaliation. Mario’s best friends (and professional practical jokers) are ginger class clown Nicola Martocchia (Stefano Amato) and certified virgin-for-life Gennarino (Nando Paone, as Ferdinando Paone). The boys love nothing more than to come to Mario’s apartment and spy on nubile women undressing in the tailor shop of Mario’s father below.

Hijinks ensue when Mario’s father, Teo (Lino Banfi) hits on upperclass socialite Elena Mancuso (Nikki Gentile, as Niki Gentile) and he has to pretend to be gay to escape the wrath of her Mafia don husband signor Carmine Mancuso (Rosario Borelli). All of which amuses shop assistant Giuditta (Ermelinda De Felice) to no end. Back at home Mario barely has time to study as he has to ward off the unwanted advances of perennially horny maid Dominica (Paola Maiolini). At the faculty the teaching – and supporting staff are having their own problems. Professor of physics and gym Ilario Cacioppo (Gianfranco D'Angelo) and substitute Salvatore (Alvaro Vitali) are working on such a meager paycheck that they have to rely on fruit and vegetables the students bring to survive. Of course, all of them are booby-trapped.

Cacioppo is introduced to giant new teacher Professor Marimonti (Francesca Romana Coluzzi) who’s built like a linebacker and has the strength to match. Meanwhile the boys convince Salvatore that Elena Mancuso is a nymphomaniac lusting for him. Along the way Simona picks up an older suitor in Federico (Vittorio Stagni). Amidst all this chaos the principal (Marcello Martana) does everything within his power to avert crises at all costs. When Simona wants to introduce Mario to her parents (Gigi Ballista and Linda Sini) he gifts her a family heirloom which leads the D'Olivo clan accusing her of theft. When Commissioner Acavallo (Giacomo Furia) interrogates all the various parties involved, it’s Mario’s attorney mother (Cristina Grado, as Christina Grado) who comes to Simona’s rescue. Naturally, with all of this going on romance starts to grow between Simona and Mario.

Miss Cinema Campania Loredana Piazza (left), Miss Italia Mary Montefusco (middle), and Miss Eleganza Lilli Carati (right)

In 1974 Mary Montefusco was Miss Italia, Gloria Guida became Miss Teen Italia, Lilli Carati was crowned Miss Eleganza, and Loredana Piazza was Miss Cinema Campania. In the jury sat producer Franco Cristaldi who saw Lilli’s star potential and ensured she got her start in commedia sexy all’Italiana. Guida’s career was off to a flying start and she would, despite a few minor hiccups here and there, remain steadily in the mainstream.

Lilli had the good fortune to work with the greatest in domestic comedy including, but not limited to, Sergio and Bruno Corbucci, Michele Massimo Tarantini, Mariano Laurenti, and Pasquale Festa Campanile (with whom she allegedly had an affair) and shared the screen with Adriano Celentano, Enzo Cannavale, Renzo Montagnani, and Vittorio Caprioli. One thing was clear from the onset: lovely Lilli was never going to eclipse la Guida. Carati had co-starred alongside Tomas Milian in the second Nico Giraldi poliziottesco-comedy caper Hit Squad (1976) from Bruno Corbucci and played an l’insegnante in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s The Professor Of Natural Sciences (1976). It was only natural and logical that Lilli would play la liceale next. It was a rite of passage for every starlet. That happened with The Seatmate. While hardly mandatory Carati’s career was about to peak with A Night Full of Rain (1978) and To Be Twenty (1978) after which things went from bad to worse for her quite rapidly and dramatically.

Appearances in Escape from Women's Prison (1978) (with an ensemble cast including Zora Kerova, Dirce Funari, Ines Pellegrini, and Marina Daunia) and the sleazy Eurocrime actioner Vultures over The City (1981) signaled that Lilli’s days in the A-list were now very well behind her. By the the late 1970s Carati had developed addictions to alchohol, heroin and cocaine that would sideline her career. She kept in the limelight with covers on and nude spreads in Playboy (December, 1976 and September, 1978), Playmen (October, 1976), Penthouse (December, 1982) and Blitz (July and September, 1984; June, 1985 and 1986). Now blacklisted Carati was forced to look in the exploitation circuit to stay employed. It was Joe D’Amato who offered her a chance to rebuild her career. As fate would have it it was their mutual friend Jenny Tamburi who made the introductions in 1984. The rest, as they say, is history. D’Amato - a professional pornographer who frequently dabbled in exploitation and was in the habit of rescuing disgraced A-listers and employing wayward adult performers – had Lilli starring in 4 films, the first of which was The Alcove (1985). Convent Of Sinners (1986) was supposed to be a Carati vehicle too until D’Amato for reasons never made public bombarded Eva Grimaldi to lead. That it co-starred D’Amato’s other big star of the eighties Luciana Ottaviani from Eleven Days, Eleven Nights (1987) and Top Model (1988) probably didn’t hurt either. By 1987 and 1988 Carati did hardcore porn for Giorgio Grand with a young Rocco Siffredi.

The inevitable criminal charges followed as in May 1988 she was arrested for heroin possession landing her in jail for a few days. Having finally hit rockbottom Lilli attempted suicide on May 10, 1988 shortly after her arrest. A year later on May 1989 a severely depressed Lilli tried a second time by throwing herself from the bedroom window in her parents' house after unsuccessfully trying to get sober. Carati survived the attempt sustaining only three broken vertebrae and three months of immobility. Lilli underwent therapy for three years in the Saman community of anti-authoritarian sociologist, journalist, political activist, and sometime guru Mauro Rostagno – famously murdered by the Costa Nostra - where she was the subject of the documentary Lilli, una vita da eroina (or Lilli, A Life of Heroin) by Rony Daopoulos. It aired as part of the Storie vere program on Rai 3 on February 25, 1994. Carati recalled her suicide attempts and subsequent recovery on Ricominciare on Rai 2 on 9 July, 2008. 2011 was supposed to be the year of Lilli’s big comeback as she was slated to appear in Luigi Pastore’s La fiaba di Dorian, a project that was shelved after Lilli was diagnosed with a brain tumour. In 2014, at age 58, disgraced and neglected, she passed away in Besano and was interred at Induno Olona cemetery in Varese, Lombardia. Pastore used the Lilli footage in what was to become Violent Shit: The Movie (2015), an ill-conceived remake that tried turning the 1989 Andreas Schnaas gore micro-epic into a giallo, of all things.

Being produced by veteran Luciano Martino (the former husband of Wandisa Guida, Edwige Fenech, and Olga Bisera) ensured that The Seatmate came bursting out of the gates with some big or semi-famous people working behind the cameras. Martino was a versatile producer who did anything from The Demon (1963) to Hands Of Steel (1986), and everything in between. Composer Gianni Ferrio was a frequent Mariano Laurenti collaborator and especially prolific in commedia sexy all'Italiana around this time. His score, while adequate and freewheeling, is nothing special. Director of photography Pasquale Rachini was something of a newcomer in 1977 still but on average he’s more hit than miss. Writing are Francesco Milizia, and Franco Mercuri who both were experienced in comedy at this point. Their screenplay is hardly the worst but it leaves a lot of plot threads unresolved: what’s the purpose of Federico and how does he enhance Simona as a character in any way? Why don’t any of Mario’s friends end up romantically entangled with Simona’s? Why introduce the Mafia don subplot when it serves no function to the mainplot? Do Mario and Simona even like each other? To its everlasting credit, The Seatmate never diverges too much from the established La Liceale (1975) formula, the comic relief from Lino Banfi and Alvaro Vitali isn’t as odious as it usually tends to be, and it even contains that classic Gloria Guida scene but here it’s Lilli Carati running about in the nude in a meadow causing all sorts of trouble. The supporting cast might not contain any name-stars but Francesca Romana Coluzzi, Ermelinda De Felice, Brigitte Petronio, and Linda Sini all were reliable second-stringers who cut their teeth in exploitation on both ends of the budget spectrum.

Ultimately The Seatmate is to the Lilli Carati repertoire what The Doctor… The Student (1976) was to the infinitely superior Gloria Guida canon: an efficient but hardly remarkable iteration of a well-trodden comedy formula. Thankfully there’s enough naked Lilli shenanigans for everyone, and she doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. What’s curious is that only after Lilli had tested the waters a spate of official La Liceale (1975) sequels were suddenly produced within a record time of just two years. As for Lilli herself – while hardly a terrible actress she was no Gloria Guida (who herself was no Edwige Fenech, Agostina Belli, Laura Antonelli, Ornella Muti, or Orchidea De Santis) but it’s not like she was ever given scripts that played up to her limited strengths. In many ways The Seatmate was a prototype for the La Liceale (1975) sequels (official and otherwise) in that it works like a well-oiled machine but never has any higher aspirations. And that’s the problem with The Seatmate. It never tries hard enough. It has all the right ingredients but it never quite knows what to do with them. A few genuine chuckles notwithstanding the humour is puerile and too often reduced to slapstick. At least Lino Banfi and Alvaro Vitali aren’t as odious as they usually are – and Lilli Carati was always one of the more exotic looking comedy vixens. It’s truly unfortunate that To Be Twenty (1978) would always remain an anomaly of sorts in her repertoire.