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Plot: Angela doesn’t like her new stepmother…

Peccati di gioventù (or Sins Of Youth, released in North America as So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… for some reason) is one of the better Gloria Guida melodramas. If Guida had never made To Be Twenty (1978) with Fernando Di Leo this, along with That Malicious Age (1975) a year later, would probably be considered some of her finest work. There’s no question that it stands head and shoulders above the futile sex comedies that Guida made a living with. Not only is So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… better written and beautifully photographed, it actually gives glorious Gloria something to do and the chance to act every once in a while. Guida wasn’t too shabby of an actress when, and if, she was allowed to do more than just take her clothes off. Here she gets that chance. Silvio Amadio was crazy about Gloria and it isn’t hard to see why… So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… is for those who can’t stomach Gloria’s regular raunchy sex comedies.

As an Italian precursor to French drama The Year of the Yellyfish (1984) So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… is a prime example of the youth gone bad thriller subgenre that experienced somewhat of a revival with infinitely lesser American imitations as Poison Ivy (1992), and The Crush (1993) and in the new millennium with French director François Ozon and his Swimming Pool (2003) with Charlotte Rampling, and Ludivine Sagnier. So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… falls smackdab in the middle between the innocuous The Minor (1974), and the equally tragic That Malicious Age (1975). One thing is painfully obvious: Amadio’s best days were clearly behind him. As utilitarian and occasionally beautifully photographed as So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… is, he was a very long way from the masterclass in suspense and sleaze that was Amuck (1972). Silvio Amadio would work with his muse one last time on The Doctor… The Student (1976). As slick and hyper-stylized as his gialli were so matter-of-fact and stilted are these.

Angela Batrucchi (Gloria Guida) loves her father. She loves her doctor father (Silvano Tranquilli) so much that she’s none too pleased that he has found a new lover in Irene (Dagmar Lassander). She’s so incensed and overcome by incestual longing with the whole situation that she schemes with her boyfriend Sandro Romagnoli (Fred Robsahm) to drive a wedge between the two. Since Sandro moonlights as a gigolo and has an older lover (Dana Ghia, as Felicita Ghia) on the side Angela orders him to seduce Irene. While Sandro is busy doing that Angela decides to dig into Irene’s past to find something, anything that she can use to blackmail her into doing her bidding. With a little sleuthing Angela uncovers that Irene had a lesbian phase in college, and decides to use that to her advantage. She plans to provide Sandro with the perfect opportunity to collect incriminating photographic evidence of Irene’s fluid sexual preferences.

For no other reason than to drive Irene completely mad Angela starts acting erratically and will fly into fits of apoplectic rage without the slightest provocation. Somehow Irene finds a way of dealing with Angela’s unpredictable and sudden moodswings. When Sandro’s plans to lure Irene into bed with him don’t pan out Angela figures that her stepmother’s lesbian inclinations are something worth exploiting. In short order Angela shows her naughty slides from her and her girl friends on vacation, randomly undresses in front of her, and showers with the door wide open. When all of that fails to have the desired effect, Angela invites Irene over to the beach where they engage in heavy petting while Sandro captures everything on photo with his camera. In her desperation Angela tries to drive Irene off the road when she spots her in town. That is the final straw, and Irene’s spirit breaks. After being locked up in her room Angela has a moment of introspection, and realizes how much damage she has caused. By that point Irene has driven off in tears, is there time for Angela to turn the tide?

Director Silvio Amadio was something of a late-bloomer. He worked his way through the obligatory comedy, adventure, peplum, spaghetti western, and melodrama features before he started to develop any sort of recognizable individual style. By all accounts Amadio seems to have been a fairly standard Italian exploitation director until around 1970. Up to that point (the late sixties) Amadio’s oeuvre had contained its fair amount of sex and social dysfunction, but neither came together quite as exuberantly as they did in Amuck (1972) (with Rosalba Neri, and Barbara Bouchet). Amadio had always been a major creative force behind the screenplays for his films, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what led to the sudden creative upsurge. One possible reason could be the permissive social mores directly following the sexual revolution, the availability of actresses will doing to do nudity – or, both. Although the latter doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny as Island Of the Swedes (1969) had Catherine Diamant doing pretty much every iconic scene that Gloria Guida would later popularize through her work with Amadio. On first glance it seems Amadio’s entire reputation as a cult director is solely built on the back of the gialli Amuck (1972) and Smile Before Death (1972). The general consensus is that Amadio’s tenure with Guida signaled a creative downslope, something which a cursory back-to-back viewing of Amuck (1972) and Smile Before Death (1972) with any of the Guida titles certainly seems to corroborate. Which amounts to him being interesting for about two years before the inevitable decline.

Even though she was only a fixture in lowbrow commedia sexy all’Italiana for about a good 8 years Gloria worked with some of the absolute best in the business. She debuted in Mario Imperoli’s coming of age tale Monika (1974) and he launched Guida’s world-famous ass to superstardom with his Blue Jeans (1975). However it was Silvio Amadio who showed the world with The Minor (1974) that glorious Gloria could be a dramatic actress provided that the material was written to her strengths. Arguably it was Michele Massimo Tarantini who ensured Guida’s cinematic immortality with La Liceale (1975) and Mariano Laurenti kept her employed through the obligatory sequels. Once again it was Amadio who allowed Gloria to spread her wings in terms of acting a bit. Both So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… and That Malicious Age (1975) were tragedies disguised as bawdy sex comedies. One thing was clear: Silvio loved la Guida, and she’s on display in full ornate here. Amadio wastes absolutely no time in getting Gloria out of what little clothes she wears, lovingly photographing every inch of her body, and reveling in every moment that she’s in the frame. Which is a really polite way of saying that there’s plenty of naked shenanigans involving our girl Gloria. That doesn’t mean it’s crass, or vulgar – it’s tasteful, and retroactively kind of meta.

The other big stars here are Dagmar Lassander and Silvano Tranquilli. Lassander was a redhead, and a contemporary of Helga Liné, Betsabé Ruiz, Rosanna Yanni, Silvia Tortosa, Cristina Galbó, Erika Blanc, Sandra Julien, and Malisa Longo. Lassander can be seen in Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1971), The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971), a pair of Alfonso Brescia sex comedies, and The House by the Cemetery (1981). Tranquilli for about a decade was a pillar of domestic gothic horror appearing alongside Barbara Steele in The Horrible Secret of Dr. Hichcock (1962), Castle Of Blood (1964), and the gialli Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971), The Bloodstained Butterfly (1971), and Smile Before Death (1972). In comparison to both Lassander and Tranquilli, Fred Robsahm was a nobody with only the Bud Spencer-Terence Hill western spoof Carambola (1974) (cos only the Italians would make a spoof of a spoof), and the Roger Vadim fumetti Barbarella (1968).

Perhaps Amadio felt ownership over Gloria because he helped shape her career so significantly? It was 1975 and Guida was at the height of her popularity and from here her career, both as a singer and as an actress, could only go downward. She was twenty, and had spurned his advances. How else to recover from that than to make a movie about it? In the most simplest terms So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… is about a hedonistic socialite who sends a spurned older lover into suicidal despair after rejecting their advances. It all feels strangely autobiographical considering the circumstances, and it’s almost as if Amadio was directly talking to Guida in his script. That Malicious Age (1975) merely changed the settings and cut down the slapstick but it was, more or less, So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… - and it too ended in tragedy. It was Fernando Di Leo who really distilled the commedia sexy all’Italiana formula candy girls as Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati specialized in, and used the format to deliver a scathing condemnation of the patriarchal – and sexual mores of Italian society at the time. In 1981 Gloria met crooner Johnny Dorelli, and retired soon after. Guida married Dorelli in 1991, and Silvio Amadio, age 69 and 24 films in total, passed away four years later, in 1995.

Plot: where Monika goes confusion follows. Hilarity ensues!

Monika (released domestically as La Ragazzina that translates to Young Girl) is historic for being the debut of blonde bombshell Gloria Guida. In a blitz career that would only last 8 years Guida would be the star of a series of almost interchangeable bawdy sex comedies that banked heavily, if not entirely, on her willingness to shed clothes. The credit of discovering one of Italy's most enduring and popular commedia sexy all'Italiana Lolitas is Mario Imperoli, who would direct her in Blue Jeans (1975) and shoot her to domestic superstardom with nothing but a pair of very low-cut jeans.

Miss Teen Italy 1974 Gloria Guida

In the wild and exuberant seventies Gloria enchanted everyone everywhere she went. Guida was Miss Teen Italy, 1974 and bound to turn heads. In 1974 Gloria was 19 years and starred in only two movies. The following year would be one of her busiest as she starred in 7 (!!) movies and played, chronologically, a novice nun, a disgruntled socialite heiress, her world-famous schoolgirl, a naughty maid, a young and willing debutante, and a wayward prostitute. Gloria was frequently paired with slapstick specialists Lino Banfi, and Alvaro Vitale, as well as genuine comedic talent as Enzo Cannavale, Lando Buzzanca, and Vittorio Caprioli. In 1981 Guida married to crooner, actor, and showman Johnny Dorelli. Like her husband Guida maintained a singing career until that ended too in 1991. Since retiring Gloria has lived in Italy with her husband and remains a star domestically despite not having done anything significant in many years.

Monika (Gloria Guida) is a fun-loving sixteen-year-old who has an unrequited love for her art professor Bruno De Angelis (Andrés Resino). She doesn't like her boyfriend Leo (Gian Luigi Chirizzi) too much, and when he isn't annoying her she's courted by an uncredited middle-aged gentleman. The situation at home isn't much better. Her lawyer father Massimo Moroni (Paolo Carlini) is married to his job leaving his bored, stay-at-home wife Sandra (Colette Descombes) to seek her pleasure elsewhere. To Monika's dismay her mother holds up an affair with her art professor when she's not tempting her neighbour with topless sunbathing, striking sexy poses, and skinny dipping. All Monika wants is to be loved, but all men seem only interested in one thing. If only Monika could meet the right man...

As low on story as Monika is it never fails to showcase Gloria at her finest. In that capacity she can be seen sporting impossibly short mini-skirts, getting the prerequisite medical check-up, in the shower as well as a a bout of topless sunbathing, and her soon-to-be signature: running around across the countryside with little to no clothes on. While most of Gloria's comedies tend to be identical there are thankfully some exceptions. Her most creative probably is The Minor (1974), and her most iconic La Liceale (1975). Usually (but not always) her sexy melodramas tend to be stronger than her comedies and as such That Malicious Age (1975) and So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious (1975) come highly recommended. If Gloria has one classic to her name it would be the Fernando Di Leo satire To Be Twenty (1978), a scathing polemic so rich in political subtext and some of the darkest cynicism disguised as a sex comedy that it was misunderstood upon original release. It also helped that it co-starred that other famed Lolita from the Golden Age of commedia sexy all’Italiana, miss Lilli Carati.

Supporting Gloria Guida are Paolo Carlini, Colette Descombes, and Andrés Resino. Paolo Carlini debuted in 1940 and his first big break came with the William Wyler directed Roman Holiday (1953) with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Carlini also appeared in It Started In Naples (1960) with Clark Gable and Sophia Loren. In the 1970s Carlini frequently appeared in comedies and Imperoli would cast him once more for the crime flick Like Rabid Dogs (1976). Colette Descombes was a French actress that ended up in Italy, and her most notable entry is the giallo Orgasmo (1969) from Umberto Lenzi. Andrés Resino played a professor earlier in the León Klimovsky directed Waldemar Daninsky epic The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) with Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy.

Never underestimate the appeal of a blue-eyed blonde that's prone to get naked. Guida played just about every possible male fantasy figure, everything from a naughty nun, a night nurse, and (more often than not) sex-crazed socialites or horny Catholic schoolgirls. The only thing that Gloria never came around to play was the l'insegnante or the teacher. As unbelievable as it may sound Gloria etched out a career almost exclusively in sex comedies and coming of age dramas. Whereas her contemporaries Barbara Bouchet, Evelyne Kraft, Edwige Fenech, and Rosalba Neri branched out into a variety of Eurocult genres, for some reason she never did. Imagine what a giallo with Gloria Guida could have been. Imagine what Renato Polselli or Luigi Batzella could have conjured up with her starring.

Monika comes from a time when Gloria Guida had yet to define herself as the penultimate Italian sexbomb, and the once-and-future queen of lowbrow Italian sex comedies and coming of age melodramas. It seemed that everybody realized early on where Guida's strengths lie, and in the years to follow she would be taking her clothes off in increasingly absurd (and sometimes genuinely comedic) situations. While not all Guida comedies are created equal she did some excellent work with Silvio Amadio, and Mariano Laurenti. She would never equal or surpass her lone stint with Fernando Di Leo (and neither would her co-star Lilli Carati for that matter) and fortunately she never ended up working with hacks like Alfonso Brescia in her post-1975 and post-To Be Twenty (1978) years. Gloria was wise to quit when she did, by her own volition and with her dignity intact.