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Plot: twin brothers fall under the spell of a mysterious countess.

The Devil’s Wedding Night (released domestically as Il Plenilunio delle Vergini or Full Moon of the Virgins) was another cheapie bankrolled to capitalize on the gothic horror revival craze in the marquee year of 1973. Directed by spaghetti western specialist Luigi Batzella, with second unit direction from Aristide Massaccesi, The Devil’s Wedding Night is the logical continuation of everything (and frequently more) that kitschy fare as The Playgirls and the Vampire (1960), The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960), and The Monster Of the Opera (1964) only dared hint at. Batzella himself had starred in The Slaughter Of the Vampires (1962) and he seemed hellbent on making sure that The Devil’s Wedding Night was to the wicked and wild seventies what The Slaughter Of the Vampires (1962) and Emilio Vieyra's Blood Of the Virgins (1967) were to the sixties. As such this is a veritable phantasmagoria of gothic horror atmosphere, sweltering Mediterranean erotica, with a framing in ancient mythology.

In the 1970s Rosalba Neri was everywhere. She had been a regular in spaghetti western and peplum through out the sixties - and as tastes shifted Neri too felt she had to go with the times. Her first step into that new mindset came by starring in a trio of Jesús Franco productions with the likes of Luciana Paluzzi, Maria Rohm, and Christopher Lee, but more importantly her partaking in the subtextually rich offshore giallo Top Sensation (1969) with fellow starlet Edwige Fenech (who was in the process of reinventing herself after a stint in German sex comedy). Just two years prior Neri had starred in Lady Frankenstein (1971) and a number of gialli including, but not limited to, The Beast Kills In Cold Blood (1971), Amuck (1972), The French Sex Murders (1972), and Girl In Room 2A (1974). Neri and Mark Damon had worked together earlier on the spaghetti western The Mighty Anselmo and His Squire (1972) from director Bruno Corbucci.

The early-to-mid seventies saw the European gothic horror boom in full swing with France, Italy, and Spain contributing alongside the glamour years of the then-ailing Hammer. Around this time Jean Rollin released his most enduring work and Jesús Franco helmed Vampyros Lesbos (1971), arguably single-handedly kicking off the vampire craze in Europe. In a five-year blitz Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (1971), The Wolfman Versus the Vampire Woman (1971), Necrophagus (1971), Daughters Of Darkness (1971), Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), The Dracula Saga (1973), Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973), The Loreleys Grasp (1973), Bell From Hell (1973), A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973), and Vampyres (1974) were released. Seven Women For Satan (1976) was comparatively late, but not any less important. Even America got in on the craze with The Velvet Vampire (1971), decades later inspiring The Love Witch (2016).

Karl Schiller (Mark Damon), a 19th century scholar and archeologist, concludes after extensive research that the mythical Ring des Nibelungen lies hidden somewhere in the Carpathians. Feeling that the artefact belongs in the Karnstein Museum of Archeology, he sets out to finding the Ring at Castle Dracula, under the pretense of architectural inspection. Meanwhile his twin brother Franz (Mark Damon), a libertine and gambler, quoting the Edgar Allen Poe poem The Raven, encourages him not to undertake the long and arduous journey to Transylvania. When that doesn’t work Franz steals his brother's Egyptian amulet as he prepares, and takes off into the Carpathians. Before long both brothers have fallen for Countess Dolingen de Vries (Rosalba Neri, as Sara Bay) with Franz taking an interest in Tanya (Enza Sbordone, as Francesca Romana Davila), the innkeeper’s daughter.

De Vries’ majestic castle is inhabited not only by the Countess, but also her loyal servant Lara (Esmeralda Barros), a Mysterious Man (Gengher Gatti, as Alexander Getty), and the monstrous Vampire Monster (Xiro Papas, as Ciro Papas). While still pursuing Tanya, libertine Franz falls for the considerable charms of Countess de Vries, who every five decades, on the Night Of the Virgin Moon uses her Wagnerian magic ring to summon virgins to her castle. In Bathory fashion she bathes in their blood to retain her youth and immortality in a pact forged with the dark lord himself. De Vries seduces Franz and eventually turns him into a vampire. In a black mass wedding meant to “consecrate their union” Karl, who has followed his brother to the Carpathian moutains, must now face the horror of his malefic undead brother, the fang-bearing Countess, and her legion of evil servants.

The majority of The Devil’s Wedding Night was directed by Luigi Batzella, who was primarily known for his work in spaghetti westerns and the Django! franchise. Batzella would gain infamy for his nunsploitation vehicle Secret Confessions Of a Cloistered Convent (1972), that also featured Neri and Damon in lead parts, his batshit insane gothic horror throwback Nude For Satan (1974), and a pair of il sadiconazista offerings including, but not limited to, The Beast In Heat (1977). Principal photography took place at Piccolomini Castle in Balsorano in the south central region of Abruzzo in the province of L'Aquila, Italy. Second unit director Aristide Massaccesi (under his English nom de plume Joe D’Amato) shot the opening chase sequence, and Neri’s bloodbathing scene, the latter of which is bristlingly erotic thanks to Neri’s curvaceous figure and luscious writhing as she is doused by Esmeralda Barros. Several different versions exist, most notably a standard 90 minute version with small variations, and a definitive 130 minute cut. The screenplay, written by Ralph Zucker and Mark Damon (under the pseudonym Alan M. Harris), was based on the story “The Brides of Countess Dracula” by Ian Danby.

The strength of The Devil’s Wedding Night lies not merely in that it pushes the envelope in terms of eroticism and on-screen grue, it plainly is more atmospheric and involving than Javier Aguirre’s glacially paced, and rather stuffy Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), or Amando de Ossorio’s conservative Fangs Of the Living Dead (1969). The Devil’s Wedding Night positions itself closer to León Klimovsky’s The Dracula Saga (1973) as far as atmosphere and production design is concerned. Rosalba Neri exudes the same kind of nobility and timeless charm that Narciso Ibáñez Menta had in the Klimovsky movie, and that Paul Naschy and Julián Ugarte missed in theirs. On the whole The Devil’s Wedding Night is a lot more lively than the stuffier entries in the gothic horror genre from this period. The presence of Rosalba Neri and Enza Sbordone make the plot contrivances and Damon’s virtually indistinguishable double role slightly more tolerable.

Plot: where Loredana goes, everybody else follows...

Every country has its softcore sex goddess. Holland had Nada van Nie, Germany had the delectable trio of Olivia Pascal, Ursula Buchfellner, and Betty Vergés; Sweden had Christina Lindberg, Solveig Andersson, and Leena Skoog; Denmark had Birte Tove, and in Spain there were Andrea Albani, Sara Mora, and Eva Lyberten. Italy had plenty of Lolitas running around, but for the purview of this review we’ll focus on one in particular: Gloria Guida, Miss Teen Italy 1974. In some circles she’s considered the Italian Marilyn Monroe, and to the rest of the world she’s Italy’s most famous piece of ass (next to Femi Benussi, probably). In 1975 director Michele Massimo Tarantini would create her most enduring character, La Liceale (or The High School Girl, released in North America as The Teasers). La Guida had been dabbling in comedy for a good year by that point, but she hadn’t yet scored a genuine hit. The High School Girl would change all that and launch her to stratospheric heights of success, both domestic and abroad. Suddenly Gloria was not just Italy’s hottest comedy star, but a full-blown international superstar and sex symbol. The world was at Gloria’s feet. For the casual fan there are but two mandatory Gloria Guida romps. Of those two, The High School Girl is the probably the best remembered…

In 1975 la Guida’s conquest of the commedia sexy all’Italiana had barely begun and she already had scored her first major hit. Afer playing a lovably naive teen girl in Silvio Amadio’s The Minor (1974) and Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) Gloria suddenly found herself the most in-demand starlet on the domestic comedy scene. At a breakneck pace she appeared in The Novice (1975), Sins Of Youth (1975), The Mammon Cat (1975), That Malicious Age (1975), and Blue Jeans (1975). In her first outing as the school girl la Guida is paired with consummate professionals Mario Carotenuto, Enzo Cannavale, and Giuseppe Pambieri, German soft sex star Alena Penz, Angela Doria, a pre-La Cicciolina Ilona Staller, and perennial buffoon Alvaro Vitali (for once not in tandem with his frequent partner in crime Lino Banfi). Interestingly, sequels only appeared following Gloria’s second career peak with Fernando Di Leo’s scathing satire To Be Twenty (1978). In quick succession The High School Girl in the Class of Repeaters (1978), The High School Girl Seduces the Teachers (1979), and the three-part anthology The High School Girl, the Devil, and the Holy Water (1979) all starring la Guida followed, transforming it into a loose series. Only Marino Girolami’s non-canonical The High School Girl at the Beach with Dad’s Friend (1980) had Sabrina Siani taking over the part from glorious Gloria. Sadly, la Guida retired before a commedia with her as l’insegnante could be produced.

Michele Massimo Tarantini was one of the specialists of the commedia sexy all’Italiana genre. Together with Sergio Martino, Fernando Di Leo, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Marino Girolami and Mario Imperoli he was responsible for some of the genre’s most defining works. He had worked as production secretary, set designer, editor, and assistant director under Sergio Martino, Giuliano Carnimeo, Nando Cicero, and Mariano Laurenti. Tarantini rose to fame with his giallo Seven Hours of Violence (1973) but would find his first commercial success with The High School Girl instead. He helmed a few sequels to Nando Cicero’s The School Teacher (1975) with Edwige Fenech. Fenech would play the raunchy substitute teacher in The School Teacher in the House (1978) and The Schoolteacher Goes to Boys' High (1978) from Mariano Laurenti. After casting Gloria Guida as la liceale he chose her fellow Lolita Lilli Carati for the role as l’insegnante in School Days (1976). Tarantini would cast Fenech in Confessions of a Lady Cop (1976) and its two sequels A Policewoman on the Porno Squad (1979) and A Policewoman in New York (1979). In 1983 Tarantini moved to Brazil and continued his career there. During that time he helmed, among others, The Sword of the Barbarians (1982), the women-in-prison flick Women in Fury (1984), the Cannibal Ferox (1981) cash-in Massacre In Dinosaur Valley (1985), as well as the Cirio H. Santiago styled jungle actioner The Hard Way… The Only Way (1989), often under his Anglo-Saxon alias Michael E. Lemick. Unlike his colleague Marino Girolami, Taranti was versatile enough to be tolerable in non-comedic genres too – which isn’t always a given with directors specializing in comedy.

Loredana D'Amico (Gloria Guida) is stunningly beautiful and incredibly restless, as a result her academic performance is mediocre because she’s bored. To kill the time (and her boredom) Loredana takes great fun in seducing faculty members as a pastime, to help her friends whenever they are in a bind, or whenever her grades need a boost. She doesn’t understand her bored housewife mother Elvira (Gisella Sofio) or her absentee businessman father Comm. D'Amico (Mario Carotenuto) for that matter, and wishes nothing but that they would be strict with her. Her mother is in a tryst with another man and her father has a habit of engaging in office affairs, usually with his young secretary (Alena Penz). Bored in art class one day Loredana looks how far she can go in teasing middle-aged Professor Mancinelli (Renzo Marignano) while he explains the finer anatomical points of the famed Aphrodite of Knidos statue. Mancinelli, profusely sweating in acute ecstasy, is reduced to a madly babbling husk and has to be carted off, supposedly in need of immediate medical attention. The dean brings in substitute teacher Professor Gianni Guidi (Gianfranco D'Angelo), a wild-haired caricature of an educator prone to neurosis and nervous tics, to take over Mancinelli’s scheduled classes. Before long Loredana has set her sights on him too.

Currently Loredana is dating American exchange student Billy (Rodolfo Bigotti), but she isn’t sure whether he loves her for the right reasons. Her classmate Petruccio Sciacca (Alvaro Vitali) has a thing for her too. He will go through great lengths to paint her portrait, preferably in the nude. As such Petruccio is too preoccupied (and oblivious) to the obvious in front of him: studious blonde good girl (and resident tomboy) Lucia (Angela Doria) has been sweet on him for as long as they’ve shared classes, and she’s very willing take her clothes off if he would only ask her. Loredana’s roommate Monica (Ilona Staller) moonlights as an escort for extra money, and will try to seduce her into a sapphic liaison whenever the opportunity arises. Loredana and Billy kill time by engaging in an especially passionate heavy petting session in the abandoned biology classroom, scaring the living daylights out of the janitor (Ennio Colaianni).

Things start to look up when Loredana meets strapping blonde hunk of a man, Marco Salvi (Giuseppe Pambieri) and is immediately smitten. The two engage in a brief, steamy affair and only after she learns that Salvi is an engineer from Turin, and one of her father’s young business associates. One day sharing a car Loredana’s panties somehow end up in Professor Guidi’s briefcase with all the expected results. Guidi is assaulted by Billy and his gang of motorcycle-riding goons, who don’t take kind to the professor being on the receiving end of attention of their leader’s sometime girlfriend, but Guidi valiantly defends himself to great success with chop sockey kung fu moves. A misunderstanding concerning a writ leaves her parents thinking that their 17-year-old daughter has disappeared. Loredana’s affair with Marco, brief and passionate as it was, serves as a catalyst to improve their home situation as her mom and dad reconciliate their marital differences and prioritize each other over their jilted lovers.

If The High School Girl is testament to anything, it’s that Tarantini knew exactly what everybody was there for: to see Gloria Guida in the buff as often and early as humanly possible. Suffice to say, it delivers exactly what it promises, and does so in spades. Plus, it has the added bonus of being not half-bad on its own. It’s as if the stars aligned and every element fell perfectly in place. Credits should probably go to director of photography Giancarlo Ferrando who photographs glorious Gloria beautifully from whatever flattering angle at his disposal. In the years following The High School Girl Ferrando went on to lens everything from Mountain Of the Cannibal God (1978), the Edwige Fenech-Barbara Bouchet romp Wife On Vacation… Lover in the City (1980), Cream Puffs (1981), and 2019 - After the Fall Of New York (1983) to low-budget cannon fodder as Hands Of Steel (1986) and Alfonso Brescia’s Filipino-Dominican Republic trash action classic Cross Mission (1988). That The High School Girl works so well as it does is in no small part thanks to writers Francesco Milizia and Marino Onorati, both of whom were genre specialists. The High School Girl is, above all else, a paean, a valentine to everybody’s favorite Lolita. There were starlets before Guida and there were after, but none quite set the screen alight the way she did. While not as knee-slappingly funny or outright comedic as some of the more stereotypical Italian comedies of the day The High School Girl is, surprisingly, bereft of the usual melodrama and tragedy rife in Guida’s body of work. Sometimes things just work.

By the tall end of 1979 – after having scored two monster hits with The High School Girl and To Be Twenty (1978) – Gloria, at the ripe age of 24, realized that it was high time to retire the beloved character as she grew increasingly unbelievable in the role that made her a superstar. She had posed for Playboy in April 1977 and Playmen in June 1976, May 1978, and November 1979 and all signs were pointing towards her acting career winding down. Like so many of her ilk she took to singing. She was two years away from meeting her future-husband Johnny Dorelli and a year after that she would retire completely. It’s pretty amazing how much of a phenomenon Gloria Guida was able to become despite, or in spite of, only being active for a good five years. Of all the things Gloria lend her name and figure to The High School Girl is probably the only to endure the way that it did. Not even To Be Twenty (1978) (arguably the better and more subtextual of the two) has enjoyed that kind of longevity. And the fact that glorious Gloria was able to carve out such a respectable career for herself probably paved the way for actresses like Sabrina Siani, Luciana Ottaviani, and the like – whose primary sellingpoint were their good looks and willingness to shed clothes when required. It’s a bit strong to call Gloria Guida the Barbara Steele of Italian comedy, but she came damn close….