Skip to content

Plot: good girls go to heaven, Valeria goes everywhere…

Silvio Amadio was a promising director that helmed two interesting giallos with Amuck (1972) and Death Smiles On A Murderer (1973) that saw him working with some of Italy's finest leading ladies Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet and Ewa Aulin. Compared to them Gloria Guida was but a starlet, willing and able to shed fabric if required, of questionable acting talent. Obviously Amadio’s best days were truly well behind him and not even Guida’s ascent in the commedia sexy all’Italiana could pull him from the morass of mediocrity. Amadio would work with Guida on another three occassions with So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious... (1975), That Malicious Age (1975), and Il Medico... La Studentessa (1976) but suffice to say no amount of Guida in the buff can mask how routinous and daft these are. The Minor was the last hurrah of a director well above this kind of daft melodramatic swill. There’s only so many ways for Gloria Guida to undress until that grows stale too.

The Minor was only glorious Gloria's second feature and the follow-up to the rather innocuous Monika (1974). Guida was a year removed from Blue Jeans (1975), the feature that would launch her legendary derrière to Eurocult superstardom, and her role as everybody's favorite promiscuous Catholic schoolgirl or la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975). That Gloria couldn't really act was manifest in her debut outing but at least she's given something to work with here. In her scenes with veteran actor Corrado Pani he does most of the heavy lifting for her. Guida's non-acting is charming at first but tends to grow tedious the farther one progresses into her filmography. While it stands to reason that la Guida did more than just taking her clothes off in Blue Jeans (1975), and That Malicious Age (1975), it wouldn't be until To Be Twenty (1978) a few years later that she proved that she could actually act. It's true that Gloria Guida was handed terrible scripts banking heavily on her willingness to shed clothes, but even with a good screenplay she wasn't exactly an Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet, or Femi Benussi. Let alone that she was able to match ubiquitous bedroom farce queen Laura Antonelli. 

To its credit at least The Minor attempts to do things a little differently in its opening 15 minutes. Just like Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975), The Minor opens with a pair of legs in the shortest blue skirt imaginable. The skirt and the legs in them, of course, belong to everybody’s favorite raunchy comedy darling Gloria Guida. From there it takes a page from the Christina Lindberg romp Exponerad (1971) as she’s chased, surrounded and then raped by a gang of bikers. We learn that Guida is Valeria Sanna and she’s summoned to the doctor’s office for a medical check-up. Right when the doctor is about to get naughty with her, her class mates burst in, wearing colorful corsets, and Valeria punishes the medic with castration. By this time sister Angela (Nicoletta Amadio) has found the schoolgirls in the woods and Valeria attempts to corrupt the good sister with some sapphic seduction. In her next flight of fancy Valeria finds herself topless and crucified by evil men and women of the cloth until a band of schoolgirls and nuns come to her rescue. She’s brought before the court of the headmaster (Giulio Donnini) and is instructed to return home for the summer and spent time with her dysfunctional family.

Things take a turn towards well-charted and rather daft commedia sexy all’Italiana and melodramatic territory when Valeria returns home. Her absentee father (Marco Guglielmi) has an office affair with his secretary. Her young and attractive mother (Rosemary Dexter) has an affair with wealthy entrepreneur Carlo Savi (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, as Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) while their in-house maid Carlotta (Gabriella Lepori) is in a tryst with Valeria’s constantly horny brother Lorenzo (Luciano Roffi). Valeria herself is the object of everybody’s attention as she can’t sunbathe topless without being spied on from nearby boats and no less than twice do a gang of schoolboys break-and-enter into her house to watch her undress. One day while wandering the beach she makes her acquaintance with Spartaco (Corrado Pani), a middle-aged sculptor living in a shack. An unlikely bond develops between the two and soon Valeria finds herself torn between interest in boys of her own age and her growing affection towards the cultured and worldly social pariah Spartaco. In a scene towards the end Giacomo Rossi-Stuart’s Carlo has Valeria dressing up as a internment camp prisoner while he poses as a Nazi officer and tries to lure Valeria in bed. At that point her mother enters the room and she’s none too pleased with her lover. It is then that Valeria realizes that she’s no longer interested in the adolescent boys that cause her so much grief, but in old Spartaco instead.

There are far and few Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana that are truly mandatory. The Minor is too routine and by-the-numbers to warrant recommendation outside of the opening 15 minutes that have Gloria partaking in various of daydreams. The Minor offers ample opportunity for Guida to shine as she’s put in (and out of) various alluring garments; be it the schoolgirl outfit with a skimpiest blue skirt and diaphanous knee-high socks, miniscule see-through lingerie and the blue bikini that features in most of the beach scenes. Seeing Guida is always a delight but no amount of bare skin can mask just how hideously banal The Minor truly is. Guida never shied away from nudity and The Minor has enough of Gloria in the buff to satisfy anyone’s cravings, the plot however is as trite as many of these comedies were wont to be. Gloria Guida might not have been the most gifted of actresses, but her shapely derrière and her willingness to shed clothes allowed her a steady career in bawdy commedia sexy all’Italiana. Obviously not all of her comedies and melodramas were created equal, but at the very least most were enjoyable in the basest sense of the word.

Granted, Gloria Guida was no Barbara Bouchet, Femi Benussi or even Evelyn Kraft. If The Minor proves anything it is that even Guida was too good to waste on mediocre swill like this. The creativity that it manifests and the goodwill that it generates in the first 15 minutes is too easily squandered as The Minor is yet another coming-of-age melodrama that banks entirely on miss Guida’s willingness to generously disrobe in front of the camera. The screenplay by Piero Regnoli has nothing significant to add to the genre – and not even the on-screen romance between Guida and Corrado Pani was all that novel by this point. Guida had been romancing men old enough to be her father before and after in Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975). That The Minor plays out almost exactly like the earlier Scandinavian Exponerad (1971) proves just how moot the entire exercise was, even if it’s livelier than its Swedish predecessor. The opening 15 minutes alone manifest more creativity than the remainder of the feature can ever be bothered to muster. The Minor is far from director Silvio Amadio’s best, but it more than signifies that his best days were very well behind him now. While Guida’s ass was at least as famous as Benussi’s, Femi possessed a kind of vibrant versatility that Gloria never quite got a hold of.

Whether one can stomach the average Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana is entirely dependent on one's tolerance for Benny Hill slapstick shenanigans from buffoons as Lino Banfi and Alvaro Vitali as well as the usual amount of tragedy that was obligatory in these features. Nobody in the right mind watches these things for the story and the reason why everybody is here is to see Gloria Guida in the buff. The Minor is slightly more creative than the usual fare that Guida found herself in, but it is never able to consolidate that initial and early promise. Each and every excuse is still good enough to have glorious Gloria undress but it hardly guarantees an engaging, let alone compelling experience. Thankfully Gloria would be soon become a superstar with her role as the luscious la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975) (released in North America as The Teasers) and the controversial satire To Be Twenty (1978) with Lilli Carati. The Minor isn’t necessarily terrible – but it’s not good enough to warrant recommendation either. It’s a commedia sexy all’Italiana on auto-pilot, and it shows.

Plot: a troupe of showgirls is terrorized by a vampire in a distant castle

Italian gothic horror became something of an industry as a response to the success of Riccardo Freda’s and Mario Bava’s I Vampiri (1957) and the Hammer production The Horror Of Dracula (1958). The Playgirls and the Vampire was part of a shortlived cycle that pitted ditzy showgirls against one or more vampires. The same cycle also included The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960) and The Monster of the Opera (1964). The Playgirls and the Vampire is the more pulpy half of the already very kitschy The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960). This time it aren’t ballerinas that are terrorized by the ancient undead but a troupe of brunette and blonde, firmly-bosomed playgirls, or burlesque dancers. Who better to write and direct such a romp than Piero Regnoli, the prolific scribe who would pen a number of Gloria Guida comedies a decade later? Released domestically as L’Ultima Preda del Vampiro (or The Last Prey of the Vampire) Regnoli’s bawdy romp was, rather unexpectedly at that, prescient of the erotic fantastique that would become commonplace in Mediterranean genre cinema in the following decade with the most defining and enduring works of French, Spanish and Italian directors as Jean Rollin, Jess Franco, Luigi Batzella and Renato Polselli.

The most recognizable name of the cast is Walter Brandi, who already delved into similar territory with The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960) and would do so again with The Monster of the Opera (1964) and 5 Graves For A Medium (1965). Lyla Rocco, who looks like a young Soledad Miranda, debuted in the Dino de Laurentiis produced melodrama Anna (1951) that had a young Sophia Loren in a bit part. Rocco appeared in over thirty productions, mostly French and Italian comedies and dramas, and The Playgirls and the Vampire arrived near the end of her career. Marisa Quattrini starred in both The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960) and The Playgirls and the Vampire. Here Quattrini was given the dignity of a name part and dialog. Corinne Fontaine debuted in The Playgirls and the Vampire and her biggest role was an uncredited part in the fumetti Barbarella (1968). Erika Dicenta largely exists by grace of her platinum blonde hair and bountiful bust. No wonder she was given a modest strip routine to make the most of her very limited appearance. Tilde Damiani was one of the Amazons (along with Giorgia Moll, Daniella Rocca and Mariangela Giordano) in the peplum Colossus and the Amazons (1960), a likely precursor to Terence Young’s breasts-and-games spectacular The Amazons (1973). In a blitz career that spanned a mere 4 years The Playgirls and the Vampire was the final movie for the leggy Maria Giovannini and it probably explains why Giovannini’s part is the only to require any nudity.

En route to their next engagement a bus carrying manager Lucas (Alfredo Rizzo), pianist Ferrenc (Leonardo Botta) and five comely burlesque dancers – Vera (Lyla Rocco), Katia (Maria Giovannini), Ilona (Marisa Quattrini), Magda (Corinne Fontaine) and Erika Dicenta (Erika di Centa, as Erika Di Centa) – find that the road has been blocked by a landslide. Not only is there the landslide blocking the road but a sudden storm forces them to seek shelter in the nearby Kernassy Castle after defaulting their hotel bill. For reasons she can’t explain Vera feels strangely familiar with her new surroundings. The mysterious castle is inhabited by world-wary nobleman Count Gabor Kernassy (Walter Brandi), his steel-faced housekeeper miss Balasz (Tilde Damiani) and groundskeeper Zoltan (Antoine Nicos, as Antonio Nicos). The Count extends his hospitality and agrees to let the troupe stay in his castle until they can continue their journey. There’s one caveat, under no circumstance is anybody, nor the girls or anybody else, to leave their chambers during the night.

That night Katia goes wandering about the castle and is attacked by an unseen assailant. The next day the group sees to it that Katia is given a proper burial. The group mourns the loss of one of their number, but Lucas ensures that the girls can focus on something else and has them practicing their dance routines. Vera’s fascination with the Count continues and she’s drawn to a portrait depicting one of his long dead ancestors, Margherita Karnessy. At this point Vera is bitten by the same shadowy figure that attacked Katia earlier. Katia herself returns as a vampire and in turn attacks Lucas. The remaining dancers come running to Lucas’ chambers, but the girls shrug if off as a figment of their manager’s apparently very vivid imagination. When the vampire (Walter Brandi) tries to claim Vera - who bears a striking resemblance to Margherita Karnessy who has been dead for two centuries and for whose return he has been pining - as his bride against the wishes of both the vampirized Katia and Count Gabor Kernassy, a man of science on the verge of discovering a cure for the affliction that has stricken his ancestor, a confrontation between the both parties of Kernassy bloodline is all but inevitable.

Moreso than The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960) takes The Playgirls and the Vampire the opportunity to ogle its assorted cast of young women. After an atmospheric opening scene that recreated a shot from Todd Browning’s Dracula (1931) the first thing we see is Maria Giovannini pulling up her skirt and adjusting her suspenders and stockings. It’s the sort of shot that tells exactly what sort of production The Playgirls and the Vampire is going to be. The production capitalizes heavily on its attractive cast and there's many a scene of the playgirls in translucent sleeping gowns, lingerie, or corsets. When Giovannini makes her return she’s not only a vampire, but completely naked to boot. Director of photography Aldo Greci keeps her form wrapped in shadow but when she advances to exsanguinate Lucas there’s a brief glimpse of her exposed breasts. Quite possibly Maria Giovannini was one of the earliest actresses to do nudity in a continental European gothic horror production, pre-dating Sylvia Sorrente in Castle Of Blood (1965), Barbara Steele in 5 Graves For A Medium (1965) and Soledad Miranda in Vampyros Lesbos (1971). Eroticism had always been a staple of gothic horror, no one better to embody that than cleavage-wielding María Luisa Rolando in The Vampire and the Ballerina (1960) and the positively bra-busting Graziella Granata in The Slaughter Of the Vampires (1962).

Despite no shortage of belles The Playgirls and the Vampire has a few rather glaring shortcomings. For starters is Regnoli’s direction professional but without much in the way of individual style or any kind of visual flair. Walter Brandi’s two roles as both the world-wary Count and his undead ancestor is a double-edged sword. His portrayal of the vampire isn’t exactly threatening or imposing in any shape or form. His turn in the principal dual role is important enough, as it precedes Barbara Steele’s many dual roles in the same decade, as well as Mark Damon in The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973) and Paul Naschy in Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973). The screenplay is kind of shaky. Once the love triangle involving Vera, Gabor, and the vampire is established the remainder of the dance troupe as well as their male aides are relegated to the background and pretty much forgotten about. The lone effects shot in the entire production is an endearingly cheap piece of time-lapse photography of a pencil drawing that has to be seen to be believed. It easily equals the pencil drawings in Ib Melchior’s skid row science fiction epic The Angry Red Planet (1959) from the year before. To make matters worse The Playgirls and the Vampire is cursed with one of the most laughably terrible English language dubs this side of a Filipino post-nuke or Thai action movie.

If it weren’t for the interior scenes shot at Palazzo Borghese in Rome and the selection of bodacious belles this piece of gothic horror pulp would’ve been long forgotten. Piero Regnoli wasn’t too shabby a director but his passion clearly lie in writing. For that reason The Playgirls and the Vampire is but a footnote in Italian gothic horror history. In the wild and eccentric seventies there would be a minor gothic horror revival with increased levels of blood and nudity. The Playgirls and the Vampire is much of a precursor to that although you’re hardpressed to remember it for anything else. It’s not exactly scary, the screenplay capitalizes heavily on the humor and the English dub is knee-slappingly juvenile, not to mention flat out terrible, with its choice of dialog. For a majority of its duration The Playgirls and the Vampire is stunningly mediocre and there were far better Filipino and Mexican gothic horrors than this Italian romp. Not all Italian early gothic horror was created equal – and this is a good example just why.