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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….

Plot: everything is not well in casa Gustafsson. Hilarity ensues!

In what is either Sweden’s biggest cult classic or the ultimate kalkonklassiker Rötmånad (or Dog Days, rated X and released in specialized blue-film grindhouses across North America as the more poetic What Are You Doing After the Orgy?) Christina Lindberg, the biggest domestic export and soon-to-be sexploitation queen, can be seen giving her best performance ever and often with very little in the way of clothes (although not always in that order necessarily) in what is her best offering by a wide margin. Rötmånad (Dog Days hereafter) is a comedy in tune with the times, and something that could’ve just as easily have been made in Great Britain, Germany, or Italy. There isn’t much worth recommending in the early Lindberg canon but Dog Days is the exception. Indicative of where la Lindberg’s career was heading, Dog Days is rife with the blackest of humour and there’s plenty of naked Christina for everybody to go around.

Christina Lindberg was a former archeology student that took to nude modelling, and was a Penthouse Pet (June, 1970). Like Leena Skoog before her Lindberg and her voluptuous figure were bound to attract the attention of producers, and she debuted in the inauspicious Dog Days in 1970. In 1973 she released her photo book This Is Christina Lindberg by her photographer and soon-to-be husband Bo Sehlberg. By the end of the decade Lindberg had to make a choice; stay employed and graduate into hardcore (the way Marie Forså and Marina Hedman did) or change careers. Christina chose the latter, retrained herself to become a journalist and now is the driving force behind the n° 1 aviation magazine in Sweden.

The men behind Dog Days were the duo of Bengt Forslund and Olle Nordemar. Forslund gave Lasse Hallström his first directorial features after his music video work with/for ABBA and Nordemar was a specialist in family/kids movies. In the late sixties he introduced Inger Nilsson and her iconic Pippi Longstocking to the world with a television series based on the Astrid Lindgren novels, followed almost immediately by a threatrical movie, and no less than three sequels. Forslund and Nordemar chose Jan Halldoff to direct as he had a knack for social realist comedies and dramas, often (but not always) involving youth culture of the day. Very much like Skoog in her Laila (17 år) (1969) reels there’s something very cinema verité the way Halldorf photograps Lindberg, and there didn’t seem to be much acting, or anything, involved. Even without the benefit of subtitling or English dubbing Dog Days is a pretty funny affair – and the title becomes crystal clear when its Darwinistic streak kicks in…

Somewhere in the rural environs of Sandhamn in Värmdö Municipality on the Stockholm Archipelago barber Assar Gustafsson (Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt) has been spending the summer with his 17-year old daughter Anna-Bella (Christina Lindberg) and family dog Ludde at their vacation home. They experience a rude awakening from their quiet, idyllic life in the country far away from civilization when Assar’s wife and Anna-Bella’s mother Sally (Ulla Sjöblom) – the town prostitute, believed missing (and presumed dead) for the last 5 years – makes a sudden and unexpected return. When Sally discovers that Anna-Bella has blossomed into beautiful young woman she promptly announces her plan to start a brothel out of the bathhouse. She immediately starts grooming the uninhibited Anna-Bella who’s prone to walking around the house semi-nude, so Sally arranges an assessing man (Curt L. Malmsten) and a photographer (Jan Blomberg) to make the most out of the situation. She uses Anna-Bella to attract customers to her cathouse and Assar is blackmailed into working as a waiter. The brothel becomes an overnight success thanks to Anna-Bella’s silent presence.

The brothel, and the coming and going of various guests (Gunnar 'Knas' Lindkvist and Christer Jonsson), and the naked shenanigans of the mostly mute Anna-Bella attract the attention not only of their neighbour Jansson (Ernst Günther), and a Finlander in a rowboat (Frej Lindqvist) but also that of Jan (Eddie Axberg). Almost immediately sparks fly between Jan and Anna-Bella. Having had enough Sally murders Jan in cold blood on the grounds that as a prostitute Anna-Bella can’t afford the luxury of emotions and that Jan was a nuisance. Assar is none too happy when he gets wind what Sally has done, and rigs her love-nest explode to ensure her permanent absence and a return to their quiet country life from before. Learning of Jan’s death Anna-Bella metes out retribution by killing her mother. One day a tortured Assar is installing a lightning rod Sally had continually bugged him about, and is electrocuted in doing so. Memorial arrangements are made with the priest (Carl-Axel Elfving), and the only way Anna-Bella knows how of repaying friendly mortician Ivar Frid (Bo Halldoff) is by offering her body. They retreat to Sally’s dynamite-rigged love-nest and everything explodes. In the aftermath of this series of unfortunate events only family dog Ludde remains….

Scandinavia has always had a far more liberated, relaxed, and not nearly as repressed attitude towards nudity and sexuality compared to the rest of Europe and the North American continent. Denmark and Sweden were considered the Mecca of hedonism and both took an active role as a pioneer in the bridging the gap between soft – and hardcore pornography. They welcomed Joe Sarno when he was exiled from America in the late sixties and graced the world with the likes of Solveig Andersson, Marie Forså, Leena Skoog, Margareta Sjödin, Marina Hedman, and Marie Liljedahl. Canada had the maple syrup porn of Valérie (1968) (with Danielle Ouimet) and Sweden had Inga (1968) and the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels. The rise of Christina Lindberg coincided with the halcyon days of the bawdy sex comedy in such places as France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy. So, it’s no wonder that miss Lindberg ended up in one of the many Schoolgirl Report (1970) sequels years later. Denmark was one of the first countries to legalize hardcore pornography in 1969, but the sexploitation genre took a blow only when the rest of Europe followed suit about ten years later. There was a brief revival of the genre during the early-to-mid 1980s with the Cine-S in Spain and the Brazilian pornochanchada, but they were quickly made redundant with the wide availability of the harder format in the then-booming home video market.

And what other reason to seek out Dog Days than to see Christina Lindberg in her prime? Compared to her sometime colleague and contemporary Leena Skoog, Lindberg is something of a boorish bore. Whereas Skoog illuminated the two Laila (17 år) (1969) one-reels with her radiant sensuality, carefree uninhibitness, and considerable girlish charm Lindberg doesn’t generate so much as a pulse at the best of times. Skoog would go on to star in Britain’s first 3-D film Four Dimensions of Greta (1972) from Pete Walker whereas Lindberg would star in ugly and kinda nihilistic sexploitationers as Exponerad (1971), Maid In Sweden (1971), Thriller - A Cruel Picture (1973), Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973), and Wide Open (1974). The things Christina appeared in make you wish she found a footing in Germany, Great Britain, or Italy, who at least made their sex comedies lighthearted, full of slapstick and, well, fun. There’s more than plenty of naked Christina for anyone to go around in all of her movies, but none of them are particularly worth revisiting after an initial viewing. Gloria Guida also consistently made churlish sex comedies – but at least they were fun, and for every more melodramatic one there was a lighthearted romp with Lino Banfi in return. No such thing was the case with Lindberg’s career that went from bad to worse in the span of just a few years. No wonder Christina called it a day at the dawn of the eighties, alhough she would have found a home in Spain’s shortlived Cine-S circuit. Oh well, at least it’s good to see her get reappraised in recent years thanks to Quentin Tarantino.

It’s a question for the ages why Dog Days was released with an X rating in North America. Outside of Lindberg’s near-constant state of undress there’s nothing particularly explicit about it. Next to that, this wasn’t a case of The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973), Malabimba (1979), or Satan’s Baby Doll (1982) either where the presence of hardcore inserts would condemn it automatically to a universally fatal X-rating and thus to a release exclusively in the sex cinemas on 42nd street and practically no marketing campaign worthy of the name. Nor did it have to compete for attention on the home video market (as that was still a decade away) or see only limited threatrical release and distribution across the Atlantic as many Italian titles had to a decade later. Dog Days is an anomaly of sorts in the early Christina Lindberg canon and it was indicative of exactly in what type of movies she would make a name for herself. Which sorts of begs an additional question: what would have become of Christina had Tinto Brass discovered her at the dawn of the eighties? Would she have become the Swedish Serena Grandi, Luciana Ottoviani, or Debora Caprioglio? One thing is certain: Dog Days is Christina’s best film… and you should really see it, if you can.