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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Body Double with Helmut Berger

Marisa Mell and Helmut Berger, both from Austria, knew each other several years, before they became lovers between 1976 and 1978. Before that Helmut Berger had a long term almost marriage like gay relationship with the world famous Italian director Luchino Visconte (1906-1976) which ended with the sudden death of the director. After his death Helmut Berger became desperate not knowing what to do with his professional and personal life. This was also made worst by the fact that Visconte did not made a testament during his life so Helmut Berger did not inherit anything from the Visconte estate and the Visconte family dropped him after the funeral. During this difficult period he was helped by mostly Ursula Andress, Romy Schneider and... Marisa Mell. They were his closest friends. It was during this time of intimacy that they probably became lovers. Helmut Berger had always been very open about his sexuality and his equal preferance for women and... men. The affair was very prominent in the yellow press at that time. In 1977 they both starred in the Italian action movie "La Belva col mitra", famous for the rape scene of Marisa Mell by Helmut Berger. To promote the movie the couple made an even more notorious photo shoot for Italian Playboy as lovers in the same bed room at the Moderno Hotel in Ancona where the sex scenes for the movie were filmed. This photo shoot went around the world and made headline's everywhere. The Belgian movie magazine Cine Revue picked the photos up for its July 7th 1977 cover and issue. It was one of it's biggest selling issues to that date.
(Note: I got a lot of requests for this shoot in the last months from people who wanted to see these notorious pictures. I have no problem in showing full frontal nudity because in Europe people are not prude and accept their bodies and sexuality as a natural fact. But... in regard to this blog I find it, for me, in respect to Marisa Mell, unacceptable to show her in full frontal nudity, even knowing that she was quite comfortable showing her nude body and the photo shoot was originally made in full frontal nudity by both actors with their agreement. So therefor I have covered her most intimate part with an orange butterfly.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein!

„Die tolldreisten Abenteuer und auserlesensten Kochrezepte des Geheimagenten wider Willen Thomas Lieven.“ (The most daring adventures and most selected recepies of secret agent against his will Thomas Lieven.) This was the first sentence of a the German book called "Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein" (It must not always be caviar!) written by Austrian bestseller author Johannes Mario Simmel in 1960.
The book tells the adventures of a bank teller Thomas Lieven during World War II and the tricks he uses to stay out of the clutches of the different secret services on both sides of the front. His motto was: "I would like to live in peace, have a good meal and adore beautiful women!". A good meal for him was Boeuf Stroganoff and beautiful women he got plenty during the course of the war in the book but living in peace was not going to happen untill the end of the war!

The book was a huge success in German speaking countries with many translations in other languages. The success was mostly thanks to the tongue in cheek approach of the World War II story in the same vein as the World War I story of "Der Brave Soldat Sjweik". And with almost each successfull book or play soon after it's publication it would be made into a film or a television series. Already in 1961 the movie was filmed in two parts "Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein!" and "Diesmal muss es Kaviar sein!" (This time it must be caviar!) with O.W. Fisher as Thomas Lieven and other female movie stars like Eva Bartok (famous for her role in Mario Bava's "Blood and Black Lace") as Vera and Senta Berger (famous for her role in a "Man from U.N.C.L.E-episode and film and a part in the movie "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse) as Chantal. The movies were not very faithfull adaptations of the book but are now quite fun to see not only for the story which is rather amusing but also for the high Euro-cult connections with all the former stars from that era!

In 1977 the second German state television "Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen" (ZDF), in a coproduction with film production company "CCC Television" found it time to make a 13 part television series from the book for her evening programming. The part of Thomas Lieven would now be played by German television actor Siegfried Rauch and Marisa Mell as his love intrest Chantal, member of the French resistance against the German occupation of France. The series was filmed in 1976 at the Berlin Union Film studios. The series ran from wednesday May 11th until wednesday October 19th 1977. Marisa Mell plays in the parts 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the series. Because the hero of the series loves to cook the producers found nothing better than to close each episode with a recepy made by Siegfried Rauch. Although it had great production values the series was in the beginning not quite a complete success but during the course of its run the German audience opened their hearts to it and in the end embraced it. Even the recepies of the series were collected into a cook book, which became a bestseller. Today the series is regarded as one of the great high lights of German television in the 70's. In 1984 the ZDF did a re-run of the series with even more success because the audience now understood the tongue in cheek approach of the series and the book.

And with a lot of good stuff, the best comes at the end! In this case, ZDF in coproduction with Studio Hamburg are releasing a series of DVD's called "Strassenfeger" with all the best krimi's from the 60's and 70's. "Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein" is number 09 in the series! Street date was December 5th 2008. It is the first time ever that this series with Marisa Mell appeares on DVD in high definition quality. It is in German only but... it has Marisa Mell's own voice on it with her Austrian accent! So no horrible dubbing! This alone is a reason for owning the DVD because most of Marisa Mell's movies have been dubbed! The DVD is region "2" coded so you need to have a universal DVD player but now everyone else in the world, besides the Germans, can see this series and see Marisa Mell in another incarnation than the roles she played in the movies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Diabolikal Partner

The Italian editorial home and publisher "Astorina" of the fumetti cult anti-hero "Diabolik" has realised that, not only their icon is still very popular in Italy and the world, but also his partner in crime since ages "Lady Eva Kant"! Since a few years, they not only publish next to their monthly title Diabolik an annual dedicated to their main character but also annual stories with Eva Kant as the main character.

To honor this event they created a seperate website next to the main Diabolik website ( with the entire history and back log of Eva Kant's life in the fumetti's, print, media, movie... and so much more. (

Astorina, together with their commercial webmaster, has really put some thought into it to make this site a feast for the fan and the causal reader. You can see the historical surroundings from the creative birth of the character untill today.

It is an ideal mix of words and pictures. The site does not collapse, like so many other websites, under it's own lay-out often being heavy on words or pictures. It is like reading a book, not on paper, but on your PC. The advantage over a paper book is that you can really dive into the pages of this site. At the bottom of each page you have a control bar so you can navigate in the page, not only up and down, left or right but can also blow up the pages to better see the pictures or photo's on it. The only negative point is that these pages and the entire site are only in Italian but that is understandable from the editor's point of view. The main target audience of Diabolik are the Italian readers who buy each every month since 1963 their titles and not the English language markets. Nevertheless, due to still growing popularity of the Mario Bava movie "Danger: Diabolik!" it would be nice to also cater to the English language readers in the world. Maybe this will happen in the future! Speaking of the Diabolik movie, there is also a nice entry regarding this film and it's stars "John Phillip Law" as Diabolik and "Marisa Mell" as Eva Kant.

The information about the movie is some general information that if you are fan of the movie you already know. So nothing new in that department. Even the photo used of Marisa Mell in her movie Eva Kant outifit is a generally known picture. It would haven been nice to see a little less known picture or even a behind the scene one of Marisa Mell.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How about that?

On august 31, 2008 I wrote an item for this blog about Angelo Frontoni, Master of Light on Paper. He was one of the best photographers in his time in Italy. Marisa Mell was one of his much photographed subjects. (If you want to read the whole story you can look it up in the archive section of august 2008.)

So the other day I was looking through the auctions on Ebay for items that I collect and stumbled on this auction for a press photo of the actress Monica Vitti.

And scrolling down the page I found this little paragraph regarding the photographer of the picture and it is, lo and behold, Angelo Frontoni known as the "master of light".

As you can see and compare the above text is lifted from my item on the blog and has been a little rewritten to match the photo and auction necessities. How about that?

Monday, December 1, 2008

And now... a commercial break with LUX

In 1964 Marisa Mell was still only known in German speaking countries like Germany and her native Austria but her star was on the rise, especially with a contract to do a British movie called "French Dressing" to be directed by Ken Russell. So it wasn't strange that she caught the attention of the advertising world. One of her first ad's was for the soap brand Lux. This ad is rather special for several reasons: 1) contrary to almost all other Lux ad's with actresses this one with Marisa Mell has a side view of her and not a front view. Most of the actresses do not like their faces to be shot in a photo shoot from their sides because they don't like their noses or the silhouettes of their faces. So photo's of these women are almost always taken from the front. Marisa Mell was at that time regarded as such a classic beauty with an almost Greek statue like face that the campaign was build around her side view; 2) the brand Lux was at that time such a well known name that the connection of an actress and the word "Lux" was enough to make the link with the soap and 3) the ad has the autograph of Marisa Mell at the bottom of the page. This ad proves that the way she writes her stage name in an autograph was there from the beginning of her career and has been unchanged untill the end of her life which is rather exceptional because writing and autographs tend to change during the life of a person due to the changing of his or her personality when becoming older and more mature.
In 60's Europe, it wasn't very common to do ad's with movie stars in it contrary to the US which had a longer tradition. One of the reasons was that European movie stars thought it to be cheap to do commercials and advertisments next to their movie careers just like it was not done as a movie star to do television at that time. Times haves changed and now they all do it for the money almost as a main occupation with a movie career as a side track. One of the few exceptions in Europe at that time was the soap brand "Lux". Almost from the beginning of their existence starting in the 1930's, Lux concentrated on placing actresses on their ads like Lana Turner or Jane Wyman. More than 400 actresses untill now have lent their faces for a Lux ad. Even Paul Newman did one.
"Lux" soap was first launched in the UK in 1899 as a flaked version of Sunlight soap and in the US in 1916, where it was marketed as a laundry soap targeted specifically at 'delicates'. The producer of this soap were Lever Brothers who encouraged women to home launder their clothes without fear of satins and silks being turned yellow by harsh lyes that were often used in soaps at the time. The flake-type soap allowed the manufacturer some leeway from lye because it did not need to be shaped into traditional cake-shaped loaves as other soaps were. The result was a gentler soap that dissolved more readily and was advertised as suitable for home laundry use. The name "Lux" was chosen as the latin word for "light" and because it was suggestive of "luxury."
Lux is now owned by giant Unilever and is still a strong seller in the soap market especially in Asian markets like India, Nepal and Pakistan. In those countries with millions of poor people who are dreaming of a better life, the soap Lux has still an aura of wealth and richness when you are able to buy and use it in your day to day use.

Therefore the brand is heavely advertised by actresses from Bollywood, the Indian movie industry. Although at the moment, Lux's ambassador in India is actress Pryanka Chopra, the biggest seller of all time is another Bollywood star and regarded as "the most beautiful women in the world": Aishwarya "Ash" Rai.

Once a former Miss India and Miss World, the 35 year actress has already more than 40 movies on her resumé during her 13 year career. At one time, during the Pierce Brosnan-era of James Bond Aishwarya Rai was rumored to be in the running to become a number 1 Bond girl in one of his last movies. Although she admits that it was only a rumor, her greatest wish is to become a world movie star next to her Bollywood career. So becoming a Bond girl would have placed her in the spotlight. Maybe she gets another chance with the new James Bond Daniel Craig when he needs another Lux glamor girl at his side to be rescued.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Eyes of ...

Marisa Mell was known in the movie industry as "...the women with the most beautiful emerald green eyes in the world...". Almost everyone who saw them, looked into them, fell in love with them. Since her early childhood, people were attracked to those eyes and commented on them. She grew used to it that this happened, but she was also smart enough to use them into her advantage to propel her appeal and career by charcoaling them heavily. Although it was high fashion to do this in the 60's, Marisa Mell did it untill the end of her life knowing that her eyes would keep their appeal untill the very end, no matter what happened.

Having green eyes against the world population is rare but having emerald green eyes is even rarer. The problem with emerald green eyes, as with a lot of other rare eye colors like a heavenly blue à la Paul Newman, is to catch their beauty in a picture or on film. Like real color gems they need the best light to give back their stunning beauty. Normal day light or artificial light is often not enough and you get some kind of color that is only a 10th of their real power and beauty. The angle of lighting needs to be in a perfect angle to be reflexed by the iris in the eye. So it is very difficult to find a photo of Marisa Mell on the cover where you can admire those emerald eyes. One of the rare exceptions is this German language magazine "Revue" from the beginning of the '60's. Here you can see how beautiful and intense they were. The photographer did a hell of a good job to catch those beauties in a time before computer enhancement and manipulation. This is nature at it's best.
For the poster of the movie "Infamia" from 1974 or in it's original title "La Moglie Giovane", her eyes were used as the central piece to attrack an audience to this movie.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Golden Girls

1968 was a very good year in the career of Marisa Mell, not only did she make the cult classic Mario Bava's "Danger: Diabolik!" , a movie called "Stuntman" but also "Le Dolci Signore" or in English "Anyone Can play". The movie was directed by Luigi Zampa and co-written by the famous Italian director Ettore Scola and his writing partner Ruggero Maccari.

In this movie Marisa Mell plays the role of "Paola" together with some of the best known female stars in European cinema at that moment: Claudine Auger, Virna Lisi and Ursula Andress.

Ursula Andress has top billing on this movie and does not really need any introduction because she was the first Bond girl as "Honey Rider" in the first James Bond movie "Dr. No". Another Bond girl is also part of this team of liberated women, Claudine Auger from France. She was Bond's inside girl "Dominique - Domino - Derval" in the movie "Thunderball". And finally Lisi Virna from Italy, famous from euuuhhhh..., maybe from the Richard Burton starrer "Bluebeard" in 1972.

The movie is build as a comedy around these four ladies with their stories involving the men in their lives played by Jean-Pierre Cassel, Frank Wolff, Mario Adorf and Lando Buzzanca. Although the movie has these four beautiful women as stars, the movie itself did not make any headlines. As a publicity vehicle it did do its job. The four sirens got tons of media attention in the latino world ranging from France, Italy, Spain to all the countries in Central and South America. Each and every magazine got them on the cover and had some kind of articles about them in their editions. For Marisa Mell the movie will be remembered for her sensual striptease. In the movie she is addicted to do stripteases and in the end her husband agrees with it and stimulates her.
Forty years later, the stars have matured into golden girls with a golden movie memory. Although the movie has some of the 60's best loved female stars, the movie was never, by my knowledge, released on DVD, officially or unofficially. Maybe the time is right to do so!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Das Rätsel der Roten Orchidee

After the success of the movie "Die Seltsamen Gräfin", based on a book by the British author Edgar Wallace, the new follow up movie would center around the story "Die Tur mit den 7 Schlössern". The production company "Rialto Films" published in the German press that the start of filming this new movie would begin around November 1961. But the producer of these Edgar Wallace-movies Horst Wendlandt found that the "7 Schlösser" script was much to clobbered to go into production and that it needed a rewrit badly. Another problem was that, also at the same time of the press release, the movie theatre owners had been told that the new movie would be expected in their theatres around February-March of 1962 so that they could keep their film agenda's free around that period to welcome the new movie. To honor this commitment, Horst Wendlandt was determined to keep this date. He would not postpone the premiere of his next Edgar Wallace-film. So a solution had to be found very quickly. Several scripts were in production with several screen writers but none was ready to go for the cameras. The only script based on the book "Gangster in London" or the English title "When the Gangs came to London" was found almost ready to start being filmed. It just needed a few technical adjustments.
So the strange thing happened that the complete crew, which was originally being hired to film the movie "Die Tür mit den 7 Schlössern", did the production of "Das Rätsel der Roten Orchidee" or in English "The Mystery of the Red Orchid". Production started in Hamburg (Germany) at the "Real Film Studios Hamburg Wandsbek" where most of the interior and some of the exterior filming was done dubbeling for London. Some exterior scenes were filmed in London (UK). The film was made under the working title "Gangster in London" but due to the success of the movie "Das Geheimniss der Gelben Narzissen" in 1961 the working title was retitled to "Das Rätsel der Roten Orchidee".

In the Edgar Wallace Krimi-series of movies, this movie holds a strange place. Although the production is German based with mostly German crew the actors are not. There is no German actor in the cast: Christopher Lee (UK), Klaus Kinski (Poland), Pinkas Brown (Switserland), Adrian Hoven (Austria), Eric Pohlmann (Austria), Eddi Arent (Poland) and Marisa Mell (Austria). Even the director Helmuth Ashley is from Austria.

The production sheet of that period gives us a little inside info of the production schedule. The production took 6 weeks to shoot in 28 shooting days starting on monday December 5th 1961 untill monday January 15th 1962. During the X-Mas and New Year period the production took a one week holliday. Marisa Mell was scheduled to film her part of secretairy Lilian Granger in 10 working days starting in the 3 week of production on wednesday December 14th 1961 for one day and filming all of her remaining days in new year in week 4 en 5, starting on tuesday January 2nd untill friday January 12th. The movie made it into the theaters as promised on March 1st 1962 after having recut two scenes to comply the Film Board in Germany and getting a FSK 12 rating. The DVD rating in Germany is now FSK 16.

After the premiere the critics were not very kind to this movie. They found it more of the same as in previous movies, a cold hearted movie, not really Alfred Hitchcock-material. At the box office the movie sunk and had the least total of audience attendance from all of the untill then made Edgar Wallace movies.

Marisa Mell would star in another film linked to the Edgar Wallace series in Gemany called "Das Rätsel des Silbernen Halbmonds" in 1972 under the direction of Umberto Lenzi. In reality the movie was an Italian giallo called "Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso" heavily recut to fit the Edgar Wallace series, together with the classic opening speach of Edgar Wallace "Hier spricht Edgar Wallace" which was missing from the Italian version of the movie.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Last Picture Show

The year is 1991. Marisa Mell has been fighting hard to keep her head above water to keep financing an existence after several very difficult years of almost poverty with no movie parts. It had been hard and harsh times. But the times were changing and slowly she was getting back on her feet again. She had just finished the part of Selina in a movie called "I love Vienna" by Turkish origin director Houchang Allahyari. The movie was a social drama filmed in a run down part of Vienna with a lot of foreigners. Although her part was not more than a cameo in several scenes, she played it with a lot of conviction. Gone was the glamourous Marisa Mell, instead she was a women with a history who had almost lost all of her confidence in life, men and...herself. The most import thing for her was that she was filming again and especially that she was home in Austria, Vienna and not abroad in a foreign city or country. The movie was a big success in Austria and German speaking countries. The part of Marisa Mell was noticed again by producers. Several offers for other parts were slowly coming in again. Maybe her career was getting a new boost and she could play, not the sex kitten anymore, but the mature women in dramatic roles. Due to the success of the movie, Marisa Mell was invited to appear in a German talk show to speak about her latest movie and her life of hardship in general. Marisa Mell never kept it a secret that she had gone from a top earning international star to poverty. This photo was taken during the production of that German show! It shows Marisa Mell as a very mature women who had a difficult life but was fighting to keep going on. Although she was only 52 years old she looked tired and older than she really was. Her face was beginning to show the signs of the hardship, struggle of life and abuse of alcohol, drugs and sigarettes. Although this photo looks like a lot of other photo's taken in this period of her life, it is quite an important one because it is the last picture taken of her in public before the news was given to her several weeks later that she was gravely sick. Now her life was again taking a different course and the struggle untill now would be nothing for what was laying ahead of her. A battle that she would loose several months later.

Monday, October 27, 2008


During her filming of "Danger: Diabolik!" in 1967, Marisa Mell was invited to New York to audition for the role of Mata Hari in the musical with the same name which was going to open in New York, Broadway in the following year. When she got the part, as mentioned in another blog entry, the producers found it a good idea that Marisa Mell should appear in several magazines in the States to make her name a house hold name. So she appeared in McCall's Magazine but also as a fashion model in the November 1967 issue of Vogue, the number one fashion magazine in the world. What is so special about this picture is the fact that this photo brings together the middle-east and the west in one person. Marisa Mell has done her hair in a typical 60's hair-style like almost all the fashion models of that time but her dress is not at all western, it is a classical middle-eastern dress called "Jellabiya". The Jellabiya or in Arabic: الجلابية , pronounced Gellabiya in Egypt, is a traditional arab garment native to the Gulf region worn by women as a casual dress or as evening wear depending on the amount of work, complication of design beadwork as in this dress worn by Marisa Mell. The Jellabiya dates back to early days of civilization in the Arabic countries of the Gulf. Jellabiyas are also created for men; however, these include a minimal amount of design and are usually just striped or plain in a variety of colors. You have three kinds of Jellabiya: a) the casual Jellabiya: This is often a casual garment using a minimal amount of textiles and design; b) the evening Jellabiya: several different mediums are used to create these Jellabiyas. They include, beadwork, embroidery, different stich patterns as well as various textiles such as silk, lace and even wool and c) the wedding Jellabiya: Jellabiyas worn by the bride at weddings are much like evening Jellabiyas; however, they usually are quite excessive. Unfortunately her role in Mata Hara was a short one and she never got to Broadway, just some try outs in Washington DC. This faillure was very hard for her to swallow and took some time to get over with.
An Egyptian peasant women sitting on the banks of the river Nile in the 1890's looking at the Temple of Philae during sun set wearing a traditional black Jellabiya.