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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Angelo Frontoni: Master of Light on Paper

During the 60’s and 70’s Italian cinema was at it’s pinacle! Cinecita, at the borders of the eternal city Rome, was producing each year dozens of movies for each genre possible. Those movies would later be called “Cinema Bis” because they were often copies of American blockbusters like Exorcist, Jaws, Star Wars, …. When you were on one of these sets at that time, you could often see a little dark haired balding man with a photo camera in his hand running around and taking at regulary intervals pictures of these sets, cast and crew during and between filming. His name was "Angelo Frontoni" (°Rome 1929) and one of the best photographers from that era in Italy and probably the world. During his long career, untill his death by heart attack in his beloved Rome in 2002 at the age of 73, he worked with almost every actress in the Euro-cult scene like Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Gina Lollobrigida, Virna Lisi, Anna Magnani, Catherine Spaak, Scilla Gabel, Silvana Mangano, Monica Vitti, Edwige Fenech, Ornella Mutti, Eleonara Giorgi, Monica Guerritore, Serena Grandi, Fransceca Dellare, Elsa Martinelli, Ursula Andress, Ornella Vanoni, Iva Zanicchi, Monica Belluci, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Valeria Marini, and of course...Marisa Mell. Life in Rome was great and a beautiful back ground for his pictures. He started out as black and white photographer but during the following years switched to colour. As you can see from his pictures he had always the beauty of the actresses as his main goal. He loved women and he got to know them all very intimitely. At every moment of the day with its special day light he could create a beautiful picture. He was a real master of his trade.

With such stunning photos it was not strange that most of the top magazines dealing in female beauty, ranging from Playboy, High Society to Vogue, Harper's Bazar, came knocking at his door to do photo shoots for them. His pictures were always a sure sell. Living in the liberated 60's and 70's people became aware that being nude and nudity was not something to be ashamed of but a natural thing. So nude photography became, at least in Europe, socially accepted and people enjoyed seeing nude women, and actresses in special, in movies, books, magazines.... like the ground breaking movie "Emmanuelle" with Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel. The above list of actresses he worked with gives you an idea that almost all of them were accepting photo shoots in the nude, not only because it was fashionable, but because it was also done by a master of the trade. Where could you go wrong? You were sure that the pictures were done with a lot of respect for the subject at hand and often history was made in retrospect.

For Marisa Mell nudity was not a problem neither in film nor in photos as shown in this photo from the 1970 movie "The Great Swinddle" with Stephen Boyd. When the offers for nude photo shootings came in among others from Angelo Frontoni, Marisa Mell was not opposed to it. By the way those photo shoots were easy money - very well payed for little work. In later years, Marisa Mell relied on nude photography to earn a living after her career was at an all time low but not in the mid '70's with Angelo Frontoni. There are two photo shoots which made headlines, the one where she wears her hair in Indian style braids with a red back ground and the other is a photo shoot with Helmut Berger together full frontal naked in bed as a publicity stunt for the movie "La belva col mitra" in 1977. The photo shoot with the Idian style braids went around the world and appeared one way or the other in a lot of magazines starting in Italian "Playboy", then to German "High Society" and then all the way down to local yellow press magazines.

Below you can see three covers of the same photo shoot! Although the covers look alike, when you look closer you can see that they are not and that they are each a little different:

At the end of his life Angelo Frontoni had an enormous back catalogue of photos of stars and starlets from years gone by. These photos were often collected in books and magazines, not always to the delight of some stars which liked to forget that they were ever made.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lady O and Slave of Love (Marisa Mell on Record)

In 1979 the career of Marisa Mell was slowly coming to an end! Her latest succesful movie was "La belva col mitra" in 1977 with lover of that moment Helmut Berger. After this movie the offers were dwindling and she had to accept lesser and lesser movie offers to keep the cash flowing. In most of these movies she played a supporting role. Another way to keep the money coming in and being able to pay for a living was to accept several offers to pose in the nude in second class nude magazine's like "High Society" and other likewise. She hated it to do this but saw no other way to earn a living. Around the same time a german record producer with the name of Ralph Siegel got notice of the bad financial situation of Marisa Mell. Never to let an opportunity go by he offered her a record deal in the hope to cash in on her still well known name in Europe. It was a long shot but worth the risk he tought and maybe she could start a record career. Ralph Siegel was and still is a musician, composer and producer through his record label "Jupiter Records" based in Munich (Germany). The label is a real stable with dozen's of artists under contract. Siegel is best known as the man behind the only German Eurovision Song Contest winning in 1982 by German female singer "Nicole" and her peace song "Ein bisschen Frieden" or "A Little Peace". The song became a huge hit in Europe due to the cold war protest in the Regean era. The song made Ralph Siegel a very wealthy man. Later Ralph Siegel was put into the spotlight in France, Belgium and Luxembourg in face of a contract scandal he made for the two artists "Sophie and Magaly" with their song "Papa Pingouin". It was revealed that Siegel gave only 5000 Euros to each of the sisters, although more than one million records were sold. Ralph Siegel came up with the only 7" single Marisa Mell ever made with the title: "Lady O" as A-side and "Slave of Love" as B-side. The title of the songs are referring to a SM-relationship that Marisa Mell has with her lover for which she would do anything to get his love. The track has the actress begging, in a sexy husky speaking voice due to heavy smoking for many years, to be held down with heavy chains, beaten with sticks, and generally treated like "...your animal in a cage". The story refers to another well known SM-story "Histoire d'O" which was a big cinema hit in that period. The rhythm has an stop-and-go structure and the backing is minimal with just a drumbeat and some burbling synths, plus a chorus. The picture sleeve has Marisa on a motorcycle, wearing a red-black riding jacket. The record was one big farce and was horrible to listen to. It was a bomb and did not sell at all. Afterwards looking back one can only guess that Marisa Mell was very much in dispair to agree to such a monstrocity. Unfortunately she had to do almost anything to earn a living. Fact is that she had high hopes but was very disappointed when the single flopped in the charts and Ralph Siegel dropped her contract. It was the start of the definitive end of her career and the way down would be long and very painful untill the very end of her life!

Through the years the single has become a collector's item for fans of Euro-cult and it's actresses because of it's rarity and oddity. So finding it in good condition is not easy but occassionally the single is on offer on Ebay at a reasonable price.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stunning photo of Marisa Mell (2) - Strike A Pose!

Todays picture in the series "Stunning photo of Marisa Mell" comes this time from one of her two most succesfull films either "Danger: Diabolik!" or "Una sull'altra". It is not very clear from which movie this promotional studio photo is because in each movie she wears the same blond wig! (For more info on the wig see my blog entry "No chemicals on my hair" from July 15th 2008). The picture does not give any more clues to link it to one of the before mentioned movies. The only thing we can tell for sure is that it is a promotional photo from 1968 or 1969. In this photo Marisa Mell wears for that era a rather avant garde sweater and strikes a pose what Madonna would copy more than 25 years later with her choreography for her song "Vogue".

McCall's Magazine

In 1968 Marisa Mell’s career was getting more and more noticed in the public eye on an international level outside of Europe which resulted in a lot of offers. One of these offers was to star in a leading role in an American musical version of the life of the famous WWI-spy “Mata Hari”. The musical was based on a book by Jerome Coopersmith and music by Edward Thomas with lyrics by Martin Charnin. The musical was to open on Broadway in New York after an initial run off-broadway. The name “Marisa Mell” was not yet a household name in America, so the producers found it a good idea that she would appear in a magazine with a high print run that was read by a lot of American women, especially housewifes. The choice of the producers fell on a magazine called “McCall’s Magazine”. McCall's was a monthly women's magazine that enjoyed great popularity through much of the 20th century, peaking at a readership of six million in 1960. The origin of the magazine goes back to 1880. Sadly the magazine disappeared at the beginning of this 21st century due to mergers between publishing companies after some legal battles over it's ownership. But in 1968 the magazine was in good health. What makes this photo shoot so special is that Marisa Mell got the cover of the magazine which is rather exceptional because most of the time the cover model was a well known American women like an actress, model… and she was not but what was even more exceptional was the fact that the photo shoot was a production of 'the' art director of that moment (that moment in time would later become known as the Golden Age of magazine design) the late great Otto Storch. Otto Storch (°Brooklyn-New York, February 15th 1913) was a magazine art director and advertising photographer who introduced an expressive typographic style to women's magazines as part of a revolution in editorial design. He was one of a handful of graphic designers who helped transform and modernize the visual content of American magazines. He belonged to what the graphic design historian Philip Meggs calls the "New York School", a group of editorial and advertising designers who based layouts on unified visual ideas rather than merely embellishing the page with ornamentation. Typical of this approach was a 1961 layout in McCall's for ''The Forty-Winks Reducing Plan,'' in which a picture of a sleeping woman lying on top of the text distorts the text to simulate a sagging mattress. Mr. Storch used a variety of photographic processes to make type twist, turn and vibrate in the days before computers made such special effects commonplace in magazine layout. He also helped revive late 19th-century Victorian wood typefaces, which had been passe for decades, to add graphic impact and contrast to the printed page. Although he later rejected this approach because it had become a cliche, the style is in use to this day. After leaving McCall's in 1969 he opened his own photography studio where he worked on assignments for many commercial clients, including American Express, Celanese, Golden Books, Sunbeam and Volkswagen. Otto Storch died at the age of 86 years on September 29th 1999. The article introduces the American audience to a new European star and what her part will be in the new musical "Mata Hari" on Broadway. Looking back, the article had not much impact on Marisa Mell's career and the musical never got to open on Broadway but that's an entire other story. Finding a mint copy of the McCall's-issue is not an easy task because almost all the issues got a adress label of the subscribers on the left hand side at the bottom of the cover page. Some magazine's have their label removed but they are not mint anymore due to the damage from removing the label or the old glue from the label.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Diabolik - Cronistoria di un Film (Diabolik Club)

This autumn 2008 the Italian based "Diabolik Club" is publishing in Italian (sorry no English version) for its members a book called "Diabolik - Cronistoria di un Film". The book is written by the curator of the club Lorenzo Altariva. He is the guiding force behind the club since more than 10 years and does an excellent job in keeping the club interesting and fun. He is an expert on Italian fumetti's but especially everything regarding Diabolik and his rich history.

Next to the standard quarterly club publication "La Gazetta di Clerville" with all the news regarding Diabolik in Italy and the world, the club gives also annually its members a premium that is not available in stores or on the internet. These premiums in the past were chain keys, cards, special editions of the comic book, ... This year, due to the 40 year anniversary of the movie "Danger: Diabolik!" directed by Mario Bava with John Phillip Law as Diabolik and Marisa Mell as Eva Kant, the club will give this book "Diabolik - Cronistoria di un Film" to their members who are inscribed for the year 2008. The book will be printed in a very limited quantity and will not be available anymore once the initial run has been distributed to its members. Ordering as back order will not be possible. So if you are interested get your copy now by becoming a member of the club for 2008!

You can get more info at:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Stunning photo of Marisa Mell (1)

Marisa Mell was such a stunning beauty that during her career she did a lot of photographic work for covers and layouts on dozens of magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazar, Life, Playboy, Cine Revue, Stern, Photoplay... and many, many more. During the course of this blog some of these stunning photo's will be published. So we start with one of, in my opinion, the most stunning pictures I have ever seen of Marisa Mell and I have seen a lot of great pictures of her. What makes this picture so special? Well, it shows Marisa Mell in the mid '60's during summer time. She is not a young girl any more like in the movie "Am Galgen hängt die Liebe" (1960) nor the sex kitten in Danger: Diabolik! (1968) but something in between both kind of women. Marisa Mell is standing on the banks of a port in a southern country problably somewhere in Italy. She is dressed in a typical flower power suit from that period and her skin tone is rather dark so she already got some sunshine during her stay. She is relaxed and wearing her favorite kind of earrings. Her face, eyes, beauty and wardrobe are in harmony together and create a fascinating picture of the 60's. A natural beauty from a time long gone by when actresses were still actresses of flesh and blood and not plastic empty dolls like today due to overkill on plastic surgery.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Case of the Missing Actress!

Marisa Mell was active in the movie industry from the end of the 50's untill the beginning of the 90's. When you look at her filmography, you see that she played at the end of her career in 1984 in a German movie called "Niemand weint für immer" with former 60's star Elke Sommer and singer Howard Carpendale. The film is also known as "No One Cries For Ever", "Cathy" or "Death Threat". This film is nothing more than a publicity stunt for the German romantic singer Howard Carpendale, who's origins are in South Africa and since more than 40 years a big star in Germany. So the central plot of the movie plays in South Africa and Howard Carpendale is a veterinary and game warden in one of the many animal parks. He falls in love with a mysterious young women played by Zoli Marki. Later in the movie it comes clear that she is a prostitute and Elke Sommer is her "Madame". Hero Howard Carpendale wants to rescue her from the hands of the prostitute ring but in the end she pays a high price for her freedom. Then the movie becomes a revenge movie. So far so good, standard fare, nothing special. When you look at the credits of the movie in the various indexes like Wikipedia, IMDB, Google... the name of Marisa Mell is everytime mentioned as one of the actresses in the movie. And now the "Case of the Missing Actress" kicks in. After seeing the movie, Marisa Mell is nowhere to be found in this film nor in the end credits. At first I thought, due to the boring story of the movie, that I had slept through her part in the movie but after a second viewing the mystery stayed the same. No Marisa Mell to be found in South Africa! This sparkled my curiosity. I started a search on the internet and in other reference material to find more info about her role in this movie. The mystery did not get resolved, just the opposite happened as the mystery got deeper and became a complete question mark. The strange thing is that in each filmography of Marisa Mell on several movie pages, not one page can give you the name of the character she played or what influence her part had in the whole plot. It is very clear that some source started this mystery by mentioning her as an actress in this movie and every other movie reference page and index copied that information without checking if this really was the case. Maybe I could find in some photo references some pictures of the movie with Marisa Mell and some characters but helas those references were also not much of a help. No picture can be found that links Marisa Mell to this movie. So my conclusion is that the movie "Niemand weint für immer" never had Marisa Mell in it's cast. Maybe she was in option to play the part of Elke Sommer but lost it for some, as yet unknown, reason it to her. Who knows??? But I could be wrong!

Can you solve the "Case of the Missing Actress???"

Saturday, August 9, 2008

日本記者予約 Diabolik or Japanese Diabolik Press Book

In a time before the internet the commercial side of marketing a movie was limited. Newspapers and print media played a very important role in getting the message out to the general public. Known properties like James Bond or (sexy) actresses like Brigitte Bardot or Audrey Hepburn were not very difficult to market and find their audience. It became a complete different story when the production company had to sell a movie based on a character in a comic book known as a fumetti in its land of origin Italy. Japan was home of the manga comics with their more than 500 different characters from Akira to Dragonball Z. So there was no need to introduce an another new character like Diabolik in the land of the rising sun. Nevertheless Dino DeLaurentiis sold his movie in 1969 to a Japanese distributor and so the publicity carrousel came into motion. This was necessary because selling Diabolik in Europe was already a difficult task because outside Italy Diabolik was a little known character. So you can imagine that marketing him in Japan with its own huge stable of heroes and superheroes would not be easy if not impossible.

One of the means to get the message out was a classic movie poster and press book. The poster was build around the green money bed scene with parts from the psychedelic and drawn poster with a little clip from the shower scene from a lobby card. Instead of the white Jaguar, type "E" we get the black version on the poster while on western posters the Jaguar is white. The Japanese version of the press book is rather dull. It has a lot of text explaining who Diabolik is and what the film is about. The press book is almost all in black and white. The pictures are standard Diabolik stock pictures as we know them from the European pressbook. Because the Japanese read from right to left the book and photos are put in that order with Diabolik as a first character on the right side and Inspector Ginko as a last character on the left side of the photo series. The actor Michel Piccoli was probably less known in Japan than the Britisch actor Terry Thomas. It is not known in the end if the poster and press book did their job well. I have never heard that the character or movie was quite successful in Japan. Probably Danger: Diabolik! was seen by the Japanese audience as one of the many European spy movies in the wake of the James Bond craze. One thing is for sure after 40 years, finding a mint Japanes press book is rather scarce.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Vizietto all' Italiana or the sexy Italian comedy!

At the end of the '70's the career of Marisa Mell was gradually coming to an end due to bad judgement about choosing the right movies, her liberal lifestyle with drugs, sex and alcohol and bad friends and influences. What had started at the middle of the seventies with roles in dubious films, like "La belva col mitra" with Helmut Berger, was now becoming very obvious. Her bright star was slowly fading away as was her beauty! Her lifestyle was beginning to show fysically. Although Marisa Mell was still a very beautiful women, the marks on her face told another story! She lived in Rome and was used to a rather wealthy way of living but money was drying up as were the better payed roles! Her only option was accepting lesser parts in more questionable movies for lesser money than she used to. Fortunately the name "Marisa Mell" was still meaning something box-office wise in Italy and it neighbouring countries. So she was able to get a part in what is known as the "Italian Sexy Movie". The movie was called "La liceale al mare con l'amica di papa" or in English "The collega girl goes to sea with her father's girlfriend".

The Italian sexy movie is a genre during the 70's like the spiaghetti western, giallo, eurospy or poliziotteschi. The characteristics are always the same: a beautiful (young) girl either discovering her sexuallity (mostly student) or being sexual already mature (mostly doctor, nurse, teacher), some fustrated adults, one beautiful (young) boy and his dumb friend(s), some nuns or priests, the army, school, hospital... and a lot of innuendo. The locadina of these movies are also always the same as you can see by these examples. The girl is always in a sexual situation and in a state of being half undressed. Her underwear is almost always visible and some people are standing around her and looking very surprised at the situation. The locadina always promised more than the movie offered. It's target audience were pubering males. Storywise the story was often so complicated and had no real storyline that at the end of the movie the audience had no idea what the story was about or forgot very quickly it's plotline. The sexy Italian comedies had their own stable or factory of directors, actors and actresses whom appeared again and again in the some roles. You can compare these movies with the "Carry on"-movies in the UK. Directors were for example Nando Cicero, Mariano Laurenti, Michele Massimo Tarantini...; actors like Lino Banfi, Gianfranco D'Angelo, Alvaro Vitali... and actresses like Laura Antonelli, Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet and Gloria Guida.

The movies were made very cheap because their durability was very short in the theaters! Just like the peplums in the 60's the audience went to see these movies on boring sunday afternoons when nothing else could be done! These movies were filmed and shown in a country with Rome as it's capital and seat of Christianity. On one side you have the strong Christian morals like faith, chastity, believing in the devine... and at the other side you have the content of these sexy movies: voyeurism, adultery, exhibitionism, suppressed desires.... All the above elements can be found in the movie "La liceale al mare con l'amica di papa". Different from all the other movies is the main storyline. It does not revolve around the sexy daughter of the house but around the still sexy mother played by Marisa Mell as Violante Castaldi. The storyline of the father with his mistress and his daughter with her sexual awakening play second fiddle to the main storyline. In 1980, the sexy Italian movie genre came to an end. How many times can you recycle a storyline? La liceale al mare con l'amica di papa is regarded as the last movie in the sexy Italian comedy-series.

If you would like to know more about this genre than this link will bring you to a great book with CD: