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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.