Katrin Talks to Mario Merola


 Katrin Talks to Mario Merola

This interview was first published in Katrin magazine No. 54 October 1979. It is reproduced here translated from the original Italian text.

Love will always be in fashion:

An interview with Mario Merola – Rome: October

For a number of years there has been a phenomenon that has interested both sociologists and the art house crowd in the world of the cinema.

While successful characters like Renato Zero and Amanda Lear, actors deeply rooted in costume drama, return to the fashion of the ‘Sceneggiata’ (see notes), a genre born out of the theatre of the ‘café chantant’. The ‘Sceneggiata’ is a representation of an ancient Neapolitan song in a particular form, where song and recital were founded. It also presents themes of reality, the sceneggiata usually recount stories of love and death which stem from crimes of honour, jealousy and passionate follies.

The most noted interpreter of this musical genre is Mario Merola who last year, with “Zappatore”, managed to affirm himself in the North of Italy where his film broke box-office records. But this is not enough; the popular ‘guappo’ from the sceneggiata is the star of two films centred on the Camorra in Naples. “L’ultimo guappo” and “Il mammasantissima” which have been appreciated by even the toughest of critics. The sceneggiata therefore, isn’t an outdated form, but can also draw in the attention of younger audiences, albeit with some reservations.

Corpulent, sympathetic, with the air of a successful man, Mario Merola is a singular personality who is worth getting to know, even if his records probably won’t get played on the hit parade. A man like this doesn’t need to explain himself in intellectual circles, as many critics have tried to do. According to us, to comprehend the world of the ‘king’, who faithfully respects the spirit of the sceneggiata; it’s better to just listen to him. Here is how he responded to our questions:

Do you think the sceneggiata is a genre which has superseded the theatre?

Merola : Are you kidding? People run to see my films all over Italy, this means they like sceneggiata . On the stage people still act out stories of love and death which will never fall out of fashion. The sceneggiata is life: You just have to turn the pages in a newspaper and read the crime reports to realise this is reality. Men who kill their rivals out of jealousy, women being cheated, injustices left unpunished. I am not an intellectual. I speak with a Neapolitan dialect, but I understand “Pammore” (amore/love) is an eternal sentiment that can push us to commit foolish actions. I don’t know how to say it in English, but I think the person who wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’ also thought like me.

Apart from love, what other themes occur in sceneggiata?

Merola: My films also talk about important social problems, like the drama of the immigrants living in strange countries who cannot adapt the problem of the exploitation of prostitution, contraband and violence in general. Too often, and in particular in the south, there is born a disinterest and ignorance.

You speak well for someone who doesn’t consider themselves an intellectual.

Merola: I am not an intellectual, but I am also not stupid. I didn’t go to university, but I went around the world and I learnt many things from experience that are worth far more than hundred thousand books. Sure, I’ve walked a long path! When I was a boy I used to load up the ships at the port. I remember, I used to wash the hold and I saw the world from reverse while I swabbed the decks. I was so poor I was engaged to my wife for thirteen years.

How did you become successful?

Merola: I knew how to sing, so, one day, I built up the courage and presented myself to an impresario. I re-launched the sceneggiata with a song called “A ciurara” (La Fioraia/The Florist) It was appreciated straight away, without any false modesty I think I know why. On the stage I live the emotions of my characters. The tears that come out are real and so pure and so authentic the emotions I feel in certain moments. I give my audience all of myself.

Do you appreciate your Neapolitan colleagues who don’t work in the same genre, like Peppino Di Capri and Massimo Ranieri?

Merola: Yes, but they don’t seem to express the true Neapolitan spirit. They follow the trends and are successful. I am happy for them. I am close to Ranieri because I’ve known him since he was a little boy. He comes from a poor family and he would often come and eat in our home. When I got married he gave a (wedding) packet to my wife. Even Ranieri has tackled the sceneggiata in “Napoli notte e giorno (Naples night and day) for Viviani and the director Patroni Griffi. They were all good but Naples is something else.

Who is the most extraordinary person you have met in your career?

Merola: I remember, with some emotion, my meeting with Toto. He came to assist my production and then he came home with me, begging me to sing my songs for him in private. He was a good man, aside from being a great artist.

What do you think of Sofia Loren, another celebrity from Naples?

Merola: To be honest, Sofia Loren was born in Pozzuoli. However, it is around these parts. What can I say? She’s a great woman.

Do you like young women?

Merola: You should ask them yourself! However, many of them come to see my films. A girl told me once; “Mario…” She said, “To get to the theatre, I had to pawn my gold bracelet because I didn’t have enough money to pay for the ticket.”

What do you think of feminism?

Merola: I mind my own business, and I don’t criticise others. In my mind, however, men and women are different and they can’t exchange ideas, let alone clothes.

Are you knocking women wearing trousers?

Merola: If a woman is beautiful, then she’s beautiful even with tights, but I prefer skirts. If she has good legs then they should be covered up. In Naples they say “A roba bella s’ha da fa’ vedere” (Good things don’t need to be seen…)

Don’t you feel a little old fashioned?

Merola: No, I live a happy life with my wife and our children. We have six in all because I adopted three orphans. My films are successful and I travel the world always collecting new experiences. I don’t feel like I am living the life of an old man.

Could you allow us one indiscretion: Are you a faithful man?

Merola: Certain questions shouldn’t be asked to a married man.

Would you forgive your wife if she betrayed you physically or spiritually?

Merola: Absolutely not. I believe in absolute faith. I don’t make a distinction between the physical and the spiritual. There’s no point talking about it, it’s all just talk.

(Translated exclusively for lovelockandload by ‘The Weeble that wobbled and fell down’ 16th August 2008)

*Notes explaining the ‘sceneggiata’ – excerpt from ‘Crime Naples Style: The Guapparia Movie’ by Roberto Curti, the full text of which can be found at the link at the bottom of the page.

The roots of the new hybrid (which could be roughly translated as “guapparia movie”) lie in the so-called “sceneggiata”, a form of play that belongs in the Neapolitan tradition and is characterized by a strong melodramatic component as well as a tragic fatalism: both lead to a final, emotionally powerful catharsis. Songs are an integral and binding part of “sceneggiata,” and constellate the narration in its various parts, while the social environment in which stories take place is that of the “guapparia,” the Neapolitan underworld. The hero is the “guappo,” a good gangster with strong moral values (family and honor) while the villain (“’o malamente” – literally “he who [acts] badly”) is a grim, unfair adversary who tries to seduce the protagonist’s woman or to soil his reputation. “Sceneggiata” is an enclosed universe, where love and hate seem to be part of a natural order not unlike life and death: always absolute, complete, desperate.

Cinema Blue Talks to Max Pecas


Cinema Blue Talks to Max Pecas

This interview was first published in Cinema Blue No. 5 circa 1976. It is reproduced here as published.

Now meet the writer-producer-director of ‘Felicia’ and ‘Obsessions’, the man who has created his own legend and high-interest export style in soft-core sex films since the French Fifties, and who is now showing the amateur French porno-ists how it should be done.

Interview by Tony Crawley.

Would you ever let your stars make love – really copulate – in your films ?

Max Pecas: Yes, I would. In certain circumstances…

Mme. Pecas: Jamais! Never!

Max Pecas: Oh yes. But only for beauty. I never deal in the vicious… But in France, you know, it is known among some of us that in two or three important films, some big directors have their actresses making love really…

Mme. Pecas: No, Max! Really…?

Max Pecas: And I do mean very important No. 1 directors… and I do mean one very famous actress indeed. But no names, eh?

– Cinema X interview, 1972

Four years later and they’re all doing it. Fucking on film. Well, not the very important No. 1 names, perhaps. Not just yet. But porno has definitely arrived in France. Porno is definitely being made in France – definitively in certain stratas – and selling tres bien, merci indeed to the United States. Back in Paris, however, war is being waged upon the French pornographers. By the very government whose cessation of screen censorship created the porno niche. Giscard’s boys are a little late. The so called hard-core revolution is all but over. Porno has levelled out. It is accepted. By those who dig it, want it, or can take it or leave it. By those who don’t, including the loud-voiced hypocritical handful, and in France there’s an awful lot of handfuls of hypocrisy. And, of course, it’s also accepted, eagerly, as if a licence to print blue banknotes, by just about everyone who thinks he, she or it can make a feature.

First call I make during any film researching visit to Paris is to Max Pecas, in his smart office suite just up Escalier B in a Champs Elysees office block. Max is patron, producer, scenarist, director and chief salesman, for his own highly lucrative production combine, Les Films du Griffon. A regular king of the soft-core sex circuit, since first following Vadim’s BBreakthrough lead and getting ’em off and getting it on in the late 50s. For my franc, Max is also the fella who influenced Russ Meyer’s switch from daffy, beach ball bouncy comedy nudies to heavy sex-dramaturgy. The Pecas influence on Radley Metzger is also more than apparent. Metzger used one of Max’s finest acting finds, Anna Gael, in his Paris made ‘Therese and lsabelle’ hit, and is now using Max’s first porno star, the delicious Beatrice Harnois, in his latest slice of the Big Apple blues…


 Naturally enough, given his erotic line of work, there have been many women in Max’s life. All on the screen though. He insists that none could bewitch him more than his career. This began in 1959 when arriving in Paris from a brilliant university career in the South, where he hails from. Max, for instance, is the guy who found and made an instant BB-copy star out of West German blonde and former London au pair, called Elke Scheltz. That was in his second film, ‘Daniela By Night’, and its follow-up, ‘Douce Violence’, in 1960. And that was Elke Sommer that was. She shot over to Hollywood and has been sheer winter ever since.

Pecas went on and found a host, indeed a considerable horde of other like-lookers, like legged and like breasted (bare, of course) wind up sex dollies for his fans to euphemistically suckle upon. Few ever made it to the big time. Their shapes are more remembered than their names. They steamed pretty good, though during the warm French 60s. Sophie Hardy, very much a ’64 French Monroe lookalike in ‘Le baie du desir’; ex-Playboy centrefold Donna Michelle, removing everything, staples included, to make it in ‘La nuit la plus chaude’. Denise Rolland and Madeleine Constant, two Pecas regulars ever since, arrived as two of the ‘Cinq filles en furie’, in 1963. Pecas films rarely had just the one leading nude lay – Fabienne Dali, Marie-France Mignal, Nicole Merouze were the other trois in this one. Marie-Christine Weill was the hot ’66 offering in ‘Lapeur et le desir’ with Vera Valmont as the other bird…

‘Stars,’ goes the Pecas philosophy, ‘I don’t like. I make stars. I don’t use them. I like virgins, you set. That is, of course, virgins of the cinema.’ Pause for one swift chorus of Cherry Ripe, Cherry Ripe and we’ll continue…

Hungarian born Anna Gael, superbly succulent, now Britain’s Lady Weymouth, wife of the heir to the Marquis of Bath, turned up and on – mais oui – in ‘Espions a Vaffu’t; so did Claudine Coster. And as the 70’s clicked into a continua­tion of the full-frontal shape, Max developed the winsome vulnerability and erotic appeal of the young Sandra Jullien in ‘Je suis une nymphomane’, and a kind of an about face sequel, ‘Je suis frigide… pourquoi?’ Another German find, Astrid Frank, starred in ‘Les Liaisons particulieres’, with Nicole Debonne. Chantal Arandelle Club Privee, which also boasted Anne Libert, the girl known as the porno-BB even then, three years before French porno arrived. And it was Valerie Boisgel, Danny Danyel and Tania Busselier living it up with call-boys in ‘Sexually Yours’.

All of which, you’ll have to agree, makes Max Pecas a good man to check out the current French screen scene with. Any current French scene! Besides, he always keeps a brown, stone bottle of Dutch export Jonge Jenever tucked away in one corner of his office fridge, just for me. Xclusive, you might say. A stab at his telephone buttons, some rapid French to his secretary next door, and the bottle is on his desk almost before the stills of his newest productions, and we sit back and do our best to understand each other’s franglais as we check out… well what’s new in booze and broads.

 While he had to deal with a phone call, I found myself studying the stone bottle more closely than usual. The 35% proof De Kuyper booze came, so the label attested, with ‘the certification of Purity, Quality and Merit of the Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene, London’. Much the same could be said of Les Films du Griffon. More sensual than raunchy, upper middle-class scenarios, middle-age dreams of just above teenage moppets – of how sex should have been for the mid-age viewer, if only.

They’re easy to mock (as, in fact, José Bénazéraf loves to do), but they sell up a storm abroad, no matter what happens to the titles. As I write, a British distributor – who should be nameless! – is thinking of releasing ‘The 1001 Perversions of Felicia’ as ‘The Indiscretions of a School­master’… akin to re-naming ‘Lolita’ as ‘Humbert’. Not that you can disguise a Pecas movie that way. His work has a familiar look to it (he mistook ‘familiar’ for a reference to his family; he now has two sons working for him on his set. Michel, 30, is his editor, and Marc, 22, his second-assistant director).

All Pecas films, old and new, have what is called these days, the ‘Emmanuelle’ look. Max found it first. Plenty of rich gloss and trappings. Simply splendid women. Pretty (too pretty) leading men. Lots of pink and red hues’ to the sex scenes. All a trifle unreal then. Matching the usually bourgeosie folk he has experimenting with all manner of sexual games. Today such games have to be for real in the French sex film business. And, Max, like any film maker worth his colossal export sales ledger, is keeping up with modern traits and demands. ‘To say that I’m very happy about the arrival of pornographic would not be very true. But one must, all the same, live with one’s time.’

And vie a la mode nouveau is pretty damned good. Hot as hell. Real raunchy, for once. ‘Felicia’ and ‘Obsessions’ are two porno features of a distinctly Radley Metzger class. And who can say better than that. In the title role of Felicia, Beatrice Harnois is Lolita in the living (fucking / sucking) flesh, making the Big Apple family look like arthritic geriatrics. And there’s a swimming pool fellatio scene that beats almost anything Radley Metzger managed to scorch the screen with in terms of sexual beauty and erotic bliss in Pamela Mann. Rebecca Brooke (a Euro-pseudonym for a Metzger star, incidentally) sits above an underwater pool light at one point, with the soft focus glare illuminating every fair fringe and majora and minora of her vivacious vulva. Thereafter, she floats on the water, legs apart, as co-star Jean Roche swims into place and sucks at where the water laps most. Later, bien sur, positions are reversed. A stunning spectacle. ‘And shot in 16mm,’ says Pecas. ‘But I defy anyone to notice the change from 35mm to 16mm.’ As if anybody bloody cares . . .

 Both of Max’s new movies, his true bleu debuts in fact, are terrific. But then, he had, no doubt, experimented earlier, shooting export-only hard-core footage for his earlier French triumphs… Mais non, he never had, and he’s not about to juice them up that way now, either. Until 1975, if actresses had fucked in French movies, it wasn’t in Pecas films.

If his new movies are good, and oui, he readily agrees that they are, it’s all a matter of experience and professionalism. ‘Felicia I made in two versions. Soft and hard. It is, in both, always a love story. A petite fleuer bleue romance. Obsessions, which is not my own story for once, I have merely adapted it for the screen, is far more a complete exercise in hard-core. And an experi­ment in a way. I wanted to say: Voila! Here’s how it should be done. Made in a few days, yes, okay – two weeks. But still with quality.

Too many people here, they say you can make pornographie with a little budget. And fast. Well, I don’t know how to make films with a low budget. And I don’t want to. That is to sacrifice certain qualities. ‘Obsessions’ may be complete hard­core, but it has all the quality that is associated with my films, non? All the beautiful dresses and decors. All my good crew – 20 technicians or more. To get such quality on screen, believe me, you have to pay for it.’

Cue enough for the obvious query. What does Max Pecas, recently hailed to his lasting amusement as the father of the French sex film industry, what does Papa think of the average French porno ? Not, it seemed, one hell of a lot. Apart from the proven successes, ‘Exhibition’ and ‘Pussy Talk’, it’s all rip-off time. With cinema itself as the maimed victim.

‘For years, we’ve tried – I’ve tried and others with me – to open the door, little by little. Now, suddenly, people have burst open the door. Not in a good way. Just for the money. Everybody tries to make erotic – well, porno – films because they think that for just a few dollars they can earn a million. Completely false! Cinema is a very expensive profession. One cannot make miracles, great movies with little money. It is simply not possible. People are proving that every day, non ?


 ‘So the majority of porno films, are poor. Because the actors entering this new game aren’t actors at all. The technicians aren’t technicians. The direc­tors aren’t directors. And the producers – well, I don’t even like to call them producers… None of them are professional. Amateurs! They don’t understand the first thing about cinema. That cinema is a distraction. The basis of a good film is a good story. One tells a story, one gives spectacle to the people. Our porno films miss this point entirely. Everyone’s too busy rushing ahead, breaking their necks as we say, trying to be first to show this, that – everything! To put in as much as possible in their films. Sex, that is. Not story. Never a story. They mistake cinema for a money making machine ‘They forget – well, perhaps they don’t even know – that cinema is a profession. If I decided tomorrow to launch a rocket to the moon, I would not know how, and I would cause a lot of trouble and probably great harm. I exaggerate a little, perhaps, but that is what these people, these amateurs are doing to our cinema.’

Sour grapes as the kids have cottoned on to Papa’s brass ring? Not quite. There’s a lot of truth in the Pecas declaration. The harm has been caused, and that is why the French government are step­ping in with their heavy new taxes on porno movies – to stifle the shamateur smut pedlars, fouling the good name of French sex. In the meantime, everyone suffers.

Pecas is not all denunciation, however. He understands the amateurs and sees some hope from their efforts, however much he detests their lack of film craft. ‘I say a lot against them, but I don’t hold it against them. Maybe it is normal that the people starting the French porno cinema recently were not people from within the industry. They are, if you like, similar to the pioneers we, the French and the English, sent to our colonies. Hardly the cream of society. Just anybody. Yet they created our colonies, our ex-colonies, for us. So yes, the porno cinema is rather like that. A banc d’essai for a lot of people who’d like to make films, have never done so before and don’t know how it is done. Little by little, they’ll be eliminated by the new tax. Then, the professionals only will make the films. So, well, all right, it might be thanks to them, these amateurs, that we will be able to make quality porno films later on.’

What means quality to Max Pecas? Everything! First, the subject, the scenario; then the actors, technicians; finally a good director to meld it together. A good director with a bad story never made a good picture, he maintains; though a bad director with a good story, can have a passable movie.

Actors rate high with Max, unlike his huge rival across town, on the other side of the Etoile, José Bénazéraf. Acting in porn is boring – that’s José’s philosophy. ‘Bodies are what’s requiied. Souls. Strength.’


 Pecas, though, cast both his porn openers with profession­als. Not that it’s easy to find them, far more difficult than simply chatting up actresses to strip in his earlier erotic fare. ‘When porno started to see the light here, it was done with people who weren’t actors as I say. Just boys and girls accepting to do some hard­core. I manage to obtain actors because as I also keep on saying, it always comes down to the same thing – how good is the story? A good scenario will interest good actors.’

And stars? What big French stars will maybe enter the porno stakes? ‘I doubt if any will agree. First of all, we don’t have any great stars in France now. By stars, I mean names. We have nobody today. There was Brigitte Bardot, of course. Since then there has been another Brigitte Bardot and another… Anyway porno is not in the mentality of the Latins. I think. In America, I have seen very good’ quality actors accepting some hard. It does not hurt their career. They make hard, then a Western, maybe a thriller a comedy. In France, well, throughout Europe, the stars are more catalogued. And they’re afraid to do porno.’

How about the stars Max made, would they have ac­cepted porn if that was around when he discovered them? ‘Never! Elke Sommer – no, never! Sophie Hardy, non! For the same reason, I do not envisage adding new hard-core scenes to my recent films. Take Je suis nymphomane, for example. Sandra Jullien and the other actors, they would never agree to it. Well, you know that…’ (True enough. Sandra Jullien once told me it was the actress’ job to make simulated sex appear real. And that’s all she would do. Certainly she would never fuck forthecamera. ‘Iam an actress, not an animal!’)

‘That film worked very well,’ added Max. ‘But if released today – nothing! Everything has changed. Terribly. And if porno is required, we must do it well. Good stories. Again I say it!

Max sees no vast threat from Giscard and company, once the dust has settled. ‘The politic of the government is a liberty of expression. But that does not mean you can throw anything on the market. That has been happening, which is why the government takes these harsh measures, to eliminate those people who do not understand the profession they are meddling with. So if you want my position today, yes, I’m going to continue in erotic cinema, perhaps even porno-graphique. But of quality, always. For the moment though, I wait. Now it is too hot. One must let all this cool down a bit, to see clearly…’

Thus speaks the writer-producer-director with two very hot cakes in his porno distribution oven. He can afford to rest. Meanwhile, what of his wife, who had been so earnestly shocked four years before when hearing that a certain important actress did actually fuck in her likewise major movies? How does Mme. Pecas view hubby’s new bleu wares like Felicia? ‘It’s business!’ said Max. ‘My wife thinks it is a professional matter. She knows, she understands it’s business. So there is no problem.’

As for his sons, I bet they’re tickled . . . bleu.

Cinema Blue Talks to Beatrice Harnois

Cinema Blue Talks to Beatrice Harnois

This interview was first published in Cinema Blue No. 5 circa 1976. It is reproduced here as published.

 As proof positive of her indisputable talents, Beatrice has worked for every major director of the new Paris porno circuit. From the new King, Jean-Francois Davy, in both Exhibition, and the movie it grew out of, ‘Les pornocrates’ (Top Shots) plus the other successful Gallic export to the States, Claude Mulot’s ‘Pussy Talk’, to the top two veterans in town, Jose Benazeraf and Max Pecas. The reason they all sign her is as simple as her porno-gimmick. She can handle acting as eminently well as cock. Feast then, your eyes. And your ears. . .

Yeah, feast your eyes… All hail Harnois, the hard-core princess (too young, too tender, to be queen) of the best of the fledgling Paris blues. Harnois. . . hard­core. The words are close enough. Extremely compatible in action. She may want to quit the scene, but for now you’ll not find anyone, male or female, more de­finitively joyful in open sex-play than the bewitching Beatrice. Which is why New York is calling upon her impeccable services…


There is a moment mid-way through ‘Pussy Talk’, when one tires of the Franco-serious approach to this tale of a talking women’s lib pussy, up­braiding hubby for his lazy fucking, and where when one is even slightly bored with the swinging melon-breasts and similarly heavy (if ever open) thighs of leading lady Penelope Lamour. It is at that precise second that the pussy recounts its early sex-life and the heroine’s randy youth is en­acted in graphic flashbacks by Beatrice Harnois. . .

I congratulate director Frederic Lansac (Claude Mulot to family and friends). His timing is absolute perfection. So is Beatrice Harnois. Her arrival saves the movie. A revelation, she is. A succulent little honey. Why, even that whoariest of porny loop standbys, the schoolmaster screwing a pupil, takes on glossy new vistas when petite Beatrice is the seducer. As Variety’s chief porno critic, Frank Segers, noted in New York, Beatrice alone is worth half the price of admission.

I couldn’t agree more. Same goes for all her hot films.

So forget Claudine Beccarie. If you can, she’s in just about every blue film in Paris, par­ticularly the worst. Forget Penelope Lamour (ex-Claudine Giret), however fulfilling she is during the rest of Pussy Talk. Forget even Frederique Barral, a stunner in ‘Exhibition’, Lasse Braun’s ‘Sensations’ and Benazeraf’s ‘Les deux gouines’ (with Beatrice). Forget them all. Because Beatrice Hamois, 20 going on 16, leaves them standing. She is the best actress, and I underline actress, in French hard-core.

She is petite. Tres petite. Exactly 1m 54cm. tall. And staggers into our date on the highest heels she can buy. The round little head is wrapped in a woolly cap. Every­thing else is typically Paris youth: blouson and jeans. The face is familiar somehow

Hours before I twig it: there’s a lot of Maria Schneider about her. Facially. Super-facially, if you will. Beatrice though, is one girl who can cope with her image and her inherent sexuality. Sure, she’s had lovers. And of both sexes. But there’ll be no misfortunes and a cried-off career for her, even if she does aim to quit porno this year.

On-screen she is Lolita and Candy incarnate. In the living, balling, rolling, fucking, sucking, swallowing, groaning, orgasming flesh. The biggest natural turn-on-treat in sight. By comparison, La Beccarie is what she really is. A nice enough looking chick, using her body to furnish a home and a future, and never seeming to enjoy her work, her sex, at all. The bigger sensation to come this year, Sylvia Bourdon (Beatrice’s co-star in ‘Candice Candy’) is something else again. Older, and living to the fullest the exact life she ‘plays’ on-film, a complete hedonist, and more vicious than agreeable in her sex games.

Beatrice, then, has the field to herself. Not that she craves it. Or wants it. Having worked through the list of all the worthwhile directors, she’s ready to quit swinging the blues. ‘Tis a pity. . . Radley Metzger in New York has her in his latest project. If he ever finishes it, that, says Beatrice, will be zat.


 ‘My trouble is being a beginner in movies just as the porno period began. My first film was, ‘ow you say eeet? Straight? Erotique, yes. But kept to le minimum. So it did not do well, of course. They decide to add some sex. Well, okay, some porno. They call me back and alors. . . If from the start one has signed a contract to do certain things, and if it happen one is asked to do something extra, then one does it, non? I felt obliged to agree. Since then, porno is all that is being made. Or all that is offered me. I don’t really like le hard-core.’

Sure doesn’t look that way, I had to tell her. ‘Mais alors, I am acting, non? I can never get what you say, excited, shooting the sex. No, the ambience is very good, never clinical. But I cannot get. . . carried off. . . away. . . by the sex. I am just pretending. I can’t do anything else. But I do it, if I have signed to do it. And I try to do it well, oui? Because I want the work. I was young, a beginner. I required experience in films, compris? I need that. I also, of course, needed the money. But now I have reached the stage where I must stop. Five porno films last year, that’s enough.

‘My boyfriend never goes to see my films. Except for one. Well, he was the publicity man on the first film I make. This one he was obliged to see. He’s not exactly jealous, but he does not like me doing these films. Nor do I. But I give up for me. Not for him. I wish to be what I set out to be. An actress. Erotic films? Mais oui. Okay. But no more ze pornographic my agent is helping me to find more. . . straight?. . . films. I’ve been talking to director Yves Boisset about ‘Line meurtriere’/’Murderess’, for example.’

She has to finish the Metzger film, first, though. When we met, she’d just returned to Paris after only two days of Big Apple exteriors and a day inside, on a set for a two-girl set-to. ‘Problems began and it’s postponed for about two months now. The story— funny scenario!—is a young French girl, about 16, arriving in New York, a bit lost, until meeting this man who becomes her tutor. He teaches her all the joys of sex. But for him, sex is mechanical. No feeling! So she, in turn, teaches him: there is more to sex than sex. L’amour, pour exampel. They fall in love and we see all their sexual scenes, bien sur, and then. . . well, she becomes a prostitute for him.

‘Ironique, non? Because many people say porno-acting is prostitution. For me, it’s not likethe prostitution in the streets. But, oui, a girl does prostitute herself—sell herself —in these films all the same. She is being paid to do sexual things, non?’


 In France, her favourite film is ‘The 1001 Perversions of Felicia’, directed by Max Pecas. It’s also Beatrice’s first top-starring role and she’s succulence personified as the young Australian schoolkid seducing a married couple. First the wife, then hubby; finally both together!

Felicia is, oui, 14, I think. She has problems, non? A bit sauvage. She finds every­thing shitty, boring. She is sly, cunning, perverted. Hurts people on purpose. Deep in­side, she might have some good. . . I’ve only seen certain sections of the film, but I love it because. . . well, because of Max. If anything goes wrong, he never gets angry, just calls me into a corner and explains things. Very patient. A gentle­man, non? Sure, a lot of sex in the film—in the hard version, anyway. For once there was a good story, too. Plausible. The other films I make, they cut half the story, leaving a film with no coherent storyline, only close-ups of cunts and cocks. I don’t like this’.

More male chauvinism than plausibility, I suggested, that a schoolkid of 14 seduces a married couple? ‘Well, okay, I don’t think that in real life, a girl of 14 would stay with .some of her mother’s friends and make love with both of them. Ha, ha! All this is cinema. What I mean about the story is that, on-screen, it works, non ?’

That it does. Due to Beatrice’s performance as the bad-tempered little bitch of a kid. Horny as hell, she looks an engenue. With the devil in her soul. Vice in her blood. A portrait from life,

‘What, me like zat. Jamais! Never! At 14, I was still in my convent boarding school. I did not know about sex. It was not until I left school— at 16 — that I made love for the first time. Since then, oui, many men. I don’t know the number. And yes, some girls too. In the films, of course. And sometimes in threesomes with my boyfriend. I prefer les hommes. Impossible to explain. I am just less obsessed by women. But sure, I love sex. Why not ? I adore soixant-neuf, et a!.’

Cinema X Talks to Edwige Fenech

Cinema X Talks to Edwige Fenech

Interview by Luigi Cozzi

This interview was first published in Cinema X (Vol.3 number 3) circa 1970 and re-printed in Cinema X ‘Super-X Special’ No. 4. It is reproduced here as published.

It’s not everyone’s luck to be born on Christmas Eve. But it happened to actress Edwige Fenech. The date which appears on her passport is December 24 th , 1948, and that makes her twenty-two years of age.

Twenty-two gorgeous years, may I add. Edwige Fenech is tall and slender, moves with grace and elegance and exudes class and culture to a remarkable degree. She lives in Rome , where a short time ago she moved.

“It was a talent scout who invited me to Rome ”, Edwige Fenech tells me, speaking Italian easily and correctly in a sweet, melodious French accent. “I took part in a Miss Universe contest as the representative from France and attracted some attention. I was asked to come to Italy to live and try to get somewhere in movies, and I accepted. At this point I’m very happy I came”

Luigi Cozzi: “But hadn’t you already done some work in the French cinema?”

Edwige Fenech: “No. I had just had a few jobs as a photographer’s model and had also done some bits in the theatre. The theatre has always been my passion, and I hoped to be successful at it one day. But the cinema came along instead, and I ended up here… I’m happy about it, however, because a whole new world has opened up to me – much vaster than the theatre. After all, that’s what films are all about, isn’t it?

LC: “Have you been in Italy long?”

EF: “Three years. It’s a very beautiful country – in fact, I would say that Rome is the most beautiful city in the world”

LC: “Where is your family from?”

EF: “I come from Nice, just like my parents. I often go there to visit them, but when I can’t get away, my mother comes down to see me. Mama is often here in Rome with me. She helps me, keeps me company and has a good time, because Rome is a wonderful city”

LC: “What do your parents think of the career you have chosen to follow? You have made ‘For Adults Only’ type pictures for the most part. Wearing just the bear essentials”

EF: “They are happy at the present time and satisfied with what I have been able to do. They know it has been a hard, uphill road for me, and what success I have had has been gotten the hard way. You know, acting with almost all your clothes off doesn’t shorten the road to the top. All actresses take their clothes off nowadays, but only a few get there and stay there. I feel I have arrived, and my mother is very happy about it”

LC: “But don’t you feel embarrassed about getting undressed on the set?”

EF: “Oh, it’s terrible. Especially the first times on the early films… I didn’t know how to behave and I was frightfully ashamed. Then I resigned myself to it, rather I got used to it… after all these are things you have to do in the movies whether you like it or not. The public demands it. Certainly it’s never pleasant to disrobe in front of so many technicians and fellow actors. I always have the feeling, when I get dressed again, that they are still looking at me as if I had nothing on. And I don’t even want to talk about what happens in the theatres where they show my pictures… I went to see MADAME BOVARY again in a first run film theatre, and I turned as red as a beet when I saw myself naked on the screen. Meanwhile the audience began to get noisy and exchange unprintable remarks”

LC: “However, this always happens, in all movies, whenever an actress undresses. Italians as an audience are warm and expressive”

EF: “Yes, but it’s not always like that. That picture (MADAME BOVARY) really upset me, but when I saw the scene with the nude buttocks in SOLDIER BLUE, I noticed that the public remained perfectly calm, wasn’t noisy and made no remarks”

LC: “Well, excuse me, but that’s not a very appropriate example. Candice Bergen didn’t have much to do, erotically speaking, in that scene… if that pair of buttocks was really hers. It was a touch of humour more than anything else, with the wagon jolting along and the couple plastered together like slices of salami… in 500 MILLION HIT ON THE NATIONAL BANK, Ursula Andress is nude from beginning to end, but everything is done with such grace and finesse that the picture has not even been prohibited for minors of fourteen years of age. MADAME BOVARY is, on the other hand, more obvious, laying the emphasis on physical eroticism. When the leading lady emerges topless, I think the explosion on the part of the audience is quite understandable”

“Perhaps”, agrees Edwige Fenech with an embarrassed smile. Just talking about this scene makes her blush spontaneously. “I realise it’s not a good film, but I also know that doing the role helped me a great deal in that it introduced me to the public by exploiting what I had to offer physically. All in all, I owe a lot of my present success to it”

LC: “Will you continue to accept these sex-kitten roles?”

EF: “If possible, no. At least, if the sex sequences are motivated and justified by the demands of the plot and aesthetic considerations, then I would say yes. But I shall say no absolutely to a picture which presents sex for sex’s sake with no other justifications”

LC: “How many pictures have you made so far?”

EF: “Eighteen I believe. Yes, I’m not very satisfied with them, but I must admit they have all been important for getting me before the public and catapulting me up to where I am now. Now I am preparing myself to enter the second stage of my career, and I really would like to make a success with my talent and acting gifts rather than just with my beauty. I’m counting a great deal on a film I’ve just finished making, THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARD, directed by Sergio Martino on the scenario of a thriller by Ernest Gastaldi. I adore suspense films and think this one in particular is very beautiful, full of chills and special effects.

LC: “What films are your favourites?”

EF: “SOLDIER BLUE, CROMWELL and THEY SHOOT HORSES DON’T THEY? Are the first ones which come to my mind. I adore Richard Harris as an actor as well as a man. I think he’s great, magnificent – he makes me dream with my eyes open”

LC: “Leaving the cinema aside for a moment, what are your preferences in life?”

EF: “I lead a tranquil, sheltered life. I have a few friends – boys who go to university – solid citizens. I like music too and almost always listen to pop records – Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding. However, when I’m alone and sad, I prefer to listen to classical music: it’s more relaxing”

LC: “Do you live alone?”

EF: “I live in an apartment… which I must change, because I’m alone when my mother’s not here. Do you know that thieves have tried to break in here twice? Now I’m looking for a new apartment in a safer area. It’s the only thing to do, don’t you think?”