For this installment of our regular VHS column, let’s take a look at a real rarity, Mogul Video’s SCANDAL (1971) directed by Sergio Bergonzelli.
Beginning as a sort of mondo-type travelogue highlighted by pictures of various fertility Gods and erotic art, it becomes apparent that Massimo (Gregory Gandolfo), the bane of most teachers at an undisclosed Italian college, is “educating” a few shapely female classmates from the comforts of his bed, which includes Cristiana (played by the alluring blue-eyed Malisa Longo). As his erotic slideshow commences, Massimo informs his guests about Cupid, the “God of Love” who “stoked the flames of love and lust” as Cristiana looks directly into the camera and a cheap video-generated title flashes on the screen.
Along with Massimo, Cristiana seems to be the instigator of protests and other acts of “insubordination” at her college where, to be honest, they don’t spend too much time in the classroom. Enter Professor David Andrei played by ex-spaghetti western vet Glenn Saxson, who vows to try and understand this “undisciplined generation”. Of course, he quickly becomes the talk of the school as Cristiana and her friends lounge around topless, smoke pot and discuss “technicolor trips”. His refined ex-wife Simona (Patricia Reed) also shows up and joins in on the “counter-culture” movement much to David’s dismay, but he is also having a difficult time controlling his “lust” for Cristiana, which begins to get the better of him during a class field trip. However, it isn’t until Cristiana and Massimo decide to seduce David and Simona in the hopes of causing a “scandal” that the situation escalates, especially when Cristiana begins falling for David.
Originally released in Italy as IO CRISTIANA, STUDENTESSA DEGLI SCANDALI, this actually received a US theatrical release under the more salacious title of The SCHOOL OF EROTIC ENJOYMENT. Shot back-to-back with Bergonzelli’s other “Cristiana” film, the marginally better IO CRISTIANA, MONACA INDEMONIATA (also released on VHS by Private Screenings as OUR LADY OF LUST ), SCANDAL is, for the most part, fairly light-hearted stuff highlighted by copious amounts of nudity from most of the female cast. Granted, it’s all quite tame nowadays, but like many similar Italian films, it veers into darker territory when Massimo’s violent leanings begin to manifest themselves. During one of the many typical parties that take place, Massimo initiates a game of Russian roulette with David’s more than game wife Simona, but when one of the girls at the party decides it’s gone to far, he forces her to play as she cries and whimpers in utter fear of possibly putting a bullet in her cranium. Of course, it all turns out to be joke, but the sadistic pleasure he gets from her suffering is just a taste of what’s to come. When Cristiana and David decide to runaway together in typically clichéd fashion (“I’ve never felt so young…” explains David), Massimo and his buddies chase them down on motorcycles and then in an open field, Cristiana is gang-raped. It’s certainly a grim conclusion to what is initially an easy-going film and, while nowhere near as vicious or provocative like the brutal ending to Fernando Di Leo’s similarly themed TO BE TWENTY (1979), it’s still a rather jarring conclusion to a film which, for the most part, plays out like a typical sexy melodrama.
Sergio Bergonzelli was another interesting director that lingered in the lower echelons of Italian exploitation. After directing some early low-budget, but notable, spaghetti westerns including The LAST GUN (1964) with Cameron Mitchell and A STRANGER IN SACRAMENTO (1965) with Mickey Hargitay, Bergonzelli easily adapted to the changing times of the ‘70s, which required a requisite amount of violence and nudity to help sell tickets. His completely off-the-wall sleaze giallo IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH (1970) definitely kick-started his ‘70s phase with a bang, but as the decade progressed, he moved ahead into more erotic films including the above-mentioned CRISTIANA titles as well as La COGNATINA (1975) with Karin Well and the aptly titled PORCO MONDO (1978) to name just a few. In 1988, he directed BLOOD DELIRIUM with John Philip Law and Gordon Mitchell, a highly enjoyable take on Herschell Gordon Lewis’ COLOR ME BLOOD RED (1965), which would make a great DVD or Blu-ray one day. He died on September 24th, 2002 at the age of 78.
Almost impossible to find, Mogul Video’s release of this scarce film is a decent print with relatively stable colours, which tend to look a little washed-out at times, but this may in fact be a product of Tonino Maccoppi’s photography, which actually captures the breezy, seaside town of Ostia (where the film was shot) just outside of Rome quite perfectly.