Before America discovered Sophia Loren, the Italians had already been taking advantage of her onscreen chemistry in a rapid cluster of eclectic films. Loren would spend the second half of the Fifties making largely English-language movies with some of America's most esteemed directors, but if “Too Bad She's Bad” (based on Alberto Moravia's story “Il fanatico”) is a sampling of her pre-Hollywood work, there's some great material just waiting for the DVD domain.
Noted as her first onscreen pairing with up-and-coming Marcello Mastroianni, “Too Bad” is a lively, often insane adventure, exploiting the daily environs of Rome and its countryside through its constantly bickering cast. The minds in charge of the original (non-removable) subtitles clearly gave up early into the film, as big chunks of insults flow past without major captions, and argumentative exchanges are often given rudimentary summations. The vibrancy of the Italian language, however, when delivered with such animosity, ferocity, and physical oomph, makes up for the dated titles.
Ivy Video has found an otherwise good print, with nice black are grey levels, and a clear soundtrack showcasing Alessandro Cicognini's delightful music score. Naturally, the real star of “Too Bad” is Sophia Loren, and her sultry beauty makes it a chore to follow the subtitles at times. Her presence is buoyed by a pair of superb co-stars: Vittorio De Sica (yes, the film director), almost stealing the film as a master criminal with absolutely no shame for his bread-winning schemes (just don't louse up the game plan); and Mastroianni as the poor schnook, whose cab is gradually eroded by increasingly bad karma. Both Mastroianni, Loren, and director Blasetti would re-team the following year for “What A Woman” (“La fortuna di essere donna”).
As with other DVDs in their “Saturday Matinee” series, Ivy Video has included a black & white vintage music short (which can be played separately, or as a lead-in to the feature film), featuring the Rome Symphony Orchestra performing Cimarosa's “Secret Marriage,” and Schubert's “Rosamund.” The musical short is followed by a comedic abstract cartoon, titled “The Slob Story.” Narrated by Hermione Gingold and scored by Harold Seletsky, the colour short is an adult fable, more or less about a sexually active blob who flees the underwater colony with his mate, only to find she fancies another for a threesome. A very cute parable.
An excellent example of a lost treasure, “Wife For A Night” is available separately, or as part of a 3-disc set titled “Italian Babes of Yore,” which also includes “Girl With A Suitcase,” and “Wife for a Night .”
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan