|70's sun, sex and intrigue for Pietro (Juan Luis Galiardo) in Juan Logar's TWO MALES FOR ALEXA.|
As any aficionado of the giallo will know there are several, let’s call them subgenres, within the body of films generally known as the giallo. In many ways the giallo consist of a multicoloured kaleidoscope of disparate structures, motifs and styles, yet are unmistakably identified as giallo to those in the know. The more gialli you see the more films will be sucked in to the vortex of the giallo universe by association. When you are into the hundreds it’s no longer as simple as black gloved sex maniacs stalking young women in side-alleys of Italian cities. From the sophisticated social commentary of the thrillers of Elio Petri to downright euro sleaze and soft-core porn the giallo is sometimes too disparate to be considered a genre in the academic sense of the word, and generally should be seen as a series of films which stem from the same counter cultural undergrowth of the Italian pulp fiction known as fumetti neri. I won’t dwell on the fascinating underbelly of Italian 60’s culture, suffice to say these adult comics together with cheap whodunits in yellow covers rose in circulation all through the 60’s until the giallo film inescapably established itself as a veritable staple of the Italian movie screens in the early 1970s, popularized by directors like Dario Argento and Sergio Martino.
TWO MALES FOR ALEXA is a case in point. It’s unmistakably a giallo, but it’s nothing like a Dario Argento thriller. It uses several of the structural and thematic elements of the giallo but spins a yarn quite unlike any proto-slasher movie. If anything, it balances on the fine line between experimental art house and exploitation trash, and paints a dark picture of ambition, jealousy and sex in beautiful continental settings set to the tune of a happening Hammond organ soundtrack.
The film opens with aerial shots of Paris to the aforementioned groovy soundtrack and quickly cuts to the action. The action being Alexa (Rosalba Neri) invading a Normandy beach via speed boat to indulge in some sandy sex with speedo clad Latin lover Pietro (Juan Luis Galiardo). Meanwhile trouble is brewing back at the house where Lord Ronald Marvelling (Curd Jürgens of later Bond villain fame), Alexa’s wealthy silver fox husband, is clutching a pistol contemplating his actions between quite generous helpings of J&B.
|Ronald Marvelling (Curd Jürgens) enjoys a spot of J&B whisky.|
In another part of France worry is mounting as Lord Marvelling’s daughter Catherine (Emma Cohen), who in true giallo style seems more concerned with loosing out on her inheritance to her fathers’ young wife, than any care for her father’s wellbeing, ponders her options. Finally, she approaches a detective / lawyer friend of her father to intervene into the situation to save family face, and especially estate, but in a typical giallo red herring fashion, this story line amounts to nil.
At the beach house, dancing, frolicking and more sex ensues between the young lovers whilst the distraught husband roams the adjacent rooms and finally is brought to the bedroom door for the inevitable showdown, gun in hand, J&B in belly. I won’t go into the actual showdown itself, suffice to say it’s both surprising and sinister in a way you would expect from a giallo, but also has a finality to it which leaves you wondering where things could possibly go forth from here.
Presto, to the rescue, the trusted old chestnut of the giallo flashback. And since the showdown in the beach house arrives early on in the film we are treated to an array of musings on how the unfortunate trio arrived at their sinister end and what they could and wished they would have done differently. These flashbacks not only make up the bulk of the film, they also provide its most enjoyable passages, as we follow Alexa in her quest to marry into a comfortable life, provided by the ageing but loving hands of Lord Marvelling whilst still looking to enjoy the more carnal fondling of a lover of her own age.
|Rosalba Neri (as Alexa) was a welcome sight in any ealy 70s genre piece.|
Needless to say, the marriage is ill-fated from the get go, as one of the very first dates with Lord Marvelling finds Alexa enthralled by the nightclub suave charms of Pietro, this time sans speedos but sporting the latest threads of Parisian night life. As things unfurl when Lord Marvelling subsequently confronts the lovers at their down town Parisian pad, an unfortunate deal is put forward by the Lord to preserve the marriage whilst allowing the youngsters to continue their affair indefinitely, as it were. “I’m also open minded and I don’t think it’s necessary for things to change, everything can continue as it is now” Pietro affirms laconically.
In the end TWO MALES FOR ALEXA arrives at its grisly conclusion quite cleverly, if cynically, considering the deal struck by the trio, and it’s central twist works pretty well considering its very early unveiling. But make no mistake, this is at core a film for the giallo aficionado and might well be too much of a slow burn for most people. However, between the daymare like showdown at the beach house, and the well-executed flashback structure which serves to break the films claustrophobic fatalism while exploring themes of ambition contra idealism, so typical of its time, there is much to enjoy. Not least that the aspirations and regrets of the trio play out on a vivid swinging 70’s back drop of Parisian nightclubs, bachelor pads and huge mansions with sports cars, airports and limo rides thrown in for good measure and accompanied by some great music and clothes.
All in all this is a film very much of its time, and is recommended on that particular groovy 70’s note alone. Even if it leaves you wanting for action, and it’s structure is experimental possibly to a fault with its central disclosure so early on in the film, TWO MALES FOR ALEXA still manage to make for some solid viewing for the diehard fan of all things giallo.
BODYCOUNT 2 female:0 / male:2
1) Male shot
2) Male stabbed