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September 09, 2006

Sommer Time


Daniella by Night/Zarte Haut in schwarzer Seide
Max Pecas - 1961
First Run Features Region 1 DVD


Sweet Ecstacy/Douce Violence
Max Pecas - 1962
First Run Features Region 1 DVD

I was twelve years old when I first became aware of Elke Sommer. First exposure came through surreptitious examinations in the pages of "Playboy" magazine. Not to long after that came two Hollywood films which had put Ms. Sommer in similar situations where she and her leading man were caught nude on film. Actually what The Prize and A Shot in the Dark had was the suggestion of nudity, no clothing seen, and just enough flesh seen onscreen to excite adolescent boys of all ages. Not that some Hollywood filmmakers were adverse to showing that they were willing to go where European directors had gone before. George Cukor was unlikely to blow Darryl Zanuck's money filming Marilyn Monroe swimming in her birthday suit had he not thought it would actually be seen in theaters somewhere. Robert Aldrich reportedly shot tests of Ursula Andress and Anita Ekberg for 4 for Texas. We had to wait for Gus Van Sant to show Anne Heche in a remake of the shot Hitchcock cut of Janet Leigh in Psycho. Even Burt Kennedy managed to get a bit playful with Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda gallantly using their hats to cover the backsides of Sue Ane Langdon and Hope Holiday. But at this time I was too young for films I could only imagine, reading their often lurid titles in the newspaper.

The two films by Max Pecas seem typical of what was forbidden to me in my youth. Incidentally, both films have music co-written by Charles Aznavour. Daniella by Night is a bit of cold war nonsense about spies and fashion models. Elke portrays a young model named Daniela who finds herself caught between several men who aren't who they claim to be, and a wisp of a plot involving microfilm hidden in special lipstick. The film became popular because of a scene in a nightclub. Elke is stripped on-stage by some thugs and the scene is thought to be an act by the audience. The nudity is hidden by a light curtain. While more brazen than what Hollywood was doing at the time (see Joanne Woodward in The Stripper for example), this was a hot scene for 1961.

Sweet Ecstacy has Elke playing a college student named Elke, running aroung St. Tropez with some hedonistic trust fun kids. She's pursued by an earnest young man who admits to being put off by the free love philosophy of Elke and her friends. Elke borrows Brigitte Bardot's hair and eye make-up for part of the film, while Pecas freely borrows from From Here to Eternity with Elke and Pierre Brice making out on the beach. There is no nudity in this film, but Elke is seen wearing form fitting hiphuggers, showing off her belly button. This is one of those films that entices the audience with the promise of a vicarious experience with European jet setters, concluding with a moral lesson that wild, uninhibited sex is less fun than it seems. In this case, Elke and Pierre decide that a life of pleasure has nothing left to offer, the only thing left to do is get married.

Posted by peter at September 9, 2006 08:20 AM


Edging forward a few years, one way to guarantee a few vicarious thrills in the early 80s was to flip through the current edition of the Radio Times (the British TV Guide) and earmark any film either a) made by Hammer between about 1969 and 1974 or b) featuring Jenny Agutter.

Earnest qualitative discussions on the bus to school were guaranteed the following morning.

Posted by: Cultural Snow at September 10, 2006 08:54 AM