Had he not succumbed to cancer in 1981, yesterday would have been the 95th birthday of Argentinian actor-filmmaker Armando Bo, who directed 27 steamy Spanish movies starring his sultry sex symbol lover and production partner, Isabel Sarli. Best known to U.S. audiences for '60s skin flicks like FEVER, FUEGO, THE FEMALE, TROPICAL ECSTASY, and HEAT (which was so popular here a photonovel was issued), the stunning Sarli was blessed with one of the most magnificent bodies seen outside of a Russ Meyer movie. Not surprisingly, it was her body that was the first ever to appear sans clothing in an Argentinian film when Bo featured her skinny dipping in EL TRUENO ENTRE LAS HOJAS just a few months after she was crowned Miss Argentina 1955.
Filmed eighteen years after Sarli and Bo’s first collaboration, UNA MARIPOSA EN LA NOCHE (“A Butterfly in the Night”) finds the couple on autopilot and their winning formula beginning to show its age. Watchable enough for the obvious reasons but rarely more diverting than the average telenovela, the distractingly déjà vu storyline is a constant reminder of the team’s earlier and better films. While vacationing in Paris, wealthy Argentinian rancher Jorge (Bo) falls for sensuous streetwalker Yvonne (Sarli, first seen as a blonde). He showers her with furs and flowers but she’s una mariposa en la noche, unwilling to give up her free and wild ways for the love of one man and the life of a housewife. An arrest for prostitution changes her mind, however, and she returns with Jorge to his plush Pampas horse ranch, but is soon feeling the itch again and walking the streets of Buenos Aires after dark. When Jorge is injured trying to tame a wild horse at a gaucho celebration, Yvonne’s attention turns to the muscular and always shirtless ranch hand Lorenzo (Armando’s son Victor Bo), who spends his days chopping and hauling wood and spilling pails of milk while watching Yvonne frolicking nude in the pool. At the point Jorge dies of a broken heart in Yvonne’s arms to the strains of “Ellen’s Third Song” (the “Ave Maria,” natch) this reviewer was reaching for the DVD case to check for a running time.
A full twenty years after EL TRUENO ENTRE LAS HOJAS, Sarli was still a big enough box-office draw with Spanish audiences for Columbia Pictures to premiere UNA MARIPOSA EN LA NOCHE in ten New York/New Jersey theaters for a week in June of 1976, but with porno flicks all the rage and the early John Waters movies playing the midnight circuit, crossover appeal was most likely nil (only one print was sub-titled in English anyway). There’s an abundance of nudity and softcore sex on display and all the usual Bo/Sarli ingredients are present (breast flashing, skinny dipping, rapes, attempted rapes), but the truly off-kilter elements that elevated films like FUEGO and FEVER to classic status are sorely lacking in this later effort. Then again, what was cutting edge in 1968, ’69 and ’70 was passé by this time anyway (The biggest shock the film has to offer -- Sarli castrating her pimp with a pair of scissors -- was done more effectively the same year in Sonny Chiba’s THE KILLING MACHINE). In addition to Schubert, the soundtrack includes Yves Montand’s version of “C’est Si Bon,” which plays over the opening credits, and Alice Cooper’s “Killer” and “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” both heard during a scene at a cross-dresser’s wedding. Marquee watchers will catch a glimpse of FAREWELL, UNCLE TOM -- under the title LES NEGRIERS -- playing at the Moulin Rouge.