Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Alain (Terence Stamp), an insufferable film director who found big success with his first feature but is artistically crippled by fears of a sophomore slump, has been bumming around Las Palmas for two years leeching off his beautiful and wealthy fiancée Sylvia (Pilar Velázquez), daughter of millionaire playboy businessman Alfonso (Fernando Rey). Inspiration finally comes in the form of “Krista Rose” (Corinne Clery), the star attraction at a local striptease club, who Alain is sure he has seen somewhere before -- and he has: she’s Anna Byrne, a once promising actress who, two years earlier, walked out on a potentially career-making lead in a high profile film (amid rumors of drug abuse and mental illness) and promptly disappeared. She recognizes Alain as another lost creative soul and tells him the whole sad story: her nervous breakdown and career implosion occurred when her boyfriend Charles, a brilliant medical student who felt he had to sell narcotics in order to support her extravagant lifestyle, got busted and sentenced to 4 years in prison. The downward spiraling actress married Charles behind bars and a baby girl conceived during a conjugal visit lived only two days. After a late-night skinny-dip-and-lovemaking session, Alain moves her into his rented house and starts writing the outline for "Striptease," his long-awaited second film, to be based on Anna’s life. None of this goes over well with Sylvia, who comes back from a business trip to find Anna sunbathing nude by the pool.

“Who is she?” Sylvia demands to know.

“Do you remember an actress called Anna Byrne?” Alain responds dryly. “In a film called MIRAGE, about a young girl that kills herself?”

That ought to get the warning bells going ding-ding-ding, but don’t expect this torpid time-waster to do anything but crawl to its obvious conclusion in the least dramatic way possible. In order to appease Sylvia, Alain tells her that he’s playing a “game” with Anna, trying to make her believe that he loves her when he really plans to discard her cruelly after the movie is finished. When Alain’s hard-drinking screenwriter friend George (Alberto de Mendoza) moves in to work on the script, he can’t make heads or tails out of what’s going on until Sylvia tells him everything.

(This composite photo from the back of the INSANITY! video box features at least two shots that aren't from the movie)

This is one of those movies where characters constantly talk about what they’re doing and what they're thinking in order to convince viewers that a story is unfolding. Everything is transmitted through subtext-barren dialogue; the so-called “game” that Alain’s supposedly playing has to be mentioned a dozen times because we never actually see any evidence of it dramatically. DANGEROUS LIAISONS, this ain't.

Anna: I know exactly what was going on! I know perfectly well what you had planned! You can't deceive me!

Alain: What do you mean?

Anna: George opened my eyes to it all!

Alain: How does he know?

Anna: Through Sylvia! She told him all about your little game!

That exchange might seem normal out of context, but by the time it occurs in the movie we’ve already heard (1) Alain tell Sylvia about the “game” he’s playing with Anna, (2) Sylvia explain Alain’s little “game” to George, and (3) George inform Anna about (1) and (2). It’s not surprising that the only writing credits are “Story by Enrique Esteban” and “Dialogue by Germán Lorente and Miguel Rubio,” with no actual screenplay credit to be found; apparently no one behind the camera was informed that film is a visual medium.

(Times Square premiere of STRIPTEASE, 1978)

Except for a quick tour of Spanish language theaters during the summer of 1978, with Stamp’s name absent from the advertising, deathly dull pic went unreleased stateside until the '80s home video boom, when the con artists at Mogul Communications issued it as INSANITY! If trimmed by 30 minutes it could’ve been passable Cinemax filler for glassy-eyed night owls willing to sit through uneventful Eurotrash for the high skin quotient, but at its original running time of 106 minutes it’s simply interminable. Bond-girl-to-be Clery performs two stripteases in the first few minutes and is topless or nude throughout, for anyone who still knows who she is and didn’t see enough of her in THE STORY OF O. As for Stamp, I’m guessing it was the Anna character more than Alain who drew him to the crummy script, since he himself had just come back from five years of self-exile in India after an ego-shattering breakup with model Jean Shrimpton. The one-time Oscar nominee does the best he can with his poorly written role, and one can assume he was at least paid well for the effort and enjoyed his stay in the Canary Islands.

(Jean Shrimpton and Terence Stamp, late 1960s)

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