Thursday, January 08, 2009


Reviewed by Nathaniel Poggiali

A mysterious leather-clad figure on a motorcycle rides into a deserted rural town in Italy, to the tune of Riz Ortolani’s harmonica-driven score. The figure is Miele (Monica Vitti), a motor-mouthed pathological liar supposedly traveling to meet her gangster boyfriend, “Big Louie.” Miele brushes open the swinging doors of a laundry service -- cue spaghetti western music for comic effect -- to find long-suffering Claudia (Cardinale) being groped by her abusive husband (the kind of sleazy pig who runs his hand up a skirt while keeping one eye on his girlie mag).

Fortunately for Claudia, Miele is a persuasive free spirit who inspires the laundress to abandon her hubby and flee to Naples. What follows is a mostly unfunny road trip, with Miele’s dishonesty increasingly transparent as Claudia gains confidence and proves the savvier of the pair. It all climaxes in a Naples casino for a sporadically amusing sequence where our heroines -- granted good fortune by a talisman -- win big at roulette, levitate playing cards, and beat up the local mafia.

Filmmaker Carlo Di Palma was a talented cinematographer for Michelangelo Antonioni (RED DESERT, BLOW-UP, IDENTIFICATION OF A WOMAN) and Woody Allen (HANNAH AND HER SISTERS to DECONSTRUCTING HARRY), but as the director of BLONDE AND BLACK LEATHER he does pedestrian work. Of course it doesn’t help that the script is so lazy, feeling at times like a lesser Terence Hill/Bud Spencer comedy with a gender switch; no surprise to learn the writers of ALL THE WAY, BOYS! and IO STO CON GLI IPPOPOTAMI (I’M FOR THE HIPPOPOTAMUS) were responsible, or that one chunk of slapstick plays out in a movie theater showing TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME.

Probably the only thing to recommend this lame comedy is the chance to see Vitti and Cardinale together: the combination of their beauty and charm might be enough for a lazy Sunday afternoon. However, if you’re a fan of Vitti’s distinctively sexy, throaty voice, you’ll be disappointed to learn that it’s been replaced in the English version by that of genre vet Carolyn De Fonseca. Roger Corman acquired the U.S. distribution rights for BLONDE IN BLACK LEATHER, presumably because Vitti is his favorite actress, and gave this a brief theatrical release in 1977 through his New World Pictures. Released on VHS in the '80s by Charter Entertainment.

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