Monday, December 05, 2005

Skeletons from the Closet of Italian Music Video

Last year, I inherited many boxes of old videotapes from my late friends Alan and Mark Upchurch, all of them originally belonging to Alan (who died in 1993) but bequeathed to me upon the death of his brother Mark. I'm still making my way slowly through them all and discovering strange things. Earlier today, I stumbled across a hum-dinger.

I've been meaning to transfer a Barbara Steele film called I SOLDI to my hard drive for awhile now, and I decided to finally get around to it. While fast-forwarding/rewinding the tape prior to dubbing it over, I noticed with a sinking heart that the copy of I SOLDI I had found ran only 18 minutes. I examined the tape, which seemed to include only Barbara's scenes, fast-forwarding through the rest. As "FINE" finally spread across the screen, I was about the eject the tape in disappointment when something else started up -- an extra, unnoted on the label, occupying the last 2:30 of the tape.

It was a relic recorded from a RAI TRE program of vintage music videos called PALEOCLIPS. The clip was identified as "Julie" by Gian Pieretti, an amiable, curly-haired Dylan/Donovan wannabe. (Further research shows that the song was actually released as "Julie Julie" and dates from 1967.) The clip shows Pieretti settling down on a sofa and lip-synching his silly love song to... you guessed it, Barbara Steele! It's a bouncy, folky, pop song, sung entirely in Italian of course, and Barbara sits there for the duration smoking a cigarette, tossing her straight black hair, and shooting occasional bemused glances at the cameraman that seem to say, "I can't believe I'm doing this when I could be working for Federico!" When the song reaches its sitar solo, the camera focuses solely on Barbara, looking as nervous and embarrassed as she is glamorous. On the bookshelf behind her head rests a pair of Foster Grant sunglasses -- who knows, maybe the same pair she wore in THE SHE BEAST.

I've never heard of this curio before, and certainly Alan never mentioned it to me (or offered to share it with me), so I can only assume it was a secret he meant to hoard until the publication of his sadly-never-completed book about La Steele. With that book no longer forthcoming, at last the truth can be told. Unfortunately, the tape stopped cold after "Julie Julie," but I would have loved to see another few hours' worth of these PALEOCLIPS and find out what other skeletons might reside in their closets. Some pert young Petula Clark wannabe serenading Mickey Hargitay's Crimson Executioner, perhaps? One never knows.

On a similar note, I was surprised earlier this year to receive in the mail a complimentary DVD of an Italian television special called L'ITALIA DEI GENERE which included unused portions of the interview I had granted awhile back to the producers of the Italian Sky TV documentary MARIO BAVA OPERAZIONE PAURA. I had no complaints about the program, except how I looked in it, and was tickled to find my name on the cover, dead-center in a list of famous fellow co-stars, including Clint Eastwood and one of my heroes, Ennio Morricone. Why I mention L'ITALIA DEI GENERE has to do with the program's shock ending: a kinescope from an Italian TV variety program, circa 1958, that showed a bearded Steve Reeves (in Rome to film HERCULES UNCHAINED) walking onstage in a suit and tie and singing "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face"! (No, I am not making this up!) Reeves may have looked like a genuine earthbound god in the Hercules films, but take it from me, he couldn't have carried a tune if it had handles on it. When the song ends, he smiles radiantly as though the job was well-done! The clip ran under the end credits scroll, acknowledging what a weird embarrassment it was, but silly or not, I was stunned by the discovery -- it's the only film footage I know to exist of Reeves in his Hercules prime, speaking in his own voice.

The mind boggles at what other curios must reside in the archives of RAI TV...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.