Sunday, April 19, 2009

A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK (1981) d. Michele Massimo Tarantini

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Male movie enthusiasts may enjoy watching action, war and/or horror films and delight to the exploits of masculine cinematic icons like John Wayne, Steve McQueen and Lee Marvin, but almost every man will admit a profound appreciation for the mesmeric faces and even more enthralling figures of actresses spanning decades of motion picture history. As a boy, I was transfixed by the loveliness of Susan Hayward and Debra Paget and as I got older I grew to esteem the undeniable appeal of Luciana Paluzzi and Barbara Steele. While these women are still the pinnacle of glamour and beauty in my opinion, as all men should, we allow our tastes to evolve and sharpen as we age. One of the more uncommon and yet just as exciting beauties I have come to appreciate over the past fifteen years has been that of the French actress Edwige Fenech, best known for her seductive and ethereal roles in giallo films like ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH and FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON. Throughout her long and splendid career, Ms. Fenech made a name for herself by becoming a very capable actress able to project otherworldliness and vulnerability in her dramas, fun and frolic in her comedies and wildly engaging sensuality in her sexcapades, while all the while having one of the most beautiful faces and stunning figures in the record of the Silver Screen. A striking brunette with long and luxuriant locks who often affected auburn hair too, Ms. Fenech could wear just about any garment and with that set of dazzling measurements make herself look outrageously desirable. A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK (LA POLIZIOTTA a NEW YORK) was one of Edwige Fenech’s wacky comedies made toward the end of her greatest run of success before she took some time off from movie making in the mid-1980s. While not the wild ride of a Terence Hill and Bud Spencer flick or even as entertaining as her mid-1970s romp GIOVANNA LONG THIGH, A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK is still an Italian slapstick lover’s dream made all the more interesting by one of the world’s most enduring icons of allure.

A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK is the story of Italian detective Gianna and her partner Alvaro, who are recruited for a special mission. New York Mob Boss “Big John” has a girlfriend named “Pupa” and a thug named “Don’t Tread on Me” who look suspiciously like Gianna and Alvaro. The plan is to replace Pupa and her bodyguard with the police operatives in an attempt to infiltrate “Big John’s” house and find incontestable evidence that will incriminate him so that he can be locked up permanently. What ensues is a comedy of errors as warring crime lords and their henchmen stumble over police officers working with Gianna and Alvaro in the attempt to emerge ludicrously supreme. As Gianna and Alvaro snake their way through “Big John’s” daily routine, Gianna comes to learn how to blend her brassy and big-fisted style with hypnotic feminine wiles to get her man. By the end, a series of airplane antics and car chases are needed to bring the criminals to justice and Gianna ends up being the heroine.

Overall, there is a lot to like about A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK. The only true detracting issues that I found was that the dialogue is only accessible in either an English dubbed language track or Italian version WITHOUT English subtitles. While I always prefer to hear that original tongue of a film and read the subtitles, my Italian is rather poor and since I wanted to know what was happening in the story, I suffered through the dubbed language track. In addition, the film print and/or the transfer was generally pretty good, but I did detect a small amount of graininess at the very beginning and the end of the film. Most of the rest of the time, the only reason the picture was not as sharp and crisp as it could have been was the use of somewhat soft focus as a directorial strategy, which was not uncommon in the early 1980s or in dealing with any icon of female beauty throughout cinema’s glorious past. Other than these two problems, A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK was a joy to experience.

Loaded to the brim with silly expressions, dynamic overacting, rapid fire dialogue and piles of physical and sexual humor, A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK is truly a throwback to another time in film making. I saw more faces slapped and other punches or pugilistic comedy in A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK than I have in some time. The absolutely foolish facial contortions of many of the characters was deeply reminiscent of old Vaudeville acts and when blended with the “Big-Band” inspired title music, it made A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK feel older than it really was. That illusion was deepened by the good-natured and light-hearted elements of the sexual humor. As a policewoman undercover, Edwige Fenech’s character Gianna is constantly exposed to the randy and amorous attentions of the competing mob bosses who fall victim to her vibrant female charms and who she must consistently fend off to preserve her professional integrity and personal honor. The antics of the mob bosses themselves and their ridiculous clowning feels like a European version of The Three Stooges at times and when blended with the overblown foley effects, there is a delightfully cartoonish quality to A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK that is reminiscent of an old TerryToons cartoon short. The plot itself is not terribly creative but it doesn’t have to be. A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK is about hi-jinks and is also a vehicle for selling the most desirable commodity there has ever been, a spectacularly beautiful actress.

At the same time that the fantasy of Golden Age Film is being created, there is plenty of modern glamor and sex appeal layered onto this flick. The incidental music has a video game parlor feel to it and when combined with the gaudy, goofy and occasionally tacky early 1980s attire, there is a lot of sprightly silliness to A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK. What adds an entire level of adolescent appeal is that for the duration of the film, Edwige Fenech is paraded about in form fitting fashions that are wonderfully revealing, supremely saucy and are also the best eye candy that a self-respecting gentleman can find. Sprinkled like sesame seeds over rice balls, there are delectable leg shots, deep-breath inducing cleavage peeks and collar stretching derriere doings of the lovely Ms. Fenech that will simply captivate any of her devotees. Known for her legendary proclivity to take her clothes off in the vast majority of her movies, Ms. Fenech is a little more circumspect in A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK. There is only one topless scene where her curvaceous glory is displayed for all to enjoy. In A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK, the rest of the thrills are a little more “old school” and do not need the permission of your parents. Instead, this feels like an Italian version of a Benny Hill sketch and with Edwige Fenech’s vastly underrated acting skills, you actually get a slightly more impressive product. You may not have the consummate talents of Mr. Benny Hill, but you have the enigmatic charm and sex appeal of Ms. Edwige Fenech.

There is a small extras menu on the dvd of A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK, which was a bit of a surprise for this none-too-well-known Italian comedy. There is the original Italian trailer, and like the feature film it does not have subtitles. However, it is in its original condition, which allows the viewer to bask in the yeoman efforts of MYA Communications when it comes to restoring the main feature. There is also a pleasantly stocked image Gallery that contains a series of foreign film poster jpegs and a larger collection of German promotional images. For fans of Edwige Fenech, this small but enjoyable collection of supplements is a boon that was totally unexpected.

As we age, one of the most enduring joys is the ability to take pleasure in great beauty. Not only is A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK simply dripping in the loveliness of Edwige Fenech, it is also a wacky comedy that has its heart in the right place and should bring forth some smiles and laughs from most ages and stations in life. If you’ve been hungering for a comedy that has its roots the deeper past and that stars an actress who I would have bought every pinup poster I could have laid hands on had they available, then A POLICEWOMAN IN NEW YORK is what should go into your dvd player next time you have a chance. Make sure you’ve taken your heart medication and have a window open to cool off the room and get some much needed fresh air. Ms. Fenech will cause your internal temperature to rise a few points and simultaneously make you feel like a teenager all over again. 201009 DV

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