Secrets of a Call Girl (1974)
By: Chrysalis on March 18, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
No Shame (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Italian DD 1.0, English DD 1.0. English Subtitles. 95 minutes
The Movie
Director: Giuliano Carnimeo
Starring: Edwige Fenech, Corrado Pani, Richard Conte
Screenplay: Ernesto Gastaldi
Country: Italy
AKA: Anna, Quel Particolare Piacere

Edwige Fenech enthusiasts No Shame have pulled yet another '70s title from the vaults, this time the 1973 emotion-laden Secrets Of A Call Girl, a fairly early film in the Fenech oeuvre (I can say that, can't I?) and probably the first to view her as little more than a pretty face and ogle-worthy body.

Secrets Of A Call Girl tells the plaintive story of Anna (Fenech), a sheltered, naïve provincial girl who quickly falls under the lecherous power of local mobster Guido (Corrado Pani), whose loyalty to his Mafioso boss Riccardo Sogliani (Richard Conte) and love of the almighty dollar move his early bruising of Anna into submissiveness to a greater low. Anna is forced to smuggle drugs and eventually take up work as a call girl seeking tricks at Riccardo's illicit casino.

A few too many clients later and Anna is pregnant, starting up a new life in Rome while Guido is imprisoned. A new romantic interest, blackmail, and enduring motherly love all then proceed to tear Anna apart (not literally) as her rollercoaster-ride life continually tests her and those around her, all leading to a dramatic ending which many a tear-jerking '80s TV soap series would be proud of.

Edwige Fenech pundits fear not, what may have been intended as a romantic film still succumbs to its share of exploitation and crime cinema elements, particularly due to Anna's submission going hand-in-hand with a lot of undressing. But Secrets of a Call Girl is also a chance for Fenech to act as more than just the terrified victim cowering under a black glove-fondled razor and she takes up the challenge rather well, particularly in her role as Paulo's mother. The few elements of violence are handled minimally, only an opening bullet extraction and an end shootout really proceeding beyond Guido's open-handed domestic violence and pummeling at the hands of Riccardo's hired goons to extract any blood.

Those looking for blood-soaked carnage or hoping the lascivious title will open up into an orgy of, well, orgies will probably be somewhat disappointed but ultimately Secrets of a Call Girl is not an exploitation movie, it is a drama with exploitative elements – while existent they don't define the movie. Those who can stand the thought of seeing an Italian '70s film starring Fenech which isn't a Martino or Bianchi-esque excuse for titillation (not that I'm accusing either of solely making Fenech movies for this purpose - well, at least Martino) but which instead focuses on character and dramatic elements will however find this reasonably enjoyable, if not a cinematic experience destined for the top of the exploitation pile.
No Shame has once again delivered an excellent transfer, the film restored to its widescreen ratio from an original vault 35mm reversal print with barely a blemish. Some of the shots, especially in the opening half hour of the movie, are a little dark and shadowy (often shots within a scene, not an entirety) but I suspect that's just the way the film was shot and not indicative of any fault on No Shame's part. The odd artifact is present, but this is 1970s cinema we're talking about, so a few small blemishes are perfectly acceptable.
English and Italian soundtracks are available, the film defaulting to Italian upon initial playback. Both are in mono, but again what the hell do you expect? Removable English subtitles are also provided. Annoyingly the audio and subtitles don't seem to be able to be altered during playback via my DVD player's controls, I'm required to select English audio and elect subtitling from the submenu to play the movie with the desired option(s).

The sound itself is acceptably clear in both languages (both are dubbed) and special mention must be made of Luciano Michelini's score, a dominant piano refrain modulated and modified throughout much of the film to provide strong support for many of the important scenes; Michelini is from the Ennio Morricone school of overwrought dramatism and it works in the context of this film.
Extra Features
No Shame's extra features, in addition to their tender handling of the digitizing and re-mastering of these films, are every bit as good as the likes of Blue Underground, and Secrets of a Call Girl is no exception. The main addition to the feature is a lengthy quasi-documentary entitled "Memories Of A Call Girl" which intertwines interviews with director Giuliano Carnimeo, Fenech and screenplay writer Ernesto Gastaldi (the latter two have featured in previous No Shame DVD featurettes) who all share their memories of the film from its genesis and the casting of Fenech to its setting and acting. Carnimeo is particularly interesting, expressing his lament at the movie's title being changed from "Anna" to one more provocative and sharing his recollection of Sergio Martino's opinion of the film. A poster/stills gallery and 12 page booklet round out the extras.
The Verdict
As the emphasis of the extra features show (focusing on the film's nudity and gun-wielding) Secrets of a Call Girl can be pigeon-holed as some kind of exploitation film, but as this it fails. Sure Edwige Fenech looks absolutely stunning, but that's what lobby cards were for and not the films themselves. While the almost clichéd, wracking dramatism of the film verges on excess, the film's borrowings from crime/mobster cinema in particular save it from being a plot-heavy romance and hence what would be unappealing to all but the bravest of '70s Italian cinema fans: the balancing of its violent and erotic moments with the profiling of Anna's torturous awakening ultimately makes Secrets Of A Call Girl a worthy addition to the collection of those wanting a little more than screaming from their Italian cinema vixens. This isn't nearly as fun as something like The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh or The Case of the Bloody Iris (two of my favourites starring Fenech) but as a fan it is nice to see more than the simple fear and sleaze she portrayed in many of her films. Newcomers to her work, and to Italian exploitation cinema, are advised to perhaps look elsewhere to understand the base appeal of either but rest assured you'll return when in the know.
Movie Score
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