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  Top Sensation Sunshine, sex and sadism
Year: 1969
Director: Ottavio Alessi
Stars: Rosalba Neri, Edwige Fenech, Eva Thulin, Maude Belleroche, Maurizio Bonuglia, Ruggero Miti, Salvatore Puntillo
Genre: Horror, Sex, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Wealthy bisexual and concerned mother Mudy (author Maude Belleroche in her only film) wants to help her mentally unstable son Tony (Ruggero Miti) become a man. So naturally she decides a weekend aboard her luxury yacht with swinging couple Paola (Rosalba Neri) and Aldo (Maurizio Bonuglia) should do the trick. Eager to land an important business deal with their boss and lover, the decadent duo bring along their gorgeous plaything Ulla (Edwige Fenech) to initiate Tony into manhood. However, the sexual shenanigans further unbalance Tony. He flees to an island where he happens across a beautiful farm girl named Beba (Eva Thulin). Theorizing a more innocent girl might make a perfect partner for Tony, Aldo brings Beba aboard. Paola and Ulla give Beba a makeover, ply her with drink and drugs and indulge in naughty games before events take a nasty turn.

Not strictly a giallo this steamy but silly Italian erotic thriller is almost a Tennessee Williams drama at sea only with a twist of Roman Polanski's influential Knife in the Water (1962) and the sleaze cranked way up, god bless 'em. Released in American grindhouse theaters as The Seducers, Top Sensation remains a firm favourite among cult film fans on the strength of an early, oft-undraped pairing of Euro goddesses Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech, future queen of the giallo. Neri, a charismatic screen siren with a firm grasp of multifaceted drama, makes a vivid impression. Not just because she sports a fetching array of shiny PVC bikinis (including one racy gold chain-link outfit straight out of a fetish store) but through a nuanced performance that teases glimpses of compromised humanity amidst venality and lust. Fenech was only at the start of glittering career in good-natured Euro-trash yet grabs the film's most perverse set-piece via a sexy photo-shoot with a goat that must be seen to be believed.

Ottavio Alessi was a screenwriter with a diverse range of credits including Damned in Venice (1978), Dick Smart 2.007 (1967), The Black Decameron (1972) and the infamous Emmanuelle in America (1977) but this was his only outing as director aside from Whatever Happened to Baby Toto? (1964), a parody of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) starring Italy's beloved comic icon Toto. He mounts this film as a heavy handed yet compelling allegory about the rich seducing, exploiting then ultimately destroying the working class, as two characters literally kill to get ahead in business, but also opts for a tiresomely familiar Euro exploitation ploy. The film gives viewers an eyeful of the leading ladies' ample charms then denounces their characters as sluts.

The overheated melodrama is too kitsch to be taken seriously and calculated to sate those that feel all fun-loving glamorous folk are amoral sexual degenerates. Alessi even caps things with a Biblical quote from the book of Ecclesiastes though the moralizing falls flat given he is plainly more interested in ogling Neri and Fenech's bare behinds. For all the hypocrisy, taken as trashy fun Top Sensation is an undeniable guilty pleasure. The heart of the conflict may rest with blank-eyed pyromaniac Tony and ranting lesbian Mudy, but the former is shrill, whiny and unbelievable and the latter veers inconsistently from canoodling with Paola and Aldo to denouncing them as perverts. In hindsight the key characters emerge as minor irritants when both the filmmakers and viewers would plainly rather watch Rosalba and Edwige scheme, smolder and get it on.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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