Ernest Borgnine spends Christmas in Rome and Switzerland with "holiday hookers" in the Italian erotic drama LOVE BY APPOINTMENT, out on DVD from Code Red Releasing.
Rome-based escort service madam Nira (Françoise Fabian, MY NIGHT AT MAUDS) is planning to close up shop after Christmas, having saved up enough money to buy a little love nest for herself and longtime, long-distance lover Alberto. Just as things are falling into place, her most dependable girl Rosana (Silvia Dionisio, MURDER OBSESSION) quits after one of Nira's regulars Max (Ernest Borgnine, MARTY) has a heart attack (and frightens her off by proposing), and exotic Roxy (Norma Jordan, THE PRICE OF POWER) never sees the same man more than once (and peplum/spaghetti western regular Mimmo Palmara [A LONG RIDGE FROM HELL] has fallen head over heels for her). Despite her plans to retire, Nira sets her sights on upstairs housewife Senine (Corinne Clery, THE STORY OF O), unhappily married to Franco (Maurizio Bonuglia, THE PERFUME OF THE LADY IN BLACK) and looking primarily for extra funds (and adventure secondarily).
Directed by cinematographer Armando Nanuzzi – a regular cameraman on the works of both Luchino Visconti and Pier Paolo Pasolini (as well as producer Dino De Laurentis until Nanuzzi lost an eye on Stephen King's MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE shoot, ending their working relationship in a lawsuit) – LOVE BY APPOINTMENT is no BELLE DE JOUR (which also featured Fabian) or THE STORY OF O. In fact, predating Italy's 1980s resurgence of erotic dramas, LOVE BY APPOINTMENT feels very middle-aged in its conception (if calling it middle-aged makes Joe D'Amato's skinfests juvenile, then call me junior). Borgnine is pretty much a special guest star – as is Clery in a role meant for Sylvia Kristel (EMMANUELLE) – with the bulk of the drama carried more than capably by Fabian (dubbing herself). Fabrizio Jovine – CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD's Father Thomas – plays a gay friend of Nira's who does some spy work for her, and Robert Alda (HOUSE OF EXORCISM, Leone's recut of Mario Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL) appears as another of Rosana's clients. The scoring of Riz Ortolani (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST) is pleasant but not one of standout works.
Previously released on VHS by Charter Home Entertainment, and then on DVD in 2000 by Image Entertainment in a barebones anamorphic edition, LOVE BY APPOINTMENT – onscreen title: HOLIDAY HOOKERS – is presented by Code Red in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer is derived from a new HD master. I have not seen the Image version, but I'm assuming based on other Leone remasters that it uses the same print source. For the most part, the transfer gorgeously reproduces the colors and lighting of Nino Celeste's (THE SPIDER LABYRINTH) cinematography (although one wonders how much involvement Nanuzzi had on the film's look). There is some speckling and scratches at the reel changes, and one portion near the ninety-minute mark may have been patched from another source. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is in good condition.
The disc's sole extra is an interview with producer Alfredo Leone (19:54) in which he recalls that Bryanston Pictures was interested in the film during the pre-production phase and wanted a more exploitative picture; but Leone was not certain Borgnine would do such a film. He also recalls meeting Borgnine through co-star Robert Alda (who had appeared in HOUSE OF EXORCISM, Leone's reworking of Mario Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL), and that Alda pitched the project to the star. He starts out complementing the work of director Nanuzzi who shot the most of the film's scenes with three or four cameras (a style he used in his Visconti films), but then launches into his conflicts with the director. Of the film's distribution history, he tells us that Warner Bros. was initially interested in the film based on Dionisio's nude footage but did not like Nanuzzi's initial cut of the film (and that Leone had to fire him in order to institute the changes he wanted to the film's editing, including the more upbeat ending). Leone also mentions a second sex scene between Dionisio and Alda that was cut from the film (although it probably would have made the narrative seem less choppy) that he could not find among the film's trims at the lab. He is very self-congratulatory of his decisions on the film, with the exception of agreeing to change the film's title to HOLIDAY HOOKERS for the U.S. distributor. (Eric Cotenas)
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