Director: Ruggero Deodato
Raro Video USA

Before Ruggero Deodato created a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, he swept his wife and three Eurocult familiar faces away on WAVES OF LUST (out on DVD from Raro Video USA).

Carefree lovers Barbara (Silvia Dionisio, MURDER OBSESSION) and Irem (Al Cliver, ZOMBIE) are bumming around the resort island of Cefalu. Witnessing the brutal treatment of Sylvia (Elizabeth Turner, BEYOND THE DOOR) at the hands of her wealthy lover Giorgio (John Steiner, TENEBRAE), the younger pair make themselves into irresistible targets for predatory Giorgio. Barbara appeals to Sylvia’s rebellious side but also flirts with Giorgio (a little footsie under the table during dinner) while Irem enrages Giorgio with his aloofness. Giorgio is confidence (or conceited) enough to invite Irem along when he asks Barbara on board his yacht for the weekend with the intent of seducing and conquering her, and demonstrates his dominance over Sylvia as foreplay. As the boat gets further out to sea, however, the tide starts to turn against Giorgio. First a painting depicting death inexplicably shows up on the wall of cabin (and exhibits slight alterations each time he looks at it), but he can neither glean its meaning nor its author since all three of his traveling companions can draw. Is it a prank or an omen? A broken face mask and then a malfunctioning oxygen tank have him believing that someone is trying to kill him. Giorgio’s drinking only exacerbates his paranoia and his violent temper (as well as making him all the more vulnerable). It’s obvious to the audience that he has grossly underestimated not only the two youths, but also his mistress; but which one (or which combination of the three) is out to get him?

The notion of two strangers deciding to give a sadistic, entitled, elitist character his just deserts seemingly for no other reason than karma seems youthfully optimistic amidst the usual double- and triple-cross scenarios of similar jet set gialli from Sergio Martino and Umberto Lenzi; as such, WAVES OF LUST plays more like a kinky variation on Roman Polanski’s KNIFE IN THE WATER. Scripted by Fabio Pittoru (THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE) and production designer Franco Bottari (NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS) from a treatment by assistant director Lamberto Bava (A BLADE IN THE DARK) and his later cinematographer-of-choice Gianlorenzo Battaglia (DEMONS), the ambiguous behavior of the characters is more stimulating here than merely diverting (and one does get the impression that at least Bava and Battaglia might have had something more ambitious in mind). If the end result isn’t entirely successful as a thriller – an end bit derivative of DIABOLIQUE is more likely to induce titters – or as sexploitation (Deodato has said that he tried maneuver the film out of the “erotic ghetto”), it’s still an interesting exercise for Deodato – perhaps a gentler dry-run for HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK – and a nice showcase for four attractive actors who are usually relegated to supporting parts in more familiar Italian horror, gialli, and sexploitation. Deodato’s wife Dionisio doesn’t disappoint here, totally uninhibited here with a wonderfully perverse smile as she dares Giorgio to join her in a threesome with Sylvia and more subtly exerting control over Irem than Giorgio has over Sylvia. Steiner is always entertaining no matter what the size of his role, but here he’s given a particularly juicy role groping Dionisio and brutalizing Turner (if his fate is a little underwhelming here, check out what happens to him in Deodato’s later film CUT AND RUN). Cliver’s woodenness works here, his character coming across as suitably ambiguous in his interactions with both women and his impassivity infuriating to Giorgio. Turner is no slouch either, playing wounded, jealous, and pained quite memorably. Marcello Giombini’s main title them has a cheap Casio keyboard sound to it – for those of you who recall his grating accompaniment to ANTHROPOPHAGUS (which Film Ventures understandably replaced with library music from KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS for their R-rated recut THE GRIM REAPER) – but his other cues are suitably moody.

Raro Video’s Italian arm released their Region 0 PAL edition in 2005. That version featured a non-anamorphic 1.60:1 letterboxed transfer that was okay for the time (apart from some very noisy titles), and the Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track was accompanied by optional English subtitles. The retrospective documentary “Erotic Tidal Wave” packed the reminiscences of Deodato, Bava, Cliver, and Saverio Deodato into a lean seventeen minutes. Deodato discusses his early films and his switch over to commercials so that he could stay in Rome with his son while Dionisio worked as an actress. He reveals that not only was he uncomfortable about shooting a sex film, but also that Dionisio would not let him shoot a film with naked people in it unless she was one of them. Her role had already been cast, but Deodato tells us that Dionisio was able to convince the producers to let the other actress out of her contract. Of the shooting, he says that the unpredictable weather in Cefalu prevented him from getting more coverage of the yacht at sea, and that the shooting schedule had to adapt to the weather. Bava discusses his early commercial work with Deodato and the origins of the film’s scenario as a treatment called “A Crime for a Crime”. Cliver recalls the straightforward shoot and being bored during the dialogue scenes. He also mentions being offered one of the leads for Deodato’s LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN (presumably Ray Lovelock’s character) and turning it down in favor of a film that was less successful. Deodato’s son Saverio apparently did not recall appearing in the film until he was interviewed about it for this segment. While the documentary featured optional English subtitles, the twenty-one minute selection of Deodato-directed TV commercials did not feature translation for the original audio or the optional Deodato commentary.

Both the Italian import and the new American disc represent the Italian cut of the film, which is missing some additional nudity during virtually every sex scene. The same deleted scenes segment on the import (4:11) and domestic (4:55) discs only hint at what more was included in the English version (the incomplete snippets are shown in context, so much of the running time of the featurette is what you’ve seen in the feature). In some cases, the added footage is just longer shots of nude writhing, but others include nipple-twisting, a bare foot grinding into a woman’s crotch, and a simulated blowjob (most of which is offscreen in the Italian version). The footage is not any more explicit than your average BLACK EMANUELLE film (the version without the hardcore inserts), but it is unfortunate that it was not included (it is possible that this material was not preserved by the distributors). If you’ve only seen the Italian version, you might not notice anything missing as the Italian version’s cutting suggests a greater interest in the unveiling of flesh (clothes taken off or put on and dresses, towels, and sarongs ripped off by hands [and feet!]) while just hanging around long enough to establish who’s doing who. It is possible that Deodato was responsible for pruning down the Italian version given his apparent reticence to shoot the footage in the first place (he mentions in the documentary that he and Dionisio lost a major commercial contract when the film was released).

Raro USA’s disc features a progressive, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer of what appears to be the same film source. Although the top and sides of the frame seem identical to the import, the bottom of the frame loses picture information (as such, they didn’t just do a quick 16:9 crop-job). Most of the time, this reframing focuses the compositions; however, it seems to unbalance other shots (although this may be more noticeable to owners of the import, or people like me who watched it a couple times in succession while writing the liner notes). Although I prefer the more open framing (even though the image looked terrible with any of the screen formatting options on my HDTV and upscaling player), I think the new transfer is acceptable (Raro has no current plans for a Blu-Ray release) although nowhere near the revelatory upgrade of MURDER OBSESSION, MADNESS, or THE SECRET OF DORIAN GRAY. The Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is just as harsh on the high-ends and the optional English subtitles appear to be the same as on the import, but Raro has composited the English dub track to fit the Italian cut. The track sounds duller, both in fidelity and in the choice of voice actors, but it is a nice addition. The “Erotic Tsunami” documentary (17:34) is the same one included on the import, but the selection of Deodato-directed TV commercials (20:19) is different; in fact, they are the same commercial selections that appeared on Raro USA’s LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN disc. While this replacement/recycling may seem lazy, it is actually quite appropriate since a number of the commercials in this selection – including the amusing ones for Kraft cheese slices – were directed with the assistance of Lamberto Bava (and possibly with Gianlorenzo Battaglia as camera operator or assistant). The text biography and filmography for Deodato are translated from the ones on the Italian disc, but the liner notes booklet is brand new (I wrote it so I’m not going to comment on it). (Eric Cotenas)