Did you happen to record Monty Python’s Flying Circus when it was shown on PBS back in the 1970s?
Do you still have the tapes?
Is there a TIME LIFE logo at the end?
If so, please write to me.
URGENT! Does anyone know the whereabouts of this version of the film, entitled Madam Kitty?
I need to examine it. Please let me know. Thanks!
British preview for Salon Kitty, followed by US teaser for Madam Kitty,
pulled from NOCTURNOCINEMA on YouTube
SALON KITTY versus MADAM KITTY:
A Plea for the Missing Material
URGENT: We need to get to the bottom of a mystery, a mystery dealing with the missing pieces of Salon Kitty.
To understand what precisely is missing, we need to explore the history of this movie.
Maddeningly, there is no available studio documentation to explain what happened.
As you can see from the full-pageVariety advertisement above, this movie project was originally a coproduction between
Dieter Geissler Film Produktion of Munich
and Roberto Infascelli of Rome.
Together they employed Hans Brockman as their executive producer
and Walter Manley as their US representative.
The four of them, together with the publisher, Robert Schafer, and the author, Peter Norden, were either looking for coproducers,
or they were looking to flip the property, selling off the rights to a different producer at a profit.
It looks like they did the latter,
for by the time the movie was entering preproduction, Geissler, Infascelli, Brockman, and Manley seemed no longer to be in the picture.
The project was by then in the hands of producer Giulio Sbarigia.
Perhaps Geissler and Infascelli had sold the project to him.
More likely, though, they sold the project to a Hollywood studio, which engaged Sbarigia as a hired hand.
We should look at a little item in the news:
Variety, Wednesday, 10 July 1974, p. 26:
Oceania producer Giulio Sbarigia has offered “Salon Kitty”
to Sidney Lumet.
Project was originally set for director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi,
who is now actively prepping “The Divine Nymph” for Titanus.
Sbarigia controlled, at least partly, the Dear Studio just outside of Rome.
Dear is probably a point of interest here.
Dear had been founded by Robert Haggiag, whose obituary you can read
and yes, I strongly recommend you read it.
The obituary implies that, in the late 1960’s, Dear became the exclusive Italian distributor
for Warner Bros., United Artists, 20th Century-Fox, ABC, Cinerama, and Rank.
Methinks that impression was due to hasty editing,
for the exclusive distributorship did not happen in the late 1960’s, but in the late 1950’s.
Take a look, for instance, at these posters:
Legend of the Lost (United Artists, 1957, coproduced by Dear);
Some Like It Hot (United Artists, 1959);
El Cid (Samuel Bronston and Allied Artists, 1961).
Cleopatra (20th Century-Fox, 1963);
and The Sound of Music (20th Century-Fox, 1965);
Did these studios maybe have part ownership of Dear at the time?
In 1974, at about the time the plans to film Salon Kitty had become serious,
Giulio Sbarigia seemed to have left Oceania and somehow hooked up instead with
to form a production company called Coralta Cinematografica S.r.l.,
and so the commission to produce Salon Kitty was transferred to Coralta, with most interiors to be shot on the sound stages at Dear.
(Coralta went defunct after a mere three years.)
As with many Italian films, it is best not to take the credits too seriously.
The studio that took credit for producing the film was in many cases doing hardly more than taking orders from Hollywood,
and receiving its money, indirectly, from Hollywood.
Look again at that little item in Variety: Sidney Lumet replaced Giuseppe Patroni Griffi.
Lumet would certainly have shot the film in English,
and Patroni Griffi almost certainly would have done the same.
So it is beyond question that this movie was being financed by Hollywood.
If you read the credits closely, you will see that one of the shareholders in this production was the Paris-based Les Productions Fox-Europa S.A.
(originally at 33, Champs-Élysées, F-75008 Paris;
later at 241, boulevard Pereire, F-75017 Paris).
I feel safe in assuming that Les Productions Fox-Europa held the majority interest.
I feel even safer in assuming that Les Productions Fox-Europa,
the French subsidiary of 20th Century-Fox, was simply following orders from the head office in Hollywood,
and that it was the Hollywood office that was transferring funds to Paris to put towards the production of Salon Kitty.
This becomes evident when we examine the release pattern,
for 20th Century-Fox would come to have the distribution contracts in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Belgium, Germany, France, the UK, and maybe other territories as well.
As far as I can tell, the most recent Dear/Fox collaboration had been
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1967.
After that, I presume 20th Century-Fox began distributing in Italy through its own local branch.
Was there still a lingering connection between Dear and Fox eight years later?
I doubt it, but I don’t know.
Also in the credits is a German production company, Cinema Seven GmbH of Munich.
This was a one-shot deal, presumably set up only to allow this particular German property to be handled by Italian producers.
This is certainly what connected Geissler/Infascelli to Fox/Coralta.
I would hazard that “Seven” referred to seven signatures on the contract.
(The seven were probably Norden, Schafer, Geissler, Infascelli, Sbarigia, Donati, and who else? The who else is the key to the mystery.)
We need to wonder why Fox would be so interested in a relatively obscure book by a relatively obscure author
dealing with an obscure historical event that had relatively insignificant long-term ramifications.
Well, we need to look at it in a different way.
There had been several successful movies dealing with Nazis, most notably The Damned (1969) and Cabaret (1972).
20th Century-Fox, interestingly, had at one time had the distribution contract for the megahit
Take a look at this frame grab from the preview:
Now, which preview was that?
The title in the above preview is given as Cabaret (“Goodbye Berlin”), but I’m unaware of that title ever being used in English.
According to this marvelous web page,
20th Century-Fox had the West German and Japanese distrubition contracts,
but in West Germany and in Japan the title was simply Cabaret.
So I haven’t a clue where this preview came from, though it was certainly intended for use in an English-speaking territory.
At the time of the film’s US première, though,
the posters gave no indication of involvement by Fox, but instead credited Allied Artists as the distributor.
What precisely was Fox’s interest? Had it sold its interest? What happened? Why?
Equally interestingly, Dieter Geissler had produced a Helmut Berger vehicle, Ludwig.
Was it he who brought Berger into the Salon Kitty package?
Berger, you see, had starred in The Damned.
In a 2004 interview for the Argent Films Blu-ray,
Tinto claims that casting Berger was his own idea.
Were his choices limited by what Geissler could offer?
Am I just letting my fantasies get away from me?
Fox was simply hopping onto the bandwagon. “Nazis are hot. Let’s do something hot!”
Someone at the studio noticed the full-page advertisement in Variety
a mere year after Cabaret’s opening and while it was still bringing in sensational returns.
It was time to make a deal.
Simple as that.
Once Helmut Berger was on hand, whether that was in 1973 prior to the purchase or in 1975 just prior to filming,
it was probably Fox that insisted upon reuniting him with Ingrid Thulin further to capitalize upon The Damned.
The ingredients were coming into place: another Nazi story based on another book, another Berger/Thulin vehicle, another moody musical.
Yes, this is what studios do — they copy-cat previous successes.
One of the early writers called in to do a treatment and/or screenplay was Antonio Colantuoni.
I know nothing about him except what is posted at IMDb,
but pay attention to what is listed there.
He had only one other screenplay to his credit, from 1970, something called Dove non è peccato (Where It Isn’t a Sin).
From the title, the
listing, some reviews,
and the poster,
I assume it’s some sort of pseudo-documentary with an emphasis on sex.
Indeed, at the site dedicated to composer Pietro Umiliani,
that is precisely what is implied, as the film is described as being set
in “mysterious” Finland. Mysterious?
I wonder if the choice of Colantuoni was an attempt to make Salon Kitty more sexy than it needed to be.
Which producer chose Colantuoni? Why?
As far as I can tell, it was entirely illegal for 20th Century-Fox to produce the film in Italy.
Italian film production was regulated by the government, which wanted to ensure that domestic product stood a chance against the Hollywood onslaught.
It was a nice idea, but it was so easy to get around.
One way Fox could have gotten around the regulations was to shoot the picture as a Hollywood production with location work in Europe.
To do so, unfortunately, would have increased the budget by many multiples.
US citizens would need to be hired at US union rates,
and that would have been in addition to the European technicians who would receive their own union rates just to sit in the back and play cards.
I don’t know, but I would suppose that a Hollywood production shooting on foreign soil would also be subject to double taxation.
Worse, US executives would have been at a loss when dealing with corrupt local officials who demanded their cuts or else.
So shooting as a Hollywood production was not a viable solution.
There was another way around the problem:
Hire a local European studio to do the paperwork and then register the film as being a domestic work with a Berne copyright.
So easy to do.
Since a German and an Italian had been involved from the beginning, and since an Italian producer was interested in hopping on board,
it was decided: This would be an Italian production of solely Italian nationality.
Better yet, the Italian government at that time offered subsidies for Italian movie productions.
If Salon Kitty could, on paper, be a 100% Italian production, it would qualify for a government subsidy.
Further to obscure the Hollywood origins, Fox could run money through its Parisian subsidiary, Les Productions Fox-Europa.
It could transfer Hollywood money to its account in Paris, and its Parisian office could then “invest” in Coralta’s Italian production.
The government applications need not match the reality,
and so I’m quite sure that, informally, the US-Italian-French-German working arrangement was a bit more flexible.
There was nothing unusual in this.
The Italian producer and his lawyers simply needed to guide the routine paperwork to make foreign control invisible to prying government eyes,
pay off corrupt politicians,
reduce production costs by offering high-salary studio workers barter instead of paychecks,
and thus leave the way clear for the Hollywood execs to make whatever they wished.
That was an Italian “producer’s” job. Nice job to have.
It worked. It worked wonders, with enough money left over that native Italian film biz was booming.
It worked for years — until the Italian government agencies finally caught on,
which they did, right at about the time Salon Kitty was wrapping up.
For reasons never published, Sidney Lumet left the production.
Coralta/Fox needed to hire a new director.
They approached George Pan Cosmatos,
who later told a journalist that he had turned down the project because he wouldn’t have enjoyed it.
He accepted a gig for The Cassandra Crossing instead,
surely because it paid a lot more. My guess is that what he enjoyed were not the movies, but the paychecks. I do not hold that against him.
On the contrary!
With Cosmatos gone, Tinto Brass somehow came into the picture.
Tinto had not had regular employment for several years.
He was living in an undesirable part of Rome, in a barracks that rained inside.
He desperately needed income.
After five years, he was so broke that he finally conceded to cuts in L’urlo so that the censors could clear it for release.
The film, which would surely have been a hit in flower-power 1969, was a dud in 1974, as Italians,
no longer concerned about Vietnam but rather more concerned about being under siege by the Red Brigades,
found that flower-power was no longer uppermost on their minds.
Boxoffice dud though it was, L’urlo received raves from the critics.
Thanks to those critical raves, Tinto for the first time in almost a decade was a marketable commodity.
Was that what brought Tinto to Coralta’s or Fox’s attention?
Whatever the case, Coralta (per Fox?) approached him to direct the film — at a bargain-basement price.
Tinto was probably aware that at least three directors had been approached before he was.
Coralta was not hiring Tinto to make a Tinto movie.
Coralta was hiring Tinto to make a Coralta movie,
and Tinto surely understood that.
Studios had occasionally hired him to direct other people’s scripts, true.
Those studios, though, hired him not merely as a journeyman, but to bring his particular gifts to the project.
With Salon Kitty the understanding was different.
This was the first time in his career he was employed as a hired hand.
How he felt about that, I do not know,
but I do know he compensated, as we shall see.
Tinto read Ennio de Concini’s
Salon Kitty script and turned it down.
He thought that the story of sexual intrigue in Nazi Germany was banal.
Over the next few days, though, the ideas in the script began to haunt him, he said.
If I may wax cynical for a moment, perhaps there was an outside influence that caused him to be haunted: poverty.
Besides, his move could have also been a test:
Would Coralta/Fox phone up another director as soon as Tinto walked out the door,
or would Coralta/Fox be stymied and at a loss?
Since the latter proved to be the case, Tinto knew he had the upper hand.
Of course, this is all just my guesswork.
That might not intentionally have been a strategic move, but even if it was not, it had the right effect.
So he went back to the producers, stating that he would direct the film only on condition
that he and Maria Pia Fusco could collaborate with de Concini on a rewrite.
He was apparently disturbed that the original script was merely sensationalistic.
He preferred a political focus.
If I may wax cynical for another moment: I think that was just an excuse.
First of all, how can the focus be political if all the historical facts are wrong?
Not only were all the facts wrong, but nobody cared that they were wrong.
More importantly, I can’t for the life of me envision Tinto simply directing to spec.
He was not a journeyman. He was not a hired hand. He would rather be unemployed than take orders.
If he was going to do a job, he would make it his own, as much as possible.
In part that’s his personality; he’s not an 8-to-5 guy working only for a paycheck.
He’s going to pour his heart and soul into whatever he does.
More importantly, he had a reputation to protect:
If he were to become known as a mere hired hand, he would never be able to make his own kind of movie again.
He had to establish himself as the sine qua non creator.
Yes, he would give the producers everything they asked for, but he would put his own idiosyncratic spin on the story — always.
It was a deal.
In his interview for the 2004 Argent Films Blu-ray,
Tinto talks about two of his fights with the production.
Both concerned newcomers whom Tinto championed.
First was Teresa Ann Savoy, whom he wished to cast as Margherita.
As he was auditioning for parts, Terry was there, all the time, watching.
Something about her interest caught his interest, but production was opposed to giving a leading rôle in a major film to an unknown.
Tinto insisted, and he got his way.
As he said, and as I agree, she was perfect for the part.
Was her character really named Margherita in the original script?
I have a small suspicion that her name was changed to Margherita to match Terry’s actual name,
in a play upon Princess Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna of Savoy.
Am I right, or am I just imagining things again?
Tinto’s other fight was for a young Swiss guy fresh out of design school, Jost Jakob, whose skillful sketches of female costumes caught his eye.
How did the two meet? I wonder.
Again, the studio wanted nothing to do with an unknown who had never worked on a film, but Tinto insisted.
Nobody would have done better, and Hollywood was sufficiently impressed to hire him to design costumes for Orca, the Killer Whale.
Jakob continued to work for Tinto until his untimely death circa 1997.
I know nothing else about him, but would love to learn.
For decades I so much wanted to find studio documentation related to Salon Kitty.
Just to find the contracts or accounting ledgers would have been helpful.
Alas, nothing seemed to survive.
So just about the last thing in the world I ever expected to find was Coralta Cinematografica’s contract with Tinto.
A few weeks ago, while doing research on another topic, I opened a vertical file and to my surprise I found Coralta Cinematografica’s contract with Tinto.
It’s so odd the things I find in the least-likely places when I’m not even looking for them....
Tinto was hired on 4 December 1974 to make this film of no more than 120 minutes in length.
By contract Tinto and Coralta would choose a composer satisfactory to both of them.
So it was definitely Tinto who brought Fiorenzo Carpi into the movie, not the other way around.
My guess, and it can be nothing other than a guess,
is that Coralta (per Fox) agreed to Carpi once he passed the test by composing three approved pieces of cabaret music.
My guess — just a guess — is that once the cabaret music was accepted,
Fox instructed Coralta to hire Editore Zita S.r.l. and Ricordi S.p.A. to hire Derry Hall to write lyrics and Annie Ross to sing them.
One of the songs was in French, José Padilla Sánchez’s “Ça c’est Paris,”
composed for the Moulin Rouge in 1926.
The other three songs were Carpi/Hall originals, and all three were in English.
One, “On the Morning After,” was originally published by Peermusic Italy, SM Publishing, and Universal MP,
and so I can’t follow how or why the rights got bounced around from one corporate entity to another.
I don’t know the titles of the other two Carpi/Hall songs.
I wish I could dig into this more, but the relevant Fox documentation all went into the dumpster decades ago (no, it’s not at the USC Fox collection).
Coralta no longer exists and I bet its papers are all in a landfill.
If you know where the Coralta papers are, or even the Les Productions Fox-Europa papers, please do tell.
Fiorenzo Carpi is dead. Derry Hall is dead. Sidney Lumet is dead. Giuseppe Patroni Griffi is dead. George Pan Cosmatos is dead.
All Annie Ross would ever have known was that she was hired for a day to sing four songs at a studio in Rome for possible use in a film.
Nobody who worked at Fox in 1974/1975 works there now.
Tinto would not know much about what happened before he signed his contract.
There’s nobody left to ask.
I was familiar with Fiorenzo Carpi, but I was not familiar with Derry Hall and Annie Ross.
Well, it turns out that
George Derrone “Derry” Hall was born in 1933 in Utica, NY, which is not far from my old neck of the woods.
He moved to France
(8 rue de l’Eure,
75014 Paris; tel. 1-543-4879) where
he scored a bunch of French movies that I had never heard of and which seem to be dreadful,
but I can’t really judge because I haven’t seen them.
I don’t think I want to see them.
I would like to hear his scores, though.
I’d love to know how he came to be signed to do the lyrics to these three pieces.
You can hear a few of his tunes on YouTube.
Wish I had contacted him. Too late.
Annie Ross, I discover, is universally celebrated.
Everybody knows her. Everybody loves her.
Under a pseudonym, Annabella Logan, she appeared as a child in a Hal Roach short called
The Our Gang Follies of 1938.
Are you dumbfounded yet?
She went on to become a member of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross:
For Lambert, Hendricks and Ross she wrote and performed an amazing song called
How did this pass me by? How did I never hear this before?
By the time of Salon Kitty fifteen years later her voice had descended several octaves.
Here she’s interviewed.
You’ve gotta watch this interview. I mean, you’ve gotta watch this interview:
The Salon Kitty gig was the answer to Tinto’s prayers.
Now that he was hired as director and now that he had script approval, Salon Kitty began to take on some of his obsessions,
and I would guess that it bears some similarities to Order and Sex Discipline,
The Borgias, and
(For what it’s worth, Maria Pia Fusco coauthored Sturmtruppen as directed by Salvatore Samperi, who took over from Tinto.
Had she been coauthor back when Tinto had the project?)
Tinto got a livable paycheck in the first time since forever and rented a modest but nice farm house on the outskirts of Rome.
He grew up as a rich kid but as soon as he was a grownup he inherited poverty, and so he was never one to put on airs.
The little farm house with its plentiful lower-class neighbors suited him perfectly.
He had been in the movie business since the late 1950’s.
He had had successes. He had had failures.
He had been embraced by the major Italian studios. He had been ostracized by the major Italian studios.
He had wowed the critics. He had alienated the critics.
Never before, though, had he gotten an offer to direct a major Hollywood-funded film.
This was his breakthrough, and it put him on the map.
Variety, Wednesday, 29 January 1975, p. 38:
Tinto Brass and scripter Ken Adam are in Germany selecting
locations for the Coralta project “Salon Kitty.”
Ken Adam was surely Fox’s choice, and he was a good choice.
He did a marvelous job at production design (he was not “scripter”) and he and Tinto got along famously.
A deleted moment, with one of Tinto’s favorite motifs: people in a tree.
Oh! Look at this! Someone found the above still in the original color (though cropped), as well as three others I’ve never seen before. Take a look:
Ingrid Thulin has femme lead under the direction of Tinto Brass
in “Salon Kitty” — Coralta’s big budgeter starting April 24 on location
As Fox required, the actors would speak English on camera — or most of them would.
As for the great Stefano Satta-Flores, who couldn’t speak a word of English, well,
he could have a cigarette dangling from his mouth to make lip-reading difficult and English dubbing easy.
That was a compromise everybody could live with.
The credits indicate that Louise Vincent translated the script into English.
That might be true. Wish I knew.
SIDE NOTE ABOUT ITALIAN AND GERMAN MOVIES, AMONG OTHERS:
Why were The Damned and Death in Venice filmed entirely in English with some British cast members? Answer: Warner Bros.
Why was Ludwig filmed entirely in English? Answer: MGM.
Why was Fellini-Satyricon filmed partly in English with Anglo/US leads? Answer: United Artists.
Why was Fellini’s Casanova filmed in English with a Hollywood lead? Answer: Universal.
Follow the money.
Salon Kitty became two movies in one.
At its base there was the banal spy story, a routine boilerplate, a standard way of filling seats.
There is nothing satisfying about this underlying story, which is actually rather irritating and even downright laughable.
Pasted on top of that, though not very well, was an attractive veneer, and this veneer must be primarily Tinto’s:
emotional complexity, as some of these two-dimensional characters develop awareness.
That is the aspect of the movie that is immensely satisfying.
A second veneer is pasted atop the first: absurdism.
Many parts of the story make literally no narrative sense, but only expressionistic sense.
There is the sex-orgy scene in the Sportforum in which nobody has any sex, but in which everybody performs calisthenics in suggestive ways.
There is, for instance, the scene in which rabies is transmitted absent any physical contact.
There is the human wheelbarrow.
I could go on like this for pages.
These were all instances of Tinto tossing out all logic and inserting bizarre images that just happened to amuse him.
Tinto also added his usual subtexts, as we cut rapidly to people and environments surrounding the main characters.
It truly becomes a challenge to keep up with what he is showing us.
It is these endless little cutaways that convey the impossibility of sane decision-making when immersed in an insane situation.
They demonstrate also that clear thought similarly becomes an impossibility, and that is a powerful lesson,
illustrated almost entirely by vanishingly brief cutaways that any other editor would have tossed out as superfluous.
Finally, there are the stunning sets, the gorgeous, moody lighting, and the marvelous, unconventional photography —
as far as I can tell, this was Tinto’s first multicam film, and he proved himself a master of the form,
thoroughly confident in directing his two camera crews — or was it three camera crews?
As for the censorable aspects of the movie (pretty much everything in the movie),
that must have come about from Fox’s desire for a sexy R-rated epic.
Well, Tinto gave them the sexiness they asked for, only, he gave them about a thousand times more —
and nearly all of it was intentionally laughable, absurd, preposterous, bizarre, ridiculous, unreal.
There can be no doubt that Tinto felt he was salvaging what would otherwise be boilerplate.
To his credit, he did.
A four-walled set that oozes atmosphere.
Does anybody have any of the drafts of the script?
I suspect that Roberto Infascelli
once wrote a Salon Kitty script, but I can’t be certain about that.
Antonio Colantuoni wrote a treatment, and maybe a script too.
Ennio de Concini wrote several drafts.
Then Maria Pia Fusco and Tinto collaborated on several more drafts with de Concini by their side.
It would be fascinating to see how their story evolved.
It would be even more fascinating to see how the story evolved in conjunction with the evolving finances.
(Maria Pia Fusco kindly responded to my email request, but she couldn’t locate the scripts right away.
She’d need to do some serious digging, she said, which she promised to do.
Shortly afterwards, she died.)
Unless the report is mistaken, we do have a hint about one particular change:
According to IMDb
there was originally a rôle for a Hungarian countess, but that when Brigitte Skay refused to strip as part of her audition, the character was simply deleted from the script.
Since I had never heard of her, I decided to do a
Now I’m even more confused. Stripping on camera was her claim to fame, it would appear.
I just noticed something.
I saw Cabaret only once, when I projected it back in 1978.
I ran it on 2,000' reels without change-over bells,
while at the same time inspecting the next day’s double feature.
(Go to this video and skip ahead to 8:18 to hear a change-over bell.
I hated it when I worked in booths that didn’t have change-over bells.)
The previous projectionist had not done an adequate job inspecting Cabaret,
which is why the first thing that happened as I hit the screen was that the film caught in the gate and a few frames melted.
(That’s one of the thousand grievances my employer built up against me to get me fired not long after I was hired.)
It was a busy day, and so my memory of the movie is vague, to say the least.
As I searched YouTube to find the preview in the link above, I noticed something frightfully familiar.
Salon Kittycopy-catted at least one image from Cabaret.
This should not come as a surprise.
¿Hey, Fox can copy Fox, que no?
Same prop lights, same lighting design, probably the same furniture, similar or same costumes, similar makeup.
I refused ever to watch Cabaret again, solely and simply because of the unpleasant associations with my extremely unpleasant old projection job.
Now I think it’s time I break down and buy a copy and watch it anyway, regardless of upsetting memories.
Besides, Cabaret coproducer Cy Feuer is some sort of relation to my friend Miles Kreuger (uncle, I think).
¿Small world? 15 JULY 2017:
I just watched the Blu-ray with its endless interference patterns.
The bemonocled guy in the dress was the only character who was repeated in Salon Kitty.
Predictably enough (though I didn’t intuit it), Cabaret copied this image from Otto Dix’s poster of journalist
Sylvia von Harden.
Read the summary at
this link. Okay. I get it now.
Cabaret is well done, but it’s not my type of movie at all.
I dislike stories about shallow immature insecure smaller-than-life self-centered and often hateful manipulators
entirely devoid of affection or any ability to care about anyone or anything other than their own inebriated libidos.
And they all smoked too much. Whatever.
It was well made, I guess, even though the editors had to cut around some bad acting to salvage some scenes. Joel Grey was marvelous.
His was the only character I cared about in the least, and that’s only because his was the only character about whom we learn nothing.
Mine is the minority view, admittedly. The movie was a boxoffice sensation. Do most moviegoers find these repulsively vacuous characters sympathetic?
Do most moviegoers identify with them? I hope not. If not, though, then why is this movie so universally loved?
According to IMDb, Crenna left and John Ireland took over his part.
Variety, Wednesday, 6 August 1975, p. 30:
SALON KITTY (May 12 start in Germany and Dear Studios)....
The contract estimated that shooting would begin on about 20 April 1975 and last 10 weeks.
In fact, shooting began on 12 May 1975, and was completed twelve weeks later at the beginning of August 1975.
Such delays are nothing out of the ordinary, and are actually factored in.
Despite the actors so obviously speaking English on camera,
it is equally obvious from watching the movie that little if any of the sound on set made it to the final film.
The actual production audio was used only as a reference for later dubbing.
The production audio could not be used in the final film surely because of the multitude of accents spoken by a large cast of actors,
most of whom knew a hesitant and unnatural English only as an eighth language.
Nearly everybody needed to be dubbed.
Tinto edited the film, per contract, a job that took him about six weeks.
Ingrid Thulin had lip-synched the songs, and the dancers had danced to playback.
For those musical numbers, Tinto matched the images to the sound (well, sort of).
The rest of the film he edited silent, as he always did, without reference to any sound recordings.
When he was done, he had his crew edit the raw production audio to match.
At least three copies of the film were made.
One copy was for the composer, Fiorenzo Carpi, the conductor, Bruno Nicolai, and their orchestra and crew, so that they could score the film.
(My guess as to the reason why Carpi did not conduct his own score was simply time pressure:
As he was scribbling down notes for the next cue, Nicolai was conducting the previous cue.
Again, I could be wrong about this.)
Another copy served as a reference guide for the Foley crew that recorded the effects track
(footsteps, clinking glasses, room ambience, automobile engines, gun shots, barking dog, flying airplanes, and other such sounds).
Tinto surely oversaw the Foley crew, but he surely left Fiorenzo Carpi pretty much alone.
The third copy would have gone to the dubbing crew, who recorded the Italian dialogue.
Once the music and effects tracks (M&E tracks) were complete, Tinto, per contract, mixed them into a master (probably monaural),
and this surely included the songs complete with Annie Ross’s voice,
which made the songs nearly impossible to replace or modify.
As far as I know, the three new songs, in English, unaltered, are included in all releases, in all countries.
Mixing is the sort of job Tinto can do in his sleep,
and his ideas about the æsthetics and uses of sounds are quite firm and distinctive.
Remember, Tinto, like Russ Meyer, like Buster Keaton, like Stanley Kubrick, is a technician first, a story-teller second.
Sometimes I get the impression that Tinto made movies just so he’d have an excuse to play with all the machines.
The above is somehow squeezed from the widescreen Blue Underground edition,
with its wrongly edited music.
For thirty-plus years I’ve been unable to understand a few of the lyrics.
Below is my messy transcription, with the questioned words highlighted.
If you can figure them out, write to me and you’ll be my friend forever.
MALE: It’s a cold and an empty feeling,
just staring endlessly
at a cold and an faceless ceiling,
and wondering where she’ll be.
FEMALE: Then at last when I think he’s found me,
at last my time has come.
Ah, the women are all around me,
and I’m back where I started from.
HERMAPHRODITE: But here’s some news,
I’ll make it plain.
Friends you haven’t a thing to lose,
just forget all the old taboos,
you’ve got really much more to gain.
Just get closer to
the one you’re close to.
And that needn’t be
the one you’re s’posed to.
Cast out your fears,
chase them away.
You’ve been waiting around for years,
now it’s time that you shifted gears,
why be glum when you could be gay?
Once around should suffice,
if you’ll just slip a little versa into your vice.
FEMALE: I could die for the sweet things you do,
yet any fool can see
you’ve got eyes for Marlene, for Nunu,
but not a glance for me.
MALE: How it hurts when I feel you near me,
FEMALE: So near but yet so far,
MALE: And I start seeing things so clearly,
Seeing things just the way they are.
HERMAPHRODITE: So here’s some news,
I’ll make it plain.
Friends you haven’t a thing to lose,
just forget all the old taboos,
you’ve got really much more to gain.
MALE: Just get closer to the one you’re close to,
and that needn’t be the one you’re s’posed to.
HERMAPHRODITE: Cast out your fears,
chase them away.
You’ve been waiting around for years,
now it’s time that you shifted gears.
why be glum when you could be gay?
Once around will suffice,
if you’ll just slip a little versa into your vice.
They say that all things
must have an end,
that broken bones
and broken hearts
take oh so long to mend.
You’ve heard it so often,
it must be true.
Will you believe it
when it happens to you?
Your morning coffee
won’t taste the same.
A fix won’t help a lot,
you’ve only got
yourself to blame.
Your bed so empty,
your world so black.
Is there no joy,
is there no love,
is there no turning back?
Your life’s in pieces.
what can you say?
As you light yet
thoughts far away.
With sleepless eyes
it’s not the same world as before,
On the morning after the night before.
Your life’s in pieces.
What can you say?
As you light yet
thoughts far away.
With sleepless eyes
it’s not the same world as before,
On the morning after the night before.
For me, this is the toughest one to understand:
We’re taught, for what it’s worth,
that God created life on earth.
That’s what we’re given to believe.
It’s also written in The Book
that on the day that Adam took
his first long look at Eve,
he eyed her tenderly,
and though his thoughts were pure,
noting her gender he remarked,
“One thing’s for sure:
I’m going to get me some of that;
I’ll be the first man to begat.”
But Eve, nobody’s fool,
said, “There are things, my friend,
I think that you should hear,
about the things that I’m not going to take.
I’m not for free, my friend,
and if that’s not quite clear,
why don’t you go try it with that snake?”
Well Adam must have seen
there’s no real choice between
a love affair with Beauty or the Beast.
So he wrote fig-leaf checks
for prehistoric sex.
He must have learned at least,
that it’s the geld that counts,
in very large amounts.
Don’t tell me you’re just finding out
what it’s all about.
Mister you just got here from the moon.
In the best bank accounts,
It’s still the geld that counts.
It may be sad but yet it’s true,
it’s something all of you
would-be lovers must discover too.
Philosophers and sages
writing wisdom of the ages
all agree and leave no doubt,
that if you want to play the boss
you’d better plan to come across
or else you’ll do without.
Why even Romeo
found out to his dismay
the lovely Juliet
would not come out to play.
If all he offered her
Julie had the brains to know that each is on his very own.
She said, “Look here, my friend,
I think it’s time for you
to learn a few things you will never see.
For there’s not much, my friend,
a girl is going to do
for just some words
beneath her balcony.”
Well there’s a moral here,
by now it should be clear,
by now it should not come
as a surprise.
You pay for what you get,
a s____ or Juliet [a peek of Juliet? a snake or Juliet?],
to girls who realize,
when the champagne amounts,
that’s when it really counts,
because champagne has to be
drinking water from a ________ cup.
It’s strictly geld that counts,
in very large amounts.
So mister all you got to do
is bear in mind that you’ve
You better get it up!
Now, think about that clip for a moment.
It is truly awful, but not out of ineptitude.
It is deliberately, intentionally awful.
It is awful by design.
That is why I so enjoyed it from the first time I saw it.
Even when I hated this movie, I enjoyed this musical number, just because it was so absurdly, maliciously, defiantly rotten.
It’s hilarious, actually.
I can’t be sure, but that musical number seems to me to be Tinto thumbing his nose at the Fox guys in Hollywood.
“You want a musical number? Okay, I’ll give you a musical number, and you’ll hate it and there’s no way you can cut it.
Ha ha.” I don’t know, of course. Maybe I’m just jumping to unfounded conclusions.
Somebody recently rediscovered something: the music tapes!
And somebody did something really nice:
released them on CD!
So at long last we can finally hear the music, without distractions and without edits.
You were never able to identify that Viennese waltz, were you?
That’s because it was written for the movie!
All those decades I was certain it must have been a rearrangement of an earlier piece. Not at all.
This music is good enough to be performed as a symphony concert.
But that will never happen because the movie that it accompanied is for over-18’s only.
Silly, isn’t it?
But it’s great music, really.
It’s not all the music, of course.
One piece is an arrangement slightly different from the one in the movie,
and then there are two pieces altogether missing from the CD, because they were from historical recordings, I guess:
Wenn die SS und Die SA Aufmarschiert and
Wenn die Soldaten
(click here for the lyrics in German and English).
Anyway, back to the CD. The written score seems to be missing,
which explains why these pieces have such descriptive titles as
“Sequence 1,” “Sequence 2,” “Sequence 3,” “Sequence 4,” “Sequence 5”....
Definitely worth getting. Now can somebody find that written score somewhere?
SOUND. Whether the
S.A.S. Società Attori Sincronizzatori dubbing crew
performed its duties as the music and effects tracks were being recorded in different suites,
or whether it waited until each reel of music and effects was mixed, I do not know.
The S.A.S. performed the Italian dialogue under the direction of multitalented and omnipresent
who had starred in Tinto’s L’urlo
and had appeared in Tinto’s Dropout
and had sung the songs in Tinto’s La vacanza.
Proietti himself dubbed Helmut Berger’s voice.
This work of recording the dialogue continued through early or mid-November.
As far as I know, Tinto had nothing to do with the dubbing.
Nothing. I repeat: nothing.
My educated guess is that the S.A.S. crew showed Tinto this dub at a screening room at
over the course of several weeks, one reel at a time as they were completing their work.
Maybe — maybe — Tinto then adjusted some levels. Maybe not.
Pretty much all Tinto did, though, I’m quite sure, was to say “yeah, okay.” Nothing more.
My guess is that it the government permits required Salon Kitty, as a film of Italian nationality,
to be completed in Italian as quickly as possible,
and the permits probably also required that Italian release be scheduled ahead of release elsewhere.
It was likely a requirement of the government permits that a 100% Italian firm
unrelated to Hollywood distribute Salon Kitty in Italy.
That, I suppose, is why La Distribuzione Titanus had purchased some shares of the movie:
The shares were in exchange for the domestic distribution contract.
Aldo Valetti, who had just appeared in Pasolini’s Salò
Once the Italian track was completed, it was time to have actors record English dialogue.
The English dub must have been recorded in November/December 1975.
I could be wrong about this.
Yes, it is possible that two dubbing crews worked at the same time,
one recording Italian dialogue and the other recording English dialogue.
It is possible, but highly doubtful, and I doubt the English dialogue was recorded in Rome.
Further, when Tinto showed Salon Kitty at a private screening at the Rizzoli screening room in Manhattan on the evening of 1 December 1975,
he took along the Italian print, since no English print yet existed.
(Rizzoli screening room, 712 Fifth Avenue, NYC, to the right of the Rizzoli book shop and down one flight.
I think it’s long gone by now.)
There would not be an English print, I’m quite sure, for another two or three weeks.
So I’d wager that the English was recorded immediately after the Italian, and that the final mix was created by mid-December 1975.
If you can prove that the English dialogue track was recorded after December 1975, you’d be able to knock me over with a feather.
You see, when we read between the lines in the press releases, it is beyond question that Fox expected to have an English version open in the US coast to coast in early 1976,
which means that the English dialogue had to have been recorded shortly before New Year’s 1976.
This was by contract. As we shall see, things went terribly wrong.
The Italian release was supposed to happen at the beginning of December 1975, and the US release was supposed to happen probably in January 1976.
Both releases were delayed.
THE BOOK OF THE FILM.
Enrico Nassi and Fabian Cevallos, Salon Kitty: storia d’un film. Bei Editore, 1975.
A big movie deserves a big souvenir picture book, yes?
Definitely worth getting, if you can find a copy. Beautiful book.
It was included as a PDF scan in the deluxe DVD edition from Blue Underground.
I think it was deleted from all subsequent editions.
FROM THE INSIDE FLAP:
Fascism is a permanent temptation. It is so even for us who had
proudly thought that with the Resistance movement
we had actually exorcised society. Salon Kitty
is not, therefore, only a fine photographic,
witnessed, testimony by Fabian Cevallos of an
impetuous and aggressive film by Tinto Brass, it
is also an identikit: a document in fact
which the political journalist of Il Mondo
Enrico Nassi proposes in the form of an inquiry.
Fabian Cevallos is a South American
photo reporter who refused to give in to the
fascism of the South American colonels and who
today works in Italy for L’Espresso
and Sygma of Paris. His photographs bring
a new, human dimension to facts, a love for the
victims, pity for those who fall.
The cover is by Mauro Piccini, head of
the graphics department of Playmen, and is
an emblematic synthesis of the violence of Nazi
power. Salon Kitty is not the story of a
high-class brothel (Eros and Death); it is a
That wasn’t all. A series of A4-sized brochures entitled
“Documenti di Spettacoli & Società”
(Jabik & Colophon Editori) devoted its second issue (April 1976) to Salon Kitty:
There was even more. A Castilian translation, with often terrible photographic quality,
was published by Edita Mirasierra, Avenida del Generalisimo, 85, Madrid:
THE CENSORS PROTECT US:
Outraged once again (by its sexual content rather than by its anti-authoritarianism,
which I’m sure that no censor could detect or understand even if it were explained),
the censors seized the film in early December 1975 and insisted upon numerous cuts —
16 according to one account, 30 according to another, and 67 according to yet another.
By contract, if any changes were ever needed, including changes required by the censor board,
Tinto would be brought in to make those changes.
For reasons unknown to me, Sbarigia ordered his crew to make the deletions and to destroy the masters of the deleted materials, without first notifying Tinto.
At least, that’s my understanding.
Did he notify Tinto, and did Tinto refuse? Maybe. I don’t know.
Predictably, Tinto sued, citing a law permitting literary authors to withdraw their books
should the publishers make any unauthorized changes prior to publication, and arguing that his film was a literary work.
Tinto half-won his case.
The judge decided that the massive publicity surrounding the case
made it known to all interested viewers that the film they were watching was not the integral version.
Further, even with the cuts, the judge argued that film displayed Tinto’s views and vision.
The judge did, however, allow Tinto to show the original film privately.
This scene, the “Maroon Room,” with Alexandra Bogojević,
is deleted from nearly all copies of Salon Kitty.
The cut in the film is painfully obvious.
The censoring is what permanently ruptured the professional relationship between Giulio Sbarigia and Tinto Brass.
Oh, if only they had still trusted each other, the next project would have been a real beauty.
Oh well. That’s one of the saddest might-have-been’s in all cinema history.
Instead, a different movie was made. Ugh.
Read it and weep:
THE PRESS Page 8 ENTERTAINMENT, CULTURE, AND VARIETY
Volume 110 — Number 48 — Thursday, 26 February 1976
After Tinto Brass’s Requests Salon Kitty: The Producer Defends the Film’s 16 Cuts
Rome, 25 February.
Ninety meters of film,
a little more than two minutes of running time [wrong: 90m = 295' = 3 min 15 sec],
have rekindled the
fights over Salon Kitty, the
film that depicts the
decadence, vulgarity, and
obscenity of Nazism, through
an espionage center
established in a renowned
bordello, the Salon Kitty, in fact.
Tinto Brass, the director,
does not consent to the cuts imposed
by the Censorship Commission after an appeal,
cuts that had already made by the producer
so that he could release the film by next month.
The Venetian director
has asked for the withdrawal
of his film, and with that
clamorous gesture he intends
to repeat with great vigor
the discourse on the total
abolition of the Censor.
Brass’s attitude is
shared by radicals who,
at the “Biennial,” have currently sought
to organize a retrospective
of censored or banned
films, and who have proposed a bill
to abolish not only
but the [correlative] penal code as well.
In Tinto Brass’s request for the withdrawal of
Salon Kitty, the director appealed to
“the [author’s] rights to the rushes,” which
has no precedent in cinema,
because hitherto this pertained to
writers who, for ideological or religious
reasons, could ask for the non-distribution
of their works, though they had
to pay damages to the publisher. In
this case, the damages
would be one billion three
hundred fifty million [US$1,724,618.40]
to be paid by the director, the screenwriters,
and the music composer.
There were sixteen cuts requested
by the censor for a total of
ninety meters, and those who witnessed
in the presence of a judge,
certified that they related
to crowd scenes and a single
“lightening” of a scene involving
the lead actor, Helmut
“The cuts,” maintains
producer Sbarigia, “do not diminish
the value of Tinto Brass’s
film. I am willing to show
the ninety censored meters to a jury of critics
to demonstrate that I did not castrate the director’s
work. On the contrary, in accepting
the cuts, I am certain that
I have opened the road to success
for a film that is worthy of being
seen. I don’t even
think that Brass wishes me to take his name
off of the film, because
one does not
renounce the ownership of a work
when one is certain it can be a
If the director and producer don’t
reach a compromise, then that could spell the end of
the project on a film about the Borgias,
which Tinto Brass had planned to
make with Marlon
Brando, with Sbarigia as
So now, at long last, courtesy of the above article,
we know the total production cost of Salon Kitty.
An equivalent Hollywood production would have cost probably four or five times as much.
We also now know why Tinto didn’t withdraw the censored movie:
He couldn’t afford to pay the damages.
My opinion: The “lightening” of a scene with Helmut Berger must have referred to his first scene.
Several shots were trimmed slightly — just a few frames here and there —
to remove a few of the glimpses of the guys in the Berlin Sportforum.
The other cuts were in the “group testing” scene and in a later bedroom scene.
There were a few other bits, too, but I can’t remember them off-hand,
except, of course, for the “Maroon Room,” which was deleted in its entirety.
I have not seen the Italian première version,
but I have seen the Italian VHS, which is surely similar, about four minutes short of the original.
In sum, the cuts damaged the film only slightly and did not change its meaning in the least.
Those who would like the movie with the cuts would like it without the cuts.
Those who like it without the cuts would still like it with the cuts,
though they would surely be irritated that stuff that they had once seen was now gone for no discernible reason.
It is certain that Tinto was genuinely upset and enraged,
but, more than anything else, my guess is that this was not over the slight trims, but was a matter of principle.
Remember, by contract he was supposed to deliver a film of no more than 120 minutes,
and he exceeded that contractual maximum by a full thirteen minutes!
He was required to cut it.
Admittedly, though, producers and exhibitors generally turn a blind eye to a mere thirteen minutes’ overage.
By refusing to agree with the cuts, Tinto could make Sbarigia play the part of the heavy.
The end result, of course, was infinitely more publicity, and infinitely more ticket sales.
There is another matter of principle here, and Tinto probably took this into account as well:
The censor cuts were completely random, without any reason except to give the censors an excuse to protect their jobs.
Why this particular moment of nudity was acceptable and why that other one was not, well, there couldn’t have been any reason at all.
It was ridiculous — entirely ridiculous.
The decisions were arbitrary and absurd.
Tinto treasures absurdism on stage and on screen and on the printed page.
He does not like it in real life.
THE ENGLISH DUB. I do not know who supervised the English dub that is currently available on home video.
It was almost certainly not Tinto who directed the dub.
When we look at his schedule, we see that he had no time.
By mid-November 1975 he was already up to his ears in his next gig.
Though we have no specifics, we do have a few clues.
English dubs of Italian movies are generally recorded by native English speakers in Rome.
There are plenty of exceptions to that rule, though.
In all likelihood the English dialogue was recorded at a Fox studio, maybe in Paris (HQ of Les Productions Fox-Europa),
probably not in Rome (HQ of Coralta), but most probably in London
(where Fox would soon record the English dialogue for Universal’s production of Fellini’s Casanova, to which Fox had UK/Aussie/NZ distribution rights).
The dialogue was spoken entirely by staff dubbers, except, of course, for Ingrid Thulin, Helmut Berger, John Ireland, and John Steiner, who dubbed their own voices,
since they were rather well-known and since they were fluent.
Oh how much I would love to get a complete credit list of the voices and voicing crews.
The songs, of course, were untouched.
The English dub is actually quite good, far better than the Italian dub.
Despite claims to the contrary, the complete 133-minute film was dubbed in English.
That is certain, and I can prove it.
You see, if we were to edit together the 112-minute version formerly available on Japanese DVD
and the 129-minute VHS edition formerly available in the US from VCL/Media Home Entertainment,
we would be able to put together all but half a line in English,
and that half-line was obviously the victim of a censor board somewhere.
I’m still on the hunt for that half-line.
ARRIVAL IN HOLLYWOOD. I would guess that it was in late December 1975 that an English print was shipped to 20th Century-Fox.
That’s when things happened.
To understand what happened and why, we need a brief refresher course in US cinema history.
THE STORY YOUR FILM PROFESSOR NEVER TOLD YOU.
The US had, and still has, a problem unknown to most of the modern Western world.
Just as place of residence and employability are determined by inherited wealth and skin color,
film release is determined by corporate provenance and degree of pabulum.
This is not the free market at work.
This is regulation of a most indirect and insidious sort.
For a few years, 1969 through 1973, the Hollywood system began to break down.
In part this was due to the abhorrence bank executives felt (and still feel) towards amortized properties,
as well as to the desire of real-estate developers forever to move populations around, in part by block-busting.
Remember, banks and real-estate developers don’t make a dime from people living contentedly in a house that’s fully paid for.
When efforts to induce people and businesses to relocate failed, tax assessments were raised astronomically,
forcing residents and business owners out of downtowns and into new suburban developments.
This brought respectable downtowns and older neighborhoods to ruin, together with the major theatres and movie palaces therein.
What had been the safest parts of town suddenly became war zones.
The few renters and home owners and business owners who still stood their ground now gave up.
They moved to the new suburbs and entertained themselves at the new shopping malls.
This, of course, altered movie-going habits. You see,
Doctor Zhivago works only at a deluxe movie palace;
Easy Rider works only at a bland hole-in-the-wall or at a drive-in.Sure-firemoney-making formulas
(remember Funny Girl and Darling Lili?) were suddenly sure-fire deficits.
That, in part, is what caused all Hollywood studios to operate in the red in the 1960’s.
That, in part, is what convinced desperate studio execs to take chances with cheap movies made by amateurs.
Some of these amateurs made really good movies that earned tons of money.
Unfortunately, some of these amateurs acted like amateurs.
Some dawdled forever so that they could smoke joints;
others refused free help from professional technicians and got lost, falling weeks, months, even years behind schedule;
while yet others threw heavy office chairs at their bosses.
So much for the amateurs.
Correlative with these developments was the new film-rating system,
in the works since the 1950’s (I think), but not codified until late 1968.
It was the alphabet soup of ratings
that allowed highly unconventional films to have prominent venues.
It was the X rating in particular that opened the market to offbeat cinema, often even in the major chains and in suburban malls.
Despite everything you think you know, the X was not meant to connote anything offensive or indecent.
Indeed, most X films were not offensive in any way at all.
The X was designed only to keep children away from movies deemed inappropriate for their consumption, nothing more.
The X rating is why Midnight Cowboy was able to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
The X rating is how The Damned was allowed a release, to become one of the most respected movies of the time.
The X rating is how A Clockwork Orange became a massive breakout success.
The X rating is why Last Tango in Paris came to be a major hit.
The X rating is how a censored-by-the-studio-but-rated-X-anyway version of The Devils made it to the screen.
The X also allowed movies of narrow appeal an outlet on the art-house and university circuits,
and that is why we were permitted to see the
along with Performance
and Fritz the Cat
and The Killing of Sister George
and if.... and so forth.
Too bad Last of the Mobile Hot-shots flopped, though.
I really liked that one.
One of my favorites is the universally reviled take-down of egotism, the misspelled ...Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?,
which was wrongly advertised as skin flick
(here’s the hottest scene).
Oh what a gem that was!
Everybody detested it.
As you can see by watching the clips and previews in the links above, these were not “immoral” or “pornographic” or “degenerate” films.
These were serious works that were simply not suited to the Saturday-morning family matinée.
They appealed to a different audience, an audience that craved thought-provoking, challenging, even difficult entertainment rather than escapism.
The major studios and cinema chains, now more aware than ever before of this alternative market,
began to cater to it, giving writers and filmmakers more freedom to be creative.
Do you know what killed this newfound freedom, this widening of the market? The Mafia.
The Mafia submitted hardcore movies to the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration, which awarded them X ratings as well.
It didn’t help that the X rating was never trademarked, intentionally, so that any studio or distributor could self-apply the X on any film it so desired.
So Radley Metzger self-applied the X on Tinto Brass’s Black on White, which really didn’t deserve such a harsh restriction.
Then the US distributor of Death Laid an Egg a/k/a Pluckedself-applied the X on that one too, for no reason I can discern.
The situation instantly deteriorated, as distributors of hardcore self-applied the X on countless thousands of pieces of junk,
and in the newspapers often used a loop of X’s as a border surrounding their hideously ugly advertisements.
That is why X soon came to be perceived as denoting porn.
There had been numerous calls for the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) to invent a different classification for hardcore.
Unfortunately, CARA refused, insisting that its job was only to offer objective age restrictions, not to pass subjective judgment on cinematic quality.
That was a terrible mistake — and a terribly disingenuous excuse.
Nobody was asking CARA to judge cinematic quality.
Countless people begged CARA simply to identify which films were hardcore, which was a reasonable request — completely objective, not subjective.
CARA played games. Why? I don’t know.
So by about 1973 parents were complaining, local ordinances were changing, leases were being renegotiated, and almost overnight X was verboten in the major cinemas.
No more experimenting. No more taking chances. No more freedom.
I often wonder if that was CARA’s game plan all along. I don’t know, and I can’t know.
Soon enough we were back to cookie-cutter plots and all the standard boring clichés, with hardly an alternative in sight.
I stopped following Hollywood around 1981, and so I really cannot speak with any authority on what has happened since,
but the very last major burst of freedom sponsored by a Hollywood studio of which I am aware was United Artists’ Heaven’s Gate,
a film that was deliberately murdered, courtesy of Reagan’s attorney general,
William French Smith, and Reagan’s secretary of state,
who ensured that studio executives would see to it that the film was instantly buried.
The studio executives were more than happy to oblige.
Aided by a 70mm print that had the mag tracks laid down while the film was still wet, resulting in nearly incoherent dialogue at the première NYC screening,
and abetted by the ever-grumpy Vincent Canby and the usual endless supply of critics who just wrote monkey-see-monkey-do,
the film died before it could be born, and the media made of it a laughing stock.
Free market? Free market? What’s this I hear about a free market?
Oddly, when Heaven’s Gate is revived nowadays, more than three decades later, it gets applause and ovations.
Predictably, just a few months after I posted this embedded essay on the X,
a film programmer decided to run with the idea:
“RATED X: NOT FOR CHILDREN (BUT NOT FOR PORN).”
So many things I’ve said in casual conversation or hammered out in email messages or posted on my web sites became real not long afterwards,
in programs, in books, in essays, in articles, generally with no credit to me or even a private thank-you.
“NOTE: No one under 17 will be admitted to ‘Rated X’ shows.”
Why? Some of them are rated R now, and some of them just aren’t worthy of such a severe restriction.
(And no, the programmer was wrong. NC-17 is not solely for non-hardcore.
X is no longer used. NC-17 is just a trademarked X that may not be self-applied.
As soon as the new rating was put into effect, several hardcore movies were submitted to CARA,
which, predictably, awarded them NC-17. So cinemas, predictably, instituted a policy of no NC-17 no matter what. The problem continues.)
Studios soon managed to become profitable again, not through ticket sales, but through a series of bizarre financial mechanisms that I have yet to untangle.
Suburban multiplex cinemas became profitable both as tax write-offs for unrelated parent organizations and as long-termreal-estate investments.
They’re built on cheap land, and once the value skyrockets twenty or thirty years later, they are demolished and the land is sold off.
EXHIBIT FOR THE PLAINTIFF:
For those few of you under the age of 70 who have seen these movies and disbelieve my assertion that they were ever rated X, well, they were. Click to enlarge:
See? They were rated X.
Nowadays nobody would bat an eye at any of this.
Back in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, though, these were most definitely X.
Since these films broke the barriers decades ago, they are now considered “old,” and so we take them for granted.
Few movies are this inventive anymore.
It is unfortunate that later movies did not use these innovative films as springboards to greater creativity,
but rather just copy-catted only the most superficial aspects: flesh and blood. Whoopdeedoo. Who cares?
Once we were overly desensitized to flesh and blood, the studios appealed the ratings to the above films and many others, too, often successfully.
I suppose all of these are rated R now.
Of course, from cinema’s beginnings in the 1890’s to the present, the vast majority of movies have been unmitigated junk.
It therefore follows that the vast majority of movies that won X ratings were also unmitigated junk.
Furthermore, the ratings system has always been a bit crazy.
As soon as the ratings were announced in late 1968, the widespread assumption was that films that merited R or X ratings must be “naughty.”
Some were, yes.
The movies made by the great
Russ Meyer come to mind. So do some unwatchable examples of dullest dreck.
On the other hand, those who attended Midnight Cowboy or Last of the Mobile Hot-shots or The Damned
in hopes of getting their kicks from seeing something “dirty” were indeed shocked —
by the realization that there was nothing at all “dirty” about these flicks.
I suppose most walked out part-way through in disappointment and agonized boredom.
Also, I have frequently encountered movies (such as most of the ones mentioned above) whose ratings left me slack-jawed,
as there was no justification for them at all.
Sometimes I wondered what the ratings jury was thinking — or drinking.
Sometimes I wondered if the ratings jury had actually bothered to watch some of the movies before passing judgment.
For instance, Napoléon vu par Abel Gance got a G rating.
A G rating? How on earth did it get a G rating?
Remember the body parts in the battlefield scene? Remember the street parade with the trophy on a spike?
Remember the ladies in the ballroom scene? A G rating? A G rating? Huh?
Either the jury members didn’t bother to watch it at all or they fell asleep after the first few minutes —
or they were imbibing or inhaling certain substances that rendered them oblivious to what was unfurling on the screen in front of them.
Then there was the case of The Magic Christian:
How it got a PG is beyond my reckoning powers —
unless, again, the jurors simply didn’t bother to watch it.
The award for funniest misapplication of the X surely goes to Antony Balch’s 1969 reissue of
Witchcraft through the Ages,
which was not for little kids, admittedly, but which was not worthy of a restrictive rating by any means.
Well, whatever. I could drone on, but there’s no point.
Nonetheless, for all its faults, the new ratings system did make a positive contribution for just over four short years,
allowing big-studio production and mainstream distribution of movies that could never have been made or shown otherwise.
There’s no denying that.
The irony is that the same ratings system that unleashed a tidal wave of creativity was soon thereafter responsible for the definitive end of that creativity.
The ratings system continues to have a small echo of its original good effect, as daring movies can still legally be shown, albeit mostly in museums or in university settings.
They can also be made available on home video and can even occasionally be presented at off-the-beaten-path cinemas.
I doubt that Hollywood will ever again produce or finance a daring movie, though.
Those days are over.
On rare occasion we still get wonderful movies such as
Rhymes for Young Ghouls and
The Seventh Fire,
but those are made entirely outside the Hollywood system, and they get limited play at best,
generally at festivals and specialty houses and libraries and archives and universities and museums.
Terrible pity, isn’t it?
BACK TO SALON KITTY.
It must have been at the end of 1975 that 20th Century-Fox took the first step in its preparation for the US release of Salon Kitty.
I know nothing about that day: when, where, who.
I wish I knew. Oh how I wish I knew.
Even without knowing, though, I can still imagine that day.
Oh yes, I can just imagine it, so clearly, and, I’m certain, so accurately:
A hundred or so suit-and-tie execs, reeking of nicotine, accompanied by their spouses and VIP guests,
entering the small state-of-the-art screening room in Manhattan or Hollywood,
anticipating a stronger version of Cabaret, a film of which they could be proud.
They were already, silently in their minds, rehearsing how they would present their marketing strategies, hoping to make an impression in the board room.
Then the lights go down, the movie starts, and their faces all fall.
The hoped-for promotions and bonuses vanish in a puff of smoke.
These execs had never seen anything remotely like Salon Kitty.
In their wildest, most deranged fantasies, the fantasies they never dared confess even to their shrinks,
they had never imagined anything remotely like Salon Kitty.
This wasn’t merely another Midnight Cowboy. Oh no. No no no no no.
Salon Kitty was totally off the charts.
Yes, for sure, there had been movies made for shock value.
Those were a dime a dozen. Everybody had seen those, and they had become a huge yawn.
Salon Kitty, though, was most definitely not made for shock value,
and that’s what made it even stronger than mad-slasher and porn movies.
Every moment of the film would manage to offend bluenoses and to stun nearly everybody else to speechlessness.
Nobody in that screening room had seen anything like it before, and so nobody was prepared for the audiovisual assault.
Indeed, nothing like Salon Kitty had ever been seen in the US before.
SIDE NOTE: You’re probably thinking that a much stronger film had already been seen.
Nope. Though it had been filmed slightly earlier,
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom had not yet been released.
(That was the movie that turned even Dave Friedman’s stomach.
He couldn’t understand how I could watch such an atrocity, willingly, more than once, and drive several hours each way to do so.
“The bad guys don’t even get it in the end!” he wailed.)
There’s an interesting story about that movie, too.
Grimaldi’s P.E.A., funded by United Artists via its Parisian subsidiary, Les Productions Artistes Associés S.A.,
had commissioned Sergio Citti to direct the film, and it was Citti who called in Pasolini and Pupi Avati to help with the script.
Citti resigned to take a different project, and Avati contractually could not take credit.
Pasolini took over, and then, in late August 1975, a third of the negative was stolen in a raid on the Technicolor vault and held for ransom.
Since the studios refused to pay any ransom, Pasolini reshot some scenes, and it appears that he edited around what he didn’t have time to reshoot —
there are important publicity stills by
Fabian Cevallos that correspond to nothing in the final film; they were stills of scenes that I doubt would have been cut during normal editing.
Just as Pasolini submitted his answer print, he was murdered.
When the movie arrived in the US, Customs seized it on potential obscenity charges.
When the UA executives finally received the movie in, I think, early 1976,
they were so mortified to discover what they had paid for that they decided never to release it in the US.
Not only did they fear a backlash and infinite bad publicity; they could not in good conscience unleash such a horrifyingly grotesque film to the public.
And you thought you had a bad day at the office, huh?
So there is no way on earth anybody at 20th Century-Fox could have seen or even known about Salò in late 1975.
Finally, in late 1977, probably under contractual pressure, United Artists did consent to have a subsidiary,
UA Classics, give Salò a minimal US release only to specialty houses.
In every copy of the film I have seen, several scenes are darkened so that male nudity will be rendered invisible (sorta silly, since it was fake nudity anyway),
and towards the end another shot is cropped and then obscured with a column through a binocular mask
(2:17 in the preview).
I’m quite sure that Pasolini never intended the binocular mask in that particular shot,
and certainly not with the image enlarged, cropped, reframed, and obscured by an unmotivated column.
The unit stills reveal a lot more image.
It looks to me as though that scene was also trimmed quite a bit, but I can’t be certain of that.
There is a claim that Pasolini’s original cut, perhaps only a rough cut, was 29 minutes longer than the version that was released.
To all appearances, nearly all outtakes and trims and studio deletions and censor deletions from all of Pasolini’s films were dumped into a landfill decades ago,
which is one of the greatest of all cinematic tragedies.
It wasn’t a matter of a scene or two in Salon Kitty that caused concern.
Nearly every scene in the movie was a problem, a huge problem.
So the Fox execs didn’t see a movie; they saw a problem — an insurmountable problem.
This problem had a name. It was called “The Ratings Problem.”
For a fair idea of how an unprepared viewer would react, please read this review.
That review probably gives us a sense of what was going through the minds of the bewildered execs in the screening room.
Admittedly, the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration could be flexible.
There were no hard-and-fast rules about what content qualified for which rating.
The anonymous jury members could sometimes be swayed by a convincing argument.
Nonetheless, anyone watching Salon Kitty would know for certain that the ratings board would apply an X, and that no appeals would be possible.
Surely it was the inevitable X rating that put Fox off, since X films by 1976 could no longer get major US releases, and Fox specialized only in major releases.
Of course, this was Fox’s fault.
Fox financed the picture.
Fox issued instructions about being in English, about having Cabaret-like songs,
about casting a few native English speakers, about exploiting cliché formulas (Nazi horror, suspense, love story, and so forth),
but Fox executives from the US apparently didn’t bother to read the script or to contract for on-set control.
I bet they didn’t even visit the set.
My guess is that the Hollywood execs assumed all would be well,
simply because the filmmakers had agreed to insert the standard formulas into the script.
Little did they realize.
Normally, when a major film strayed into X territory, the studio or distributor simply trimmed it slightly, or blurred a few offending moments,
or blocked part of an image off, or cropped a few shots, or darkened a few scenes to nudge the movie gently back into R-rated territory.
A studio or distributor could also rummage through the trims and outtakes to find replacement footage of slightly milder character.
Salon Kitty, though, was so over the top that there was no hope at all of creating a kinder, gentler version.
It could be changed, yes, it could be shortened, yes, but it couldn’t be softened — unless it were cut down to, say, ten minutes.
As the Fox execs watched this flick in the screening room, in disbelief, they must have sighed in utter resignation, heads buried in their hands.
I wonder if anyone was saddled with being the fall guy. I would doubt it, since everyone was culpable. Still, though, I wonder.
How I wish I could have been a fly on the wall that day, to overhear the comments and discussions once the lights went up again.
The next day the executives surely told their accountants to enter the investment as a loss and be done with it.
There was no point in even trying to release the film in the US.
Fox would release the film only overseas.
BELATED ITALIAN RELEASE, 2 MARCH 1976. In the meantime, Salon Kitty, somewhat shortened, was finally released in Italy.
The results were most encouraging.
Click to enlarge
I remember back in 2000 or 2001 when I first saw this on offer from eBay — for US$9,000.
I don’t think there were any bids.
Eventually I was able to get the whole set for considerably less.
THE WEST GERMAN RELEASE, 26 MARCH 1976.
As far as I can tell, this ran about 105 minutes, 28 minutes short of the original.
I’ve seen this only in the VHS version, which I suppose is approximately the same as the cinema version.
Too short. Way too short. Too much is missing.
A German friend tells me that the German dubbing was exceptionally good, perfectly of the period.
No idea at all who supervised the dub or who voiced it.
As you can see, the distributor was Cinerama Filmgesellschaft MbH,
yes on the reverse of some of the lobby cards is a “FOX” rubber stamp.
I can only assume that Fox and Cinerama Filmgesellschaft were partnering in some fashion,
or that a reissue was from Fox alone.
The reissue was strangely retitled.
Had the first issue flopped?
Was this a desperate move to build a new audience?
I just today (Sunday, 16 July 2017) heard from a stranger in Frankfurt,
who looked this up in the German Board of Review:
2891m (106 min)
Vicky was a rerelease by another distributor, Nobis-Film.
No clue what the title Vicky signifies. Perhaps it’s akin to the Australian term “Sheila”?
THE FRENCH RELEASE, 23 JUNE 1976. Next was the French release, through 20th Century-Fox:
20th Century-Fox release in France
The reissue was strangely retitled.
Had the first issue flopped?
Was this a desperate move to build a new audience?
ENGLISH IS HEARD. I do not know when the English dub was first screened for the public.
Salon Kitty opened in France on 23 June 1976,
and there were (and still are) a handful of French cinemas in the larger cities that preferred films in the original language with French subtitles
(VOST = Version Originale Sous-Titrée).
Were there French-subtitled prints of Salon Kitty? If so, was the dialogue in Italian or in English?
If IMDb is correct, Salon Kitty opened in
Sweden on 30 June 1976.
Sweden generally issued films with subtitles, and so this was almost certainly the English version.
The world première in a predominantly English-speaking country may have been in Australia.
I think it was. I’m not sure, but I think it was.
It did not open at a 3,000-seat downtown palace. No.
It did not open as a showcase throughout suburban multiplexes. No.
It opened on Friday, 22 October 1976, in Sydney at the closet-sizedRoma cinema,
which was primarily devoted to repertory.
A new release there would not have attracted broad attention.
The English Salon Kitty also played at the
Roma in Melbourne,
and I presume it opened on the same day.
I haven’t been able to find reference to any earlier release, but my research resources are extremely limited.
20th Century-Fox release in Australia, 22 October 1976
Afterwards it arrived in Denmark on 16 May 1977, and I presume that release would also have been in English with Danish subtitles.
Strangely, Salon Kitty didn’t get to England until two years after it was completed.
The UK première was at the
Prince Charles Cinema in London on Friday, 11 November 1977.
I suppose Tinto saw at least a minute or two of the English version when he visited London, where the movie broke boxoffice records and made the cinema owner rich.
That particular cinema owner (identity unknown to me) really liked Tinto, and the two became friends.
Did you read that? So many critics are under the misapprehension that directors make movies,
that directors choose their stories, that films are the works only of their directors.
What rubbish! Yes, sometimes that’s true,
but generally directors simply advertise their availability and hope for gigs.
That’s why they hire agents, not so they can be freed to create something from the heart, but just so that they can get a temp job somewhere.
The responsibility for the track record on Italian-made Nazi movies must be placed only on the producers, nobody else.
See why critics drive me mad?
As for the US, all hope was not lost.
Unable to release the film on its own,
Fox could auction off the US rights to a different distributor, one that did not specialize in major releases — and that, precisely, is what happened.
How did Fox put the film up for bid?
Where was the offer posted?
It wasn’t posted in the usual trades, Variety or Hollywood Reporter or Boxoffice.
Is there a secret trade publication I don’t know about?
Fox surely arranged a private screening for potential bidders.
Maybe at a trade festival? Which one? When?
If so, I suppose admittance was by invitation only.
What were the reactions at the screening? What were the discussions? I’d love to know.
Again, if you know anything about this, anything at all, please contact me. I’m all ears.
I suppose the opening bid was low, and I would hazard a guess that Fox received only a single offer:
American International Pictures’ exploitation subsidiary, Trans-American Films.
Judging by the appearance of the few news stories, the contract between Fox and Trans-American must have been signed in February 1976.
Apparently this license covered at least part of Canada as well.
Was the contract a flat-rate deal, or did it include a percentage for Fox?
I’d love to see that contract.
We saw this clipping above. Let’s look at it again:
Trans-American immediately began to alter the film.
We don’t know which version of the film Trans-American received from Europe.
The Italian censors had “locked up” the full version in early December 1975,
and by January producer
Giulio Sbarigia had told his crew to make cuts and to destroy the masters for those sections.
So by the time Trans-American received the submasters in February 1976, pretty much anything could have happened.
Perhaps Trans-American received the 112-minute version.
Perhaps it received the 129-minute version.
If Fox had received submasters prior to the censoring, then Trans-American may have received even the full 133-minute version.
Whichever version it was, it hardly mattered, since the distributor had no intention of issuing the film without first making drastic changes.
The first item on the agenda was to add a prologue to claim that the story was entirely true. I don’t know why. Nothing in the movie was true.
Another problem was the book: The movie derived from a license for Peter Norden’s Salon Kitty.
Perhaps Ballantine, learning of the pending film, struck up a contract with Fox and licensed the US rights to the book.
Another possibility is that Fox, wishing for a tie-in, sent out requests for proposal and then struck up a deal with Ballantine.
One way or another, Ballantine got the US license, but it did not license the book directly from the original German rights holder.
Instead, Ballantine sublicensed the British edition, which was abridged.
The British edition was more than abridged, it was at first retitled Madam Kitty, and Ballantine kept that title,
even though the Brits soon after reverted to the original German title of Salon Kitty.
So the US edition of the movie needed to keep the title of the US edition of the book.
USELESS PERSONAL NOTE: When I first learned of the movie, back in early 1979,
I went to B. Dalton to order a copy of Norden’s book.
The clerk dutifully placed the order, and then a few weeks or months later I received a postcard
stating that the book was not available in any of the Dalton warehouses and could not be ordered from Ballantine.
So I went to Waldenbooks and did the same, only to get the identical result.
I went to the downtown library and ordered it through Interlibrary Loan.
A few libraries had the book listed in their catalogues, but then they unanimously made the claim that the book had vanished.
I went to several used bookshops and paid for a search service,
by which a request list would be circulated to bookshops worldwide.
I did this again and again and again.
Then in about the year 2000 my friend Elise mentioned that she was conducting her business via something called eBay.
She urged me to check the site, saying that I’d be able to find pretty much anything there.
I didn’t even know how to spell eBay, but I took a guess, correctly,
and the very first item I searched for was “Madam Kitty.”
There must have been a hundred hits, each copy of the book selling for about a dollar.
So this was the book that nobody could find for twenty-one years, huh?
A further problem was the film itself: Trans-American set about shortening it.
Why? Well, it’s not that hard to guess why.
Since Trans-American Films specialized in cheapies, it probably had a contract with exhibitors concerning maximum running times.
The more sellable a movie is, the longer it can be.
Trans-American, I suppose, did not contract with cinemas interested in broadly sellable movies.
I imagine it contracted mostly with cinemas that catered to the quick-cheapie crowd,
and a cheapie needs to be short, to squeeze in more showtimes per day and thus to sell more tickets and,
most importantly, to sell more soda and popcorn and candy.
(I don’t say that as a sarcastic joke. That’s the truth. Really. It is. That’s how the business works.)
My heavens! Twenty-three minutes chopped out! There is no way this movie could maintain its quality with 23 minutes chopped out.
The story might mostly still be there, but the seductive atmosphere would be destroyed, and it is the atmosphere more than anything else that gives this movie its value.
Finally, I’m quite sure that Trans-American hired a firm to replace most or all of the voices.
Yes, I am nearly certain that Madam Kitty had different voices.
Yes, I have every reason to suspect that the US Madam Kitty did not use much if any of the English Salon Kitty dialogue recording —
though the songs surely remained untouched.
Replacing the voices could wreck this movie. The original English dub was lovely.
I don’t know who was responsible for it, but that anonymous crew did a marvelous job.
As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Unless I am mistaken, though, Trans-American tried to fix it.
Why do I think the US dub was different? Good question. Glad you asked.
US dubs in those years were sometimes different, even for foreign movies originally recorded in English,
even for foreign-language movies already dubbed into English in England.
(For example, you may remember that Australians were offended
when the English-languageMad Max was dubbed into American English by its US distributor.)
My guess is that the reason for this peculiar tradition was a term in the SAG-AFTRA contracts.
I don’t know. That’s just a guess, and I could well be wrong.
A producer friend tells me that this depended on the studio.
Some studios honorably let the original English tracks stand, but others, for instance American International Pictures, were “regular offenders” in this regard.
Voices that were rightly or wrongly considered too continental were replaced by voices that sounded more American.
Now, let’s take this a step further and look at the review of Madam Kitty that appeared in weekly Variety (19 January 1977, p. 22):
“...Berger’s Nazi routine is getting to be a complete joke. He acts and sounds more like Peter Lorre all the time....”
I had read that review five years before seeing the movie,
and so when I finally saw the movie I was perplexed.
Berger did not act or sound like Peter Lorre at all.
At the time I concluded simply that the reviewer was either exaggerating or lying, or had perhaps viewed the film while under the influence.
Now that I know more about the movie business, my new guess is that the reviewer had simply fallen victim to an illusion,
an illusion created by the dub, in which the dubber impersonated Peter Lorre.
We have the original English dub on video, and we can hear that Berger sounds like Berger, only like Berger, like no one other than Berger,
and that he sounds good, delivering all his lines quite well, thank you very much.
For whatever it may be worth, John Hartl of the Seattle Times (Tuesday, 18 January 1977, p A 11) wrote that
“The acting is wretched, the dubbed dialog execrable....”
We also have John Furcolow’s judgment (The Lexington Saturday Herald and Leader, 29 January 1977, p C-2)
about the “very poor acting.”
Make of that what you will.
I also ran across an interoffice memorandum from an executive at a different studio who had just seen Madam Kitty at its NYC opening.
He proceeded to lambaste Tinto for having no ear for English, no ability to direct an English dub,
and no sense of choosing voices to match actors’ physical characteristics — and no competence at editing, either.
A ha! This studio executive must have been referring to a different dub,
because the English dub that we all have on video is nearly flawless.
Yes, there is a single laughable misuse of the English language.
Yes, there are also a couple of awkwardly scripted lines that couldn’t be spoken convincingly.
Yes, there are some problems with spatial characteristics, but that was the fault of the mixing crew, not the dubbing crew.
Other than that, the English is entirely believable, and the voices, without exception, exactly match the looks of the actors —
which is far more than I can say for many major Hollywood productions.
It is crucial that we trace down a print of Madam Kitty so that we can analyze and preserve this alternative dub.
Madam Kitty prints were ready by early October 1976, and that is when at least one print began circulating privately
on the so-called “Bel Air Circuit,”
a series of private homes owned by Hollywood big shots
who had screening rooms built into their remote mansions and often got to see films prior to release.
By early December Trans-American began sending out the large Italian souvenir book to select critics,
though with a replacement dust jacket that spelled out the revised title.
I suppose you’d like to see the program notes given out at trade and press screenings?
On Friday, 14 January 1977 Madam Kitty opened in select submarkets to build up favorable reviews.
If memory serves, the above is from the press book, which I have in storage somewhere.
Trans-American release in the US on 14 January 1977
I have these lobby cards in storage somewhere.
I made 150dpi scans once upon a time, but they were miserable things to behold, filled with moiré patterns.
Fortunately a vendor made better scans. Yay.
A week later, Friday, 21 January 1977, it opened in the major cities, often in multiple-screen showcases,
with a rather atypical promotion in Los Ángeles:
Seldom do I pay attention to critics, because most of them don’t have a clue.
They know nothing about the business end or about the technical end,
and few if any even realize that what ends up projected onto the screen often has little to do with what the filmmakers actually made.
There are three critics, though, who make me fail.
They stir me up, and I should never allow myself to be stirred up by something so dumb as a movie review.
My fault. I admit it.
Still, though, Vincent Canby, John Simon, and Rex Reed all had a marvelous ability to get everything wrong.
I don’t mind a whit that I so often disagree with their opinions.
Opinions mean nothing to me.
Canby and Reed got their facts wrong, and all three were smug about their ignorance.
That’s what gets me riled. It shouldn’t, but it does.
Since there were so few prints, it did not open simultaneously (“day-and-date”) throughout the US,
but meandered to lesser markets through at least August.
Archer Winsten, New York Post, 22 January 1977, p 33:
...It may be argued that the picture is simplistic, wholly lacking in
subtleties and kicking the Nazis around with what amounts to caricature. The fact
remains, however, that much of the Nazi pomp and ceremony lends itself to that
interpretation. This picture has much to recommend it if you can view it without
revulsion and with some memory of the time, place and people involved.
Next comes the best review, written by someone who devoted his life to the stage, as actor and director, and thus had an understanding of theatre and film.
How he managed to understand this movie even though 23 minutes had been chopped out is beyond my comprehension.
I wanted to chat with him, but I didn’t discover his review until just a few weeks after he died:
After Madam Kitty had played out in its first- and second-run venues,
it was made available for repertory bookings for the next five years.
As we can see below, it began to pop up at porn houses.
Imagine it. Guys in raincoats dash into a sleazy porn shop hoping not to be seen,
pay for tickets to watch something hot, and then they get stuck with this.
What on earth did they think? Did they feel conned?
After these last few bookings, Madam Kitty completely vanished.
The very last booking I’ve been able to discover.
I have checked, and it appears that no archive anywhere has a print of Madam Kitty.
It has never popped up on the collectors’ market, to my knowledge,
probably because the film was never issued in 16mm, and probably because there was insufficient demand for pirated copies.
I mean, come on: What collector would pay a lab surreptitiously to run off a few extra 35mm prints of a Trans-American release?
Collectors generally prefer major movies, not single-usethrow-away cheapies,
which is what Trans-American was primarily known for.
Perhaps a Trans-American release that had caught on and resulted in a second print run might have interested a few collectors.
Madam Kitty, though, surely had only a single print run (probably about 100 or 150 prints),
and it was completely unknown until after it was out of the lab’s hands.
As far as I know, nobody ever stole a print,
no projectionist ever “borrowed” a print late at night to rush it over to a Mafia duping lab or film-to-video transfer lab,
and nobody retrieved any defective Madam Kitty footage during habitual nighttime dumpster diving.
For a single day I thought I might be able to help rescue Madam Kitty.
That was back in 2002.
My heart leapt when I discovered that the long-disused
Schine’s Auburn cinema in Auburn, NY, designed by the famous
John Eberson, had finally caught the attention of some local politicians.
Partly I was thrilled because I adore old buildings, though this simple moderne structure, built in 1938, doesn’t really qualify as old.
I prefer 1838. No matter. I want the building preserved, regardless.
More to the point,
Schine’s had closed down on Thursday, 13 April 1978, during the run of Madam Kitty!!!!!
Now, I know for a fact that when cinemas shut down, oftentimes the last several film prints are never sent back, but just sit around in the decaying buildings.
I know that because I have visited shuttered cinemas and found complete film prints inside, years and even decades later.
I contacted a local preservationist, who happened to be an acquaintance, who happened also to be an avid Ebersonian,
and who I discovered happened also to sit on the Schine’s preservation committee.
So I begged her to check every nook and cranny to see if the print was still there, but alas, no, it was gone.
To heap misery upon misery, scroll down this article in
The Auburn Citizen until you get to the slide show demonstrating the calamitous state of the building as of April 2017.
It would seem that several board members have an interest in subverting any restoration,
in hopes that the building will fall over of its own accord, upon which they can sell the plot of land to a real-estate developer.
(Same old story. It is common for executive positions on restoration committees to be infiltrated by developers,
who make life a living hell for anyone who, like me, is sincere about the mission statement.
Then come the whispering campaigns, the false charges filed with the police and the FBI and the postal inspectors, the endless harassment and stalking,
the seizure of bank accounts, the planted evidence, the threats of arrest. I know this all first-hand.
I know this story. I recognize this story. I’ve lived through this story. I’m tired of this story.
While others get felony sentences for the crimes of poverty and possession of dark complexions,
infiltrators go on to get lucrative careers in business and politics.
A plea to anyone who is rich both in money and in heart: Please take this project over. Please.)
My educated guess is that when the Trans-American license expired (end of 1982?), all materials were shipped back to Rome,
to whatever firm had taken over the by-then-defunct Coralta’s assets.
I would hazard a guess that, since the film had completely played out, Fox sold off its remaining interest.
What happened afterwards, well, we can only hope for the best.
Do only the final edits survive, or do the outtakes and trims also still survive?
Does the production audio still survive?
Do all the master tapes still survive?
Are the materials intact and cared for?
Are the materials in a landfill?
Are they at the bottom of the Aegean?
Did they all degrade into toxic sludge?
Were the materials lost?
Is there some forgotten vault with 5,000 anonymous Salon Kitty cans whose labels all fell off?
I wish I knew.
With luck, the current rights controller (Surf Film S.r.l., I presume)
is paying to store all the materials. Hope so.
Can anybody find out? Please? Let me know. Thanks!
Are any of you historians of 20th Century-Fox or maybe American International Pictures?
There have been numerous régime changes at Fox, I think, and so I doubt anybody there nowadays would know the first thing about Madam Kitty.
American International Pictures and Trans-American ceased operations in 1980.
Their holdings were absorbed into Filmways, which in turn was absorbed into Orion, which in turn was absorbed into MGM, which in turn was absorbed into Sony Entertainment.
Might a screener still be in a vault in Culver City?
Might any paper files still be in a box in storage somewhere?
I don’t even know whom to ask about doing such research.
Do any of you have contacts at Surf Film S.r.l.?
Do any of you have access to the Coralta holdings?
20th Century-Fox release in Spain on 17 April 1978.
After having been banned for two years, the New Zealand censors permitted 20th Century-Fox to release some version of the film.
How it had been altered, I do not know.
The movie finally made it to Japan on 3 March 1979, if IMDb is correct about the date.
What changes had been made, apart from fogging, I have not a clue.
Since I don’t read or speak Japanese, I don’t know if Fox was involved in this release.
The above is a chirashi
that I just purchased from an eBay seller, reproduced actual size.
OPINIONS, FOR WHATEVER THEY’RE WORTH.
I hated this bizarre musical nightmare when I first saw it, but what happened to Tinto after he read the script also happened to me after I saw the movie:
I just couldn’t put it out of my mind.
Is it a great movie? No, not by a long shot.
In many ways, this is the weakest, sloppiest movie that Tinto had done up to this time.
The movies that Tinto created himself, from his own stories, were works of the first caliber.
Some of the commissions had been wonderful, some had been problematic, but even the worst of them had never been bad, and all were worth watching.
Salon Kitty, in my judgment, is not really a Tinto movie.
It’s almost a sell-out.
It’s a formulaic cookie-cutter connect-the-dots paint-by-numbers A-B-C-1-2-3 story
with a small spectrum of Tinto’s style overlaid, and not comfortably.
But hey, this assignment gave him a nice little farm house that didn’t rain inside, and that’s important, yes, even to me.
Despite its faults, Salon Kitty does have its insights, and it conveys them with absurdist and comical metaphors.
Those who are ready to catch on will catch on. Those who aren’t, won’t.
It’s been more than thirty years since I first saw this movie, and I still have mixed feelings about it.
Perhaps the mistake began with Peter Norden’s book, which was needlessly fictionalized.
The screenwriters, instead of sticking with the true story,
decided to concoct a formulaic by-the-rules fiction only vaguely inspired by the infamous Berlin brothel,
Salon Kitty, operated by Madam Kitty Schmidt.
Tinto admitted that he had no concern with the true story.
He was after an emotional exploration.
He wished to use the fictional story to examine the subtle and unsubtle methods used by the Nazis to ensnare almost everyone in the region.
As he explained, he wanted to paint a portrait of a society running a fever.
Salon Kitty painfully demonstrates how life under the Nazis was ingeniously reconstructed so that
almost anyone, of almost any persuasion, could find a niche — an inescapable niche that insulated one
from any feeling of guilt for the regime’s policies. (Sort of like life for us now, huh?)
Taking over the famous brothel that catered to many top government officials,
the Nazi secret police installed spies as prostitutes and bugged the rooms in an effort to gather information
and to rout out any dissenters.
The film changes gears every few moments.
From being a moody set piece it switches to a political horror
to a vignette of family life
to a musical
to a freak show
to a suspense story
to a love story —
and on and on and on.
Before you have an opportunity to adjust to what you’re seeing, it all changes.
That was Tinto’s contribution, I’m sure.
His previous movies were free-form and uncategorizable.
So now, given a genre assignment, he subverted it and made it multiple genres, each genre fighting off the others.
Had the film lingered on many of the evocative images of the extras, sets, and backgrounds,
the result would have been satisfying and almost soothing to watch.
That would have contradicted Tinto’s point, though, and so instead it races,
denying us the pleasure of losing ourselves in the atmosphere.
The atmosphere is there, though, and it is powerful.
That is what I best like about this movie: the thick, rich, almost suffocating atmosphere.
As all these atmospheric images and sounds race by us, we get irritated because we want to press the pause and rewind buttons to study the effect,
and, prior to the days of home video, we couldn’t.
(To compensate, I captured a number of frames below. Take a look.)
Further, everything is deliberately overstated, which, considering the subject matter, is actually appropriate.
Chances that you will like this film on a first viewing are slim indeed.
You’ll more likely be exhausted, fatigued, worn out, and exasperated.
Much like Fellini’s Satyricon, though,
it has a way of sticking with you and not letting you go,
almost forcing you to give it a second viewing,
during which you will likely begin to notice the intricacies.
Again, toward the beginning is a brief scene in a slaughterhouse that will put many people off to this film
(and it’s my bid for one of the most gratuitously offensive sequences in any movie ever).
Try to stick through it, though, and ultimately you probably won’t be disappointed.
Because of the film’s subject matter there is an overwhelming amount of undraped flesh (male and female),
and for that reason alone the film was a hit in Europe.
Yet we can see, especially now with the passing of more than three decades,
that the film never seeks to titillate.
A theme that runs through many of Brass’s films is the flat contradiction between authoritarianism and sensual pleasure.
(If you think this idea is simplistic, take a look at
“The Origins of Peace and Violence”.)
At the Salon Kitty the Nazis tried to combine the two.
Though the actual story was fascinating, it was probably not as fascinating to the Nazi élite,
who I guess decided that the project had not been worth the effort.
In the film, though, drama is added, and we see individuals break down in their efforts to live a contradiction.
This popped up on eBay, but was available only to people with an Italian mailing address, which I don’t have.
This is the condensed Super 8 home-collector’s version.
Five reels of between 15 and 20 minutes each, presumably the Italian dub.
The item number was 300027328475, and the seller was vancouver_it,
not that that info will do you any good anymore.
Anyway, I finally obtained a copy, but I don’t have a projector to play it on,
and so it’s now in storage 800 miles away.
I must retrieve it someday soon.
PERSONAL NOTE: Brass perfectly captured the personality of Margherita’s mother.
As soon as I saw her I wanted to jump into the television screen and strangle her to death.
She was exactly like my grandmother, down to the smallest nuances of facial expressions,
tone of voice, speech cadences, and that smug, uneducated, condescending self-righteousness.
She has the scariest line in the movie:
“The important thing is to be on the winning side.”
That’s the motto of the Tonawanda police.
That’s the motto of every psychopath I’ve ever met.
That’s the motto of so many of the businessmen in the
movie and theatre rackets who maintain authority by bullying,
filing false criminal reports, faking evidence, and robbing people blind.
And that’s the mission statement of Buffalo’s real-estate developers.
Those two little scenes, with their great ensemble acting,
are so absolutely perfect that they make my skin crawl.
Now that is masterful filmmaking.
THOUGHT TO PONDER:
How on earth would you pitch or advertise this movie?
The previews available as extras on the Blue Underground edition,
as well as the various press books and press kits,
all give ample evidence that no one has ever been able to figure out
how to promote this highly unusual movie.
No matter what you say, you give the wrong impression.
It’s too preposterous to hype as an art flick.
It’s too serious to hype as a escapism.
It’s too harsh to hype as erotica.
It’s too complex to hype as exploitation.
It’s too eccentric to summarize in a sound bite.
The movie is simultaneously subtle and bombastic, which is a bizarre combination.
People who enjoy subtlety will be put off by the bombast.
People who like bombast will be annoyed by the subtlety.
Unable to categorize this comfortably, most critics just dismissed it as garbage.
I can’t figure out how to pitch this film. Can you?
Many people only see me as an extravagant scandal-guy. But I am an actor. I
show my feelings so that people can read them like a book. I have learned from great
directors like Visconti, Tinto Brass, de Sica. They have changed me.
German hardcover movie-tie-in edition. Click on the image to enlarge.
Abridged translation by J. Maxwell Brownjohn. Click on the image to enlarge.
UK abridged paperback. Click on the image to enlarge.
US abridged paperback. Click on the image to enlarge.
Reprinted UK abridged paperback. Click on the image to enlarge.
There is no indication in any edition of the English translation that it is an abridgment.
(The French translation, too, is an abridgment.)
But it is, undoubtedly, as anyone can see by comparing it with the German original, which is nearly twice as long.
NOTE ADDED ON 29 MAY 2008: I never knew about this edition before. Did you? Click on the image to enlarge.
A MYSTERY TO SOLVE
Salon Kitty was supposed to have been released in Italy in December 1975, but wasn’t.
The problem was that the censor demanded cuts,
and Sbarigia obliged by having his staff making those cuts in the camera negative and master tapes and discarding the resulting trims.
This had all occurred without Tinto’s knowledge,
and as soon as he found out he sued, arguing author’s rights.
Tinto’s argument was simple and sensible: If there were a problem, he, as creator, should have been informed and needed to be involved.
Nothing should ever be done behind his back.
Click image to enlarge.
Click image to enlarge.
Click image to enlarge.
Now here’s what’s strange.
It seems that though the negative had been cut to a mere 112 ½ minutes,
the release prints were made from an earlier uncut internegative,
which was then sloppily censored via hastily made splices, resulting in jumps in the soundtrack.
But these cuts did not always correspond to the cuts made in the camera negative,
and this version ran 129 minutes (at cinema speed, 24 frames/second).
Once the legal conflict had been settled and a compromise reached,
the movie premièred on 2 March 1976
and instantly became one of the highest grossers of the season.
You can see the Italian release version on these home videos (about 123 minutes at PAL speed, 25 frames/second).
It might be good to bear in mind that even though all but one or two of the actors spoke English on camera,
the Italian dub was prepared before the English postsynching.
French VHS from René Chateau Vidéo, released in 1983 Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
This version, too, was censored.
And though the cuts are similar to those in the Italian release version, they are not exactly the same.
This includes a few snippets that never made it to Italian screens.
So, think about it. If this included footage that was deleted from the earlier Italian release,
that could only be because it derived from a submaster that was longer than the Italian release,
surely one that was uncut.
But since it was missing some pieces that had been shown in Italy,
it was obviously the French censors and/or distributor who did some cutting of their own.
And when they censored it, they carefully re-edited the sound to match,
covering the cuts perfectly.
The result runs about 128 ½ minutes (at 24fps, or about 123 min at 25fps).
Australian VHS from Virgin. This image features models who do not appear anywhere in the movie. Half-cropped, and then half-stretched to fill a standard TV. 123 minutes at PAL speed, despite what the box cover says. Click on the image to enlarge.
US VHS from Media Home Entertainment, easily the worst transfer of all — cropped, fuzzy, and altogether too dark, so dark that many images completely disappear. 129 minutes at NTSC speed, despite what the box cover says. Click on the image to enlarge.
Bootleg of the Media Home Entertainment VHS, which was badly copied onto a T-120 and thus runs out before the movie ends. Caveat emptor!
Danish VHS from PolyGram. 123 minutes at PAL speed, despite what the box cover says. Click on the image to enlarge.
Frame capture from the Danish VHS. As you can see, this shows significantly more of the image than probably any other home-video version, though the quality ain’t exactly great. Click on the image to enlarge.
Despite claims to the contrary,
the entire uncut, uncensored version of the movie had been postsynched and mixed in English prior to the censoring.
The version released to England (and presumably Denmark, the Netherlands, and Australia)
had censor cuts that were identical to those in the French edition.
Since the movie was a French co-production,
it is reasonable to assume that the French producer made the cuts to the submasters
prior to sending them out to England and elsewhere.
But there’s no way to be sure of the exact sequence of events without unearthing the studio records.
These videotapes represent the UK version.
By the way, for those who might be interested,
the British Film Institute has in its archive several 35mm prints of the UK release version.
Japanese DVD in a jewel case, with a model on the cover who is not in the movie. Click on the image to enlarge.
Spanish DVD with fascinating artwork that really has nothing to do with the movie. Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
A new Polish release, which I have not seen, with artwork that has nothing to do with the movie. The type fonts and color scheme are nice though, aren’t they? Click on the image to order a copy.
Slovakian DVD, which I have not seen. Click on the image to order a copy.
Thenceforward, new prints would be made from the censored camera neg
(and accompanying master tapes),
which was a mere 112 ½ minutes (at 24fps).
Surprisingly, this included a few bits and pieces missing from the previous releases.
Opening and closing credits were in English,
but the caption about the declaration of war was now unalterably in Italian
(which means that the camera neg for this particular shot probably no longer exists,
and was replaced by an interneg that incorporated the caption).
This much-shortened version can be seen in these videos.
This cover art does not derive from the movie. Out of print, but click on the image and you might find a used copy for sale.
Click on the image to enlarge.
BLUE UNDERGROUND: Back in 2002 I got an email message from Blue Underground, an outfit then unfamiliar to me,
asking if I could help with the upcoming deluxe DVD.
That was the first I had heard of such a project.
The restorationist and I then chatted on the phone, and he asked if I could loan the company my collection.
I sent along the Italian edition of the coffee-table book,
a number of posters from hither, thither, and yon,
the press book, a bunch of lobby cards, the 35mm teaser for Madam Kitty,
a photocopy of the full-page ad in Variety (4 April 1973, p. 31, which appears near the top of this web page),
nearly every video copy I had, and maybe a few other thingamaroos too.
I did not yet have or even know about the German-language home videos.
A person with whom I have had friendly email correspondence mailed Blue Underground the Spanish promo book and the 35mm British preview.
Yet another person, unknown to me, supplied the coffee-table book but with the Trans-American dust jacket.
I don’t know who supplied the radio spots.
Ken Adam, of course, shared his sketches.
The restorationist was keen to trace down all the missing English dialogue. Could I help?
Well, it would have helped me to know what he was missing.
At the time I had just received the 112-minute Japanese DVD,
which included a few moments I had never seen or heard before.
I excitedly told the restorationist about that, and only a year later did I realize we had been speaking at cross-purposes.
You see, the 112-minute Japanese DVD was identical to the master material supplied to Blue Underground by Surf Film.
I, on the other hand, wrongly assumed that the materials Surf had supplied must have been the same as the 129-minute VHS editions.
The US, Danish, and Australian VHS editions, common as dirt back in those days, were unfamiliar to anybody at Blue Underground.
The Blue Underground folks just assumed that they were exactly the same as the masters that Surf had supplied. Oops.
I spent a week or so drawing up an enormous chart, notating every moment where the following three versions differed, with timings to the second.
(When my email account was hacked and canceled, I lost that chart. I’m in no mood to make a new one.)
the Australian VHS from Virgin Video’s “Take One” series
(derives from the same film submaster as the 129-minute UK version, as did the Danish VHS and the US VHS from VCL/Media Home Entertainment)
the Italian VHS (I referenced either the Creazioni or the Panorama edition; I can’t remember now; the two editions are different transfers of identical content)
the Japanese DVD from Columbia
In my chart I quoted only one piece of dialogue in the Australian version that was missing from the Japanese version, as an example of the differences.
How I wish now that I had quoted every syllable that differed.
The restorationist received these materials and phoned me back, asking if I knew the whereabouts of any further English dialogue.
Again, I asked to see what he had so that I would know exactly what he was missing.
I asked if he had checked the Australian VHS for any missing dialogue.
Yes, he said, he had, and it was not there.
I asked for a checking copy of the restoration-in-progress. It was never forthcoming.
When I received my two complimentary copies of the DVD, months after it hit the market, I was thrilled that the one line I had quoted was edited back in.
My heart sank, though, to find the rest of the supposedly missing dialogue rendered in Italian with awkward subtitles.
Drat! I had supplied all but a half-line of that dialogue! Darn! Fiddlesticks!
Years later, when Blue Underground announced the forthcoming Blu-ray,
I made a DVD-R copy of all the missing English dialogue
and correct versions of the portions of the soundtrack that the restorationists had mucked up,
as well as the footage missing at a reel change.
I mailed it in, but too late.
The master had already been completed.
Fiddlesticks and fiddlesticks again! Phooey!
The Blue Underground version. Slightly cropped on all four sides, but the colors, black levels, and sharpness are far superior to any other version.
From memory, here are the mistakes:
At the start of the film, the music begins immediately in the original, but in Blue Underground the beginning is silent.
Once the music picks up, there is a jump so that the sound will catch up with the image.
No clue how this mistake crept into the disc.
When John Steiner sits at the piano, the music starts long before his fingers reach the keys.
In the original, that was not the case at all.
Blue Underground re-edited the music this way so that a missing shot could be reinserted.
There was a better way to do it.
Surprisingly, this same mistake is duplicated on the Italian track 2.
The camera negative that Blue Underground received from Surf Film S.r.l. included a caption in Italian:
“1 Settembre 1939 Dichiarazione della guerra alla Polonia.”
There are still 35mm prints available that have that caption in English:
“September 1st 1939 Declaration of war on Poland.”
There’s a mistake in the editing, and the beginning of a reel is cut short.
Instead of Kitty screaming, “Have you gone mad?” all we hear is “...gone mad?”
The intermission (“Fine Primo Tempo,” “Secondo Tempo”) is deleted.
It comes right after Wallenberg asks Rauss, “Surely the girl gave the officer’s name in the report.”
“Jawohl, mein Untergruppenführer. Hauptmann Hans Reiter.”
Wallenberg grabs the report and walks off.
Fade out. End of Part One. Black. Part Two.
Fade in to Wallenberg’s house.
“Hauptmann Hans Reiter. You fell in love with him.”
The intermissions were part of the original films in Italy. Always.
They should never be deleted. Ever.
Look at this video and skip ahead to 13:20 to begin to understand why.
In Italy, films were shipped on 1,000' cores that the projectionists spliced together onto reels that I guess held about 7,000' of film if packed to the brim.
Unlike other countries, Italian cinemas generally had only single projectors. At the end of the large reel, there was an intermission to load the next large reel.
Here’s another example, from a pirated VHS.
Filmmakers thus planned where the intermissions belonged in their films.
Yet for export and for video, the intermissions are almost always deleted.
When we watch exported Italian movies, we generally see the final scene of the first part dissolve away early into the first shot of the next part, already in progress.
Horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible.
Deleting intermissions should be a capital offense.
By the way, I leapt for joy when I got the Warner Archive DVD-R of
The End of the World in Our Usual Bed in a Night Full of Rain.
I didn’t care for the movie, which took place in the only boring part of San Francisco,
but it retained the intermission, with the “End of Part One” and “Part Two” titles —
in the original English! I was delirious with ecstasy when I saw that.
Since “Orpheus in the Underworld” was severely censored in the 112-minute version,
the Blue Underground folks filled in the audio gaps by repeating measures,
but there was no need to, since Tinto’s print had the whole passage, which is included correctly on the Italian track 2.
Except for “The Maroon Room,”
all the English dialogue exists intact on VHS copies easily available on eBay, and so there was no need to switch to Italian.
The BFI has three 35mm prints of the British edition of Salon Kitty, surely the 129-minute version,
and so, except for a half-line, all the missing English dialogue would be recoverable from those as well,
with superior quality.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, someday, someone, somewhere will correct these mistakes? Maybe?
Abridged German-dubbed VHS from EuroVideo. Click on the image to enlarge.
A Greek-subtitled VHS of the German-dubbed abridgment. The front-cover art does not derive from the movie. Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
How strange! This credit is unique to the German version. Peter Norden’s book (which is not exactly a “Romans”) is credited nowhere in the Italian, French, or UK versions of this movie. Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
This is where the story gets really strange.
If we are to judge only from the materials above,
we would conclude that it is unlikely that an uncut interneg or interpositive,
or master or submaster audiotapes, survived intact past February 1976.
But then we look at the version released in Germany.
Despite being the most drastically shortened of all, running a mere 105 minutes,
it includes snippets of nearly all the footage missing from the Italian and French/British versions!
These prints were created AFTER the negative had been censored.
So that settles the issue.
The Italian, French, and German release editions were each derived from uncensored submasters,
which may consequently have been cut up in the process.
If there were three uncut submasters, there is a fair chance that there were more,
as back-ups and for further international releases.
Further, the trims from at least one of those three submasters might well still exist somewhere!
(And if you watch all the different versions,
you’ll be amused to see that no two censors could agree on which materials are objectionable.)
So why were there at least three uncensored submasters floating around
AFTER the camera negative and master tapes had been cut to pieces?
The answer is probably the simplest and most obvious one:
Salon Kitty was a co-production by Coralta Cinematografica of Rome, Les Productions Fox-Europa of Paris,
and Cinema Seven Film GmbH of Munich.
So by contract the other two producers probably each got a set of uncensored submasters prior to the censorship problems in Italy.
It would probably be a good guess that the entire film was dubbed into German prior to the censoring.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Hmmmm. It was very briefly on DVD in Germany. Will this help us to sort things out?
Frustratingly, it won’t.
This is taken from the Blue Underground edition, though it was not a straightforward conversion;
it was speed-corrected to 25 frames per second to accommodate the PAL system, and thus runs about 128 minutes.
(Such a speed correction, though anathema to many purists,
eliminates the problems of duplicated, dropped, and synthesized frames,
which are the inevitable results of more conventional conversions.)
When we choose to listen to the German dub, we discover that it’s not all there.
The parts that had not previously been released in Germany are now in Italian with German subtitles.
Interestingly, there are two subtitle options: German and English (taken from the Blue Underground version).
There are also three audio options: German, Italian, and English (taken from the Blue Underground reconstruction).
Just found out about this Austrian deluxe Blu-ray set.
I have one on order. Looks interesting.
Our quest now is to trace the source material for the German dub,
as well as for the French and English versions.
It might all still exist, possibly in a storage facility rented by Surf Film, S.r.l., the current rights holder.
The reason no one has noticed its existence is probably because the labels fell off of the cans.
WE MUST LOCATE THOSE SUBMASTERS!
Please contact me if you have any clues as to their whereabouts. Thanks!
Here’s a VHS from Argentina. No idea what’s in it:
SOME MORE DVD RELEASES
Blue Underground offered this NTSC Region-1 two-disc limited edition with lots of extras. English and Italian, with optional English subtitles. Though it’s out of print, click on the image and you just might be able to find a used copy for sale.
Blue Underground now offers this NTSC Region-1 single-disc edition with few extras. English and Italian, with optional English subtitles. Click on the image to order a copy.
Italian-language DVD, Region-2 PAL, which will not play on most US equipment. CENSORED! NOT COMPLETE! Click on the image to order a copy.
French DVD, Region-2 PAL, which will not play on most US equipment. Based on the cover art, I presume this is derived from the Blue Underground release. Click on the image to order a copy.
British DVD derived from the Blue Underground release, but with different extras. Region-2 PAL, which will not play on most US equipment. Click on the image to order a copy.
Japanese DVD which I have not seen. Lovely cover, isn’t it? Click on the image to order a copy.
John Bartha (left) [uncredited] and Tom Felleghy (right) [uncredited]
Aldo Valetti [uncredited]
Nicola Morelli [uncredited]
“Hoorah for the war!”
Enamored of Helga
Lella Cattaneo [uncredited]
A recruit and a client
Client: Enzo Mondino [uncredited]
Decades later and I still can’t identify these folks:
When you see credits set like this, you know what that means, don’t you?
It means that Ingrid and Helmut each had exclusive top billing by contract.
So the studio gave each billing over the other:
Ingrid is above, but Helmut is previous, to the left.
¿Clever, que no?