Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 25th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, March 29th, 1969
Director: Ottavio Alessi
Writers: Ottavio Alessi, Nelda Minucci, Lorenzo Ricciardi
Cast: Rosalba Neri, Edwige Fenech, Eva Thulin, Maud Belleroche, Maurizio Bonuglia, Ruggero Miti, Salvatore Puntillo, Günter Hendel
DVD released: September, 6th, 2013
Approximate running time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono German, Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English, German
DVD Release: Camera Obscura
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: 26.99 EUR
Synopsis: An overbearing mother hires a group of deviants to help her timid son overcome his shyness and lose his virginity.
Top Sensation is an oddity even within the bizarre world of Italian psychological thrillers. The film was co-written and directed by Ottavio Alessi, who at this point in his career was more known for his screenwriting credits. Some of his more notable screenwriting credits include Emanuelle in Bangkok, Emanuelle in America and Damned in Venice.
Though he began his career as an assistant director, it is his work as a screenwriter that serves him well in Top Sensation, a film that is rich with subtext. The majority of the characters are deeply flawed to point that trusting that upon which they rely does not always lead to the truth of the matter. It does not come as surprise that the only grounded characters are the couple that live on a remote island and their peaceful existence is forever altered because of a chance encounter with the decadent inhabits of the yacht.
Another way in which Top Sensation is an odd film even by Giallo standards is that the bulk of the action takes place on a yacht. This is a Giallo sub-genre that was woefully underused with a few of its more notable entries being A Quiet Place to Kill (aka Paranoia) and Libido.
Key collaborators on Top Sensation include cinematographer Alessandro D’Eva (The Third Eye) and composer Sante Maria Romitelli (Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Cry of a Prostitute).
From a visual stand point Top Sensation features several interesting compositions. Characters don’t merely exist in the frame, each and every movement in the film feels as though it has been planned for maximum effect. These observations are based on a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Nothing appears cropped or too tight, but if one were to matte it then the image would be too cramped.
Of course when talking about Top Sensation the discussion always has to come back to its trio of Euro beauties, Rosalba Neri, Edwige Fenech and Eva Thulin. If there ever was a film that could be accused of milking its eye candy for all its worth, then that would be this film. The director makes sure that these three ladies wear little or no clothing for the majority of the run time.
The roles provided these three beauties are not equal in regards to screen time and character development. Edwige Fenech (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh) being a rather one dimensional character. At least she has the most memorable scene involving her and a goat. Eva Thulin has little more screen time but the moments which her character appears onscreen are by far and away the most compelling. Then there is Rosalba Neri (Lady Frankenstein) who’s sexually charged performance will have you wrapped around her finger by the end of the film. Needless to say she dominates every moment she is in.
Not to be forgotten are the remaining cast members who are all very good in their respective roles. They are as follows Maud Belleroche in the role of the overbearing mother who has a very unhealthy relationship with her son, Ruggero Miti in the role of Tony her mentally undeveloped son and especially Salvatore Puntillo in the role of the husband whose wife is being used as bait to help cure Tony’s issues with sexuality. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to be smothered by Rosalba Neri and Edwige Fenech at the same time.
So what is Top Sensation all about? To reveal too much about the plot really defeat the purpose of watching and discovering what lies there in. This film can be simply summed up as a murder mystery involving characters who use their sexuality to get what they want.
The main feature opens with a disclaimer from Camera Obscura about how the transfer though sourced from the original camera negative is not up to their usual standards. Considering the rarity of this film and how tracking down elements for the film has been proved difficult over the years. These limitations of the source materials are to be expected. Colors look very good, flesh tones look accurate and black and contrast levels look consistent throughout. Details of the majority of the film look crisp and when they are not as strong this is once again a sourced related issue and not a transfer related issues. Also it should be noted that there is some print damage / debris that is very minor and crops up throughout the film. Overall the overall quality is quite remarkable and for those who have never seen this film before. I envy this presentation being your first opportune to see this film. One more thing about this film’s transfer / presentation, the film is being presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. For more information about this film’s aspect ratio, check out the audio commentary that comes with this release.
This release comes with three audio options, a English, German and Italian and also included with this release are three subtitle options, which are also English, German and Italian. It should also be noted that there are few scenes for which English audio does not exist and for these scenes presented in the language it was filmed and with English subtitle options. The weakest of these three audio mixes is the English audio mix which has background noise and distortion issues. With the strongest audio mix of the three audio mixes being the Italian audio mix which sounds clear and balanced throughout. The German audio mix has some mild background noise. One of the more intriguing aspects of this release is its multiple language options and the differences between how each one plays out in translation.
Extras for disc one include a extensive photo gallery, three additional scenes, the 1st one from a German version of the film (9 minutes 6 seconds – 1.33:1 full frame, in German with English, Italian and German subtitles), the 2nd one the U.S. version of the film (10 minutes 28 seconds – 1.33:1 full frame, in English with English, Italian and German subtitles) and third one a alternate Italian TV ending (1 minute 10 seconds – 1.33:1, in Italian with English, Italian and German subtitles), a featurette titled ‘Boats and Goats’ (31 minutes – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English, Italian and German subtitles). This features include comments from actor Salvatore Puntillo and actress Rosalba Neri who discuss working with director Ottavio Alessi, the cast, a scene that the film’s movie poster was taken from, key sequences in the film, cut / censored sequences and what they think about the film looking back after all these years. Rounding out the extras on disc one is an audio commentary with films historians, Christian KeBler and Marcus Stiglegger, in German with English subtitles. Topics discussed in the audio commentary include the cast, this film’s aspect ratio, the different versions of the film, this films notorious goat scene with Edwige Fenech and so much more. These two participants are obviously having a good time while watching this film and interjecting their thoughts on what is unfolding onscreen. They even end the audio commentary by suggesting that they should immediately watch the film all over again. Another superb audio commentary from Christian KeBler and Marcus Stiglegger.
Extras on disc two include a interview with producer / actor Gunter Hendel (20 minutes 23 seconds – anamorphic widescreen / 1.33:1 full frame, in German with English, Italian and German subtitles) who discusses how he got involved in the film Top Sensation, casting and the German version of the film and other projects that he has also worked on as a producer are remembered with great detail. Other extras include a animated Italian photonovel for the film (39 minutes 18 seconds) that has music from the film playing in the background. Rounding out the extras on disc two is the German edit of the film (76 minutes 16 seconds – 1.33:1 full frame, in German with English and Italian subtitles). This version of the film opens with a disclaimer explaining that they had trouble finding a print for this version and that a VHS source was used for this transfer. Also you can listen to the German audio two ways; filtered or unfiltered (this second option has a healthy dose of background noise throughout).
Also included with this release is a DVD booklet that includes a informative essay about the film and those involved in this production. This essay is presented in dual text, English and German. This release also comes with multi-lingual menus, English and German.
Top Sensation for many cult movie enthusiasts is a Holy Grail film and after years of patiently waiting for it to gets its just due on home video. It’s time to shine has finally arrived via a impressive release from Camera Obscura who once again do a remarkable job with a film that most boutique labels would have passed on due to the shortcomings of available source materials.