Rosanna Schiaffino and Sarah Ferrati.
Damiano Damiani has an inspiring, musical name — beaten only by Aldo Lado, whose name does a backflip and anagrams itself even as it trips off your tongue. But I hadn’t given much thought to DD — his array of spaghetti westerns, poliziotteschi plus AMITYVILLE II suggested an aimless journeyman — only now that I’ve seen LA STREGA IN AMORE (1966) have I become really curious, because if nothing else Damiano/i was clearly a considerable visual stylist. Adapting a story by Carlos Fuentes he plants loverboy librarian Richard Johnson (extremely good, even dubbed) in the palazzio of a mysterious older woman and her sexy young “daughter” where he endeavours to get his oats but gets more than he bargained for.
The story doesn’t add up to much — although it’s refreshing to see supernatural elements handled in a low-key manner, far less shrill than Argento, God love him. Only gradually does it emerge that the relationship between the two women is not what it seems — for some time, the previous librarian, Gian Maria Volonte (NEVER hire than man to file your books, he is a stranger to Dewy-Decimal but a close friend to MADNESS) seems the main source of tension, since he is rather fervent in his opposition to being replaced by the suave Johnson.
I didn’t really like where this ended up — it seemed to amount to little, apart from a brimstone whiff of witch-burning misogyny. But as an exercise du style it’s compelling, full of outrageously long, teasing scenes, simmering sexual tension, elegant blocking and sinuous camera movement, the stripped-down mansion serving as an atmospheric, unnerving psychosexual battleground.
Also: Rosanna Schiaffino and Johnson trying to undress each other with their teeth. To music.
Fiona: “This is actually quite sexy. But if we tried it, it would just be hilarious.”