Thursday, January 19, 2012

#521. Female Animal (1970)

Directed By: Jerry Gross

Starring: Arlene Farber, Vassili Lambrinos, Andre Landzaat

Tag line: "Totally female! Totally animal!"

Trivia:  The Spanish language credits, as well as the names of the foreign production companies, were fictitious

Female Animal has the look and feel of an erotic European import, which is exactly what its director, Jerry Gross, was shooting for. Having made a tidy sum of money distributing the Swedish sex film, Inga, through his New-York-based production company, Gross was inspired to create his own “foreign” movie, complete with a tropical setting and Spanish language credits (he himself worked under the pseudonym Juan Carlo Grinella). In a nutshell, Female Animal is American exploitation presented with a touch of old world class 

Angelique (Arlene Farber, aka “Arlene Tiger”) is a shapely peasant girl living in the poverty-stricken village of Santa Felicia. One afternoon, as she and her cousin ride their bikes along the side of the road, a car belonging to Count Orestes Medici (Vassili Lambrinos) accidentally strikes Angelique, knocking her to the ground. Smitten with the young girl, the Count does more than buy Angelique a new bike; he offers her a job as well. Working as a maid at a luxurious country estate, Angelique finds herself torn between the wealthy Count, who showers her with attention, and the Count's playboy son, Alain (Andre Landzaat), a reckless young man who's set his sights on his father's pretty new employee. Despite the Count's warning not to get involved with Alain, Angelique can't resist the boy's charms, causing yet another ripple in the already tempestuous relationship between father and son. 

Shot on location in Puerto Rico, Female Animal is a beautiful film, with director Gross taking full advantage of the island's striking locales. In a particularly gorgeous scene, we follow Alain and his girlfriend, Carla (Joanne Sopko), as they run along the beach, silhouetted against the setting sun.  Equally as striking is the film's star, Arlene Farber. A stunning brunette, Ms. Farber also starred in Gross's 1967 movie, Teenage Mother. With Female Animal, she's given the challenging role of a Latin temptress, and while she's definitely not the most gifted actress, she's certainly one of the most alluring. 

Unfortunately, the beauty of Female Animal can only take us so far, and doesn't entirely mask the film's various weaknesses. The combative relationship between the Count and his son, Alain, is waaayyy overdone, and a yacht-bound orgy, where Angelique “experiments” with LSD, is just plain bizarre. But perhaps the biggest problem of all is the eroticism, which falls far short of what could be found in most European counterparts of the day (the authentic ones, that is). And yet I would gladly recommend Female Animal to anyone, not because it's a great movie, or even a very good one, but because it strives to be something more. It's the earnestness to rise above its own material that makes Female Animal such an oddly appealing film.

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