Hot Foxes of Yesteryear (Lady Edition): Edwige Fenech

by:   |   Apr 18 2014

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In 2006, when Netflix was in its infancy, a friend with an incredible surplus of time on his hands and a limitless hunger for new, entrancing, girl shapes, had taken to combing its vast bench of 70s European erotica. (He maxed out his queue at a staggering 500 movies, the majority of it erotic thrillers from the 60s-present). On his recommendation, I had also recently adopted Netflix, and one of his earliest endorsements went to an Italian film with the superbly “lost in translation” title, YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY (1972). It wasn’t so much the film itself he loved, but rather one of the co-stars, not a mere woman but animate poetry carved from alabaster and anthracite. Her name was Edwige Fenech.

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I queued up YOUR VICE…, and when it arrived I discovered new levels of devotion. I had thought that my torrid mental affair with Sherilynn Fenn would never see its equal, but here was a lithe alley cat in Cleopatra eyeliner who had my undivided attention. Elegantly thin-lipped and inscrutable, with her fine smooth mask of a face, intermittently innocent and ruinously decadent, unmistakably European, but spiced with the mystery of the East, Fenech is the film’s center of gravity. I was smitten. I would later discover that the bad girl she played in YOUR VICE… was a rare waltz on the dark side for her. I IMMEDIATELY added everything Netflix had to my queue, and noticed that in her other films, she generally played the victim, a porcelain doll constantly vulnerable to Satanic darkness. I thought, “Edwige needs to be saved. Won’t someone save her?” Frequently someone did, praise God.

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THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1970), ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (1972), and THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS (1971) all had their charms, but it’s in the memorably nasty NUDE PER L’ASSASSINO (STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER, 1975) that she makes the strongest impression. She’s handicapped by an unflattering short haircut (was this like when Larry Bird got bored and started shooting with just his left hand?), but the erotic storm of her personality remains devastating. Edwige even weathers the menacing proximity of Jessica Rabbit-shaped Femi Benussi (who’s also worthy of a future column) without having her shine blocked. She’s cast not as one of the fashion models, but as a photographer. I think we’re supposed to find her more austere (hence the hair?) than the other girls. It’s laughable. Like casting filet mignon as a Big Mac.

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Edwige seems to be in semi-retirement, but in recent appearances she appears noble, still ripe. Like a countess in exile. One imagines subjects summoned to her chateau for encounters they’ll never share, even under threat of death and dismemberment. We prefer it that way—mysteries are better without a solution. At least I think so.

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