• Top Sensation

    Released by: Camera Obscura
    Released on: October 2013.
    Director: Ottavio Alessi
    Cast: Edwige Fenech, Rosalba Neri, Salvatore Puntillo
    Year: 1969
    Purchase From Diabolik DVD

    The Movie:

    Alternately known as The Seducers (and better known by that titles in North America, at least), 1969’s Top Sensation was directed by Ottavio Alessi, whose involvement in the Italian film industry would seem to have been more prolific as a writer than a director. Often talked about in Euro-cult circles but tough to see outside of lousy looking VHS sourced bootlegs, the picture has quite a reputation, thanks to some envelope pushing performances from all involved, chiefly the lovely Rosalba Neri, the equally lovely Edwige Fenech, and an infamously randy goat.

    The film follows a wealthy woman named Mudy (Maud de Belleroche) as she and her son, Tony (Ruggero Miti), go on a yachting trip. Accompanying them are Aldo (Maurizio Bonuglia) his wife Paula (Rosalba Neri) and their friend Ulla (Edwige Fenech), and the chief reason they’re on board is to see if something can’t be done to get Tony turned on. See, Tony is fully grown, but is more interested in playing with his toy train than in the sexual hijinks that would capture the attention of a man his age. In fact, Mudy has gone so far as to wire some cameras into the various rooms on the boat so that she can keep an eye on things in hopes that something will catch his eye.

    Soon enough, the group come to shore where they meet a beautiful young peasant girl named Beba (Eva Thulin) who is eventually coaxed aboard the yacht. Tony seems far more interested in her than any of the other women who he has come across, but her husband (Salvator Puntillo) has definitely noticed that she’s gone missing. When he too comes aboard, he falls in with the sex and debauchery that the guests are all indulging in. As the group of the decadence, Tony is left obviously confused and things only get more twisted as Ulla and Paula set their sights on Beba…

    A well shot film that makes great use of its small cast and minimalist locations to make some barbs at the bourgeoisie class, the adults on the boat are all painted as perverts or sadists. Paula and Ulla are out to seduce anyone they can. When Ulla isn’t doing that she’s posing for provocative photos with a goat (that goes far further than you would probably expect) while Paula shows off her knack for sharp shooting from the safety that the boat provides. These are not nice people. Even Beba’s husband falls into their trap, however, but when you’ve got Rosalba and Edwige showing off the goods you can see why he might be tempted. You feel for Tony, his mother is a nut, and you feel for Beba as she’s basically just a victim here and way out of her element, but for the most part the people here are sycophants and deviants.

    Seemingly inspired by Polanski’s Knife In The Water, the film does a great job of showing off Neri and Fenech’s considerable charms. They’re frequently naked and indulging on one carnal act or another and once they bring Eva Thulin into the fold towards the end of the movie its’ a wonder that the camera lens hadn’t fogged up. The film is never pornographic but it certainly is quite explicit and never wanting for sleaze. The pacing is tight and the camera work is very good. Alongside all of the exposed flesh and graphic couplings there is actually a pretty decent storyline as well. There are moments where the suspense ramps up quite nicely, linking the film to the Giallo’s that were popular in Italian cinema at the time it was made, and the cast all do fine work here, with Neri really stealing the spotlight more often than not. Throw in a good score and a seedy, almost voyeuristic tone and this one comes up a winner.

    Note: This two-disc set contains both the original Italian version of the film (on Disc One) and an interesting German variant (on Disc Two) version. The German version runs about thirteen minutes shorter than the Italian cut and features some interesting alternate footage including some completely different material not present in the Italian cut as well as some bonus full frontal nudity from the female cast members. So with that in mind, it should go without saying that its inclusion here is an important one.


    Camera Obscura presents Top Sensation on DVD in 1.33.1 fullframe and while that aspect ratio might seem odd, the framing looks very good here. A disclaimer starts the presentation of the Italian cut, noting that the available elements weren’t in great shape and so this transfer isn’t as slick looking as some of their other efforts have been, but it’s hard to imagine most fans taking issue with the picture quality here. Yes, there’s some print damage here and there on both versions but colors come through quite nicely and detail looks pretty solid. The discs are well authored and so there are no problems with obvious compression artifacts nor are there any edge enhancement problems to note, but the Italian version does show what might be some noise reduction. Honestly, after watching it, the disclaimer doesn’t seem necessary – the movie looks very good here.

    The German version was sourced from the only existing elements, and that’s a VHS tape – so you can’t expect it to look nearly as good as the Italian cut, and it doesn’t, but having it here is great and the presentation is certainly perfectly watchable.

    Audio options are offered up for the Italian version in Italian, German and English with subtitles available in German and English. The English track is the weakest of the three, there’s some hiss and some fading in spots but it’s serviceable enough. The other two tracks do sound better and have cleaner, crisper dialogue and more consistent levels. This one will come down to preference, really. You’ve got subtitles for everything you could want! There are a few spots where there was never any English audio recorded, so here the audio defaults to German or Italian with English subtitles.

    The German version of the movie is, not surprisingly, in German and it has optional subtitles provided in English. The audio quality, like the video quality, is a step down from the Italian cut but again, having this version here is definitely a nice plus.

    Extras are spread across both discs and the first disc kicks off with an audio commentary with Christian Kessler and Marcus Stiglegger, in German with English subtitles that plays over top of the Italian version of the movie. Here the commentators offer up a good mix of trivia in regards to the picture’s past and some critical insight. They discuss the aspect ratio of the movie, the different versions that exist and why they exist, the locations used in the picture and of course, Edwige’s involvement with a certain goat. It’s a solid track, one that’s definitely worth taking the time to listen to given the obscurity and outlandishness of the picture.

    We also get a great thirty-one minute featurette entitled Of Boats And Goats with Rosalba Neri and Salvatore Puntillo. This was shot in Italian but subs are offered up in English and German. Neri talks about her involvement in the picture and how she came on board to work with the director while Puntillo explains what it was like to work as an actor on the set of the them. Both participants share some interesting memories about Alessi and Fenech and discuss some of the picture’s more memorable moments.

    The first disc also includes a selection of three additional scenes. The first scene is some bits and pieces taken from the German cut and it runs nine minutes, the second one is from the U.S. version of the movie and it runs ten minutes and includes some alternate opening footage and bonus nudity. The third scene is from the Italian TV version and it’s an alternate ending that runs just over one minutes. The three different scenes feature audio in their respective native languages with German and English subtitles provided for each one. They’re tape sourced but perfectly watchable.

    The second disc includes a twenty-minute featurette also A Guy Shoots With Günter Hendel, in German with English subtitles. Here the actor shares some amusing memories from the time he spent on the shoot, his work as a producer on the German version of the film, casting choices and quite a bit more. Hendel’s got a good memory and an eye for detail and his involvement here is quite interesting.

    Rounding out the extras on the second disc is a great animated French photo novel (which is much cooler than it sounds and clocks in at almost forty minutes in length!). Menus and chapter selection are included on both discs in English and in German. Also included inside the case is a booklet containing an essay on the film by Kai Naumann that actually does a pretty great job of making a case for the movie’s importance as a post-apocalyptic film rather than a giallo or sexploitation pictures.

    The Final Word:

    Camera Obscura continues to impress in their efforts to breathe new life into European cult film oddities. Probably their most loaded release yet, this two disc offering of Top Sensation is about as comprehensive as it can probably get. The transfer is decent and the extras as interesting as they are informative and entertaining. Once again we see great care taken not only with the presentation of the movie but also the packaging, the liners, the menu design and everything else. This one is on the spendy side but if you’re a fan of the movie or either of its two leading ladies, it’s worth every penny.

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      It's not Ewa Aulin ( CANDY ) but Eva ( Ewa ) Thulin as the shepard's wife. I would have much prefered the English cut intact over the German one ( which I found worthless ) but it is a German release so I completely understand it getting the nod here.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Thanks for catching that. I'd have liked to have seen the US cut included too, so I'll be holding on to my bootleg of it, but honestly, they went above and beyond with this one as is and I seem to recall them stating somewhere they couldn't find anything decent to use for the US version. And yeah, obviously being geared to the German market, that cut understandably takes precidence. Revisiting this one was fun, hadn't seen it in a long time. I think it really does hold up well.
    1. Goldberg's Avatar
      Goldberg -
      Watched it again last night, the Camera Obscura DVD is definitely an improvement over the grey-market version I saw previously, a top fun, top quality (despite the crappy source materials) release of what I reckon is one of the best sexploitation type films ever made! A No brainer purchase for the grindhouse expert.
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      At $40 I was expecting disappointment, but this is an enjoyable flick. Honestly, 90 minutes of Edwige Fenech and Rosalba Neri lounging around in skimpy outfits would be plenty entertaining on it's own, but in TOP SENSATION the events surrounding those two are compelling enough. The alternate scene of a bottomless Neri sunbathing does have me yearning for an eventual HD release of THE SEDUCERS.
      alternate footage including some completely different material not present in the Italian cut as well as some bonus full frontal nudity from the female cast members.
      Ian, you didn't find any full frontal of Neri or Fenech. Just the hookers, right?
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Right, not that I noticed at any rate.