• The Alcove (Severin Films) DVD Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 23rd, 2005.
    Director: Joe D’Amato
    Cast: Laura Gemser, Al Cliver, Annie Belle, Lilli Carati, Robert Caruso
    Year: 1974
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    The Alcove – Movie Review:

    One of many films by the late Joe D’Amato to feature cult favorite Laura Gemser, The Alcove is a bizarre movie even by the standards of the European sex film. When the movie begins, a middle aged man named Elio (Al Cliver) pulls up in front of his mansion in his car. He’s just returned home from a war in Africa and couldn’t be happier to see his lovely wife, Alexandra (Lilli Carati), who greets him along with is sexy assistant Velma (Annie Belle). They inside where he shows off the many artifacts and exotic treasures, most of which are textiles, which he’s brought back for them. He saves the biggest surprise for last, however, when he introduces Zerbal (Laura Gemser), an African princess who was given to him by her father for saving his life.

    Alexandra and Velma, who are having a secret lesbian affair, are none too pleased by the presence of Zerbal, who they say belongs in a zoo and who they describe as filthy and compare to an animal. Eventually, in order to get on with writing his memoirs, Elio gives Zerbal over to Alexandra completely, body and soul. The make this official by allowing Zerbal to lick her thighs and suck her nipples - this, we’re told, is one of her people’s customs. With Zerbal now hers completely, she begins to show an interest in her, much to Velma’s dismay. Tensions arise between the three women, made more complicated upon the arrival of Elio’s son, Furio (Roberto Caruso), who falls in love with Velma, much to the dismay of the hulking gardener, Pepe (Nello Pazafinni). As everyone becomes increasingly jealous of Zerbal, who soon exerts her dominance over Alexandra, Elio decides that in order to make some easy money he’s going to make a porno movie with his recently acquired film camera. Velma gets tied up and raped and Zerbal wears a nun’s habit, but there’s more going on here than any of them realize and we soon find out that these events aren’t quite as random as they seem.

    Set to a fairly evocative score by Manuel De Sica (best known for his work on Cemetery Man) and carefully shot by D’Amato himself, if nothing else The Alcove is a really nice looking film. Shot with an eye for that sort of softness that was common in European sex films of the late seventies and early eighties, the compositions are quite elegant and everyone is lit, framed and shot in such a way as to ensrue that they’re always looking their best. With cast made up of Annie Belle, Laura Gemser and Lilli Carati (who would later enjoy a career in hardcore porn) you can see how a photographer like D’Amato would be in heaven and he makes the most out of the ladies he has to work with here, dressing them up in ornate lingerie and interesting costumes that suit the 1920s setting.

    The plot is considerably more interesting than your standard sex film. Written by Ugo Moretti, who penned Orgasmo for Umberto Lenzi, the film deals with racial issues, or at least plays off of them, in an interesting enough way. Elio’s decision to make a porno film is preceded by a scene in which he watches a hardcore stag loop with all three of the women and there is the surprisingly inclusion of some hardcore footage here. The plot twists things around in some fairly unexpected ways in the last half hour, making for some welcome tension and intrigue as we eventually figure out who has the upper hand in all of this. Essentially a ninety five minute sexual power struggle, the sex scenes (which are fairly graphic but not hardcore) pad the film out in spots and actually slow things down more than they should but the story is interesting enough to make up for that and The Alcove turns out to be one of D’Amato’s more interesting eighties efforts.

    The Alcove – DVD Review:

    Severin presents the Alcove in a 1.78.1 transfer that looks a little bit tighter than the German non-anamorphic 1.66.1 DVD that came out through X-NK a few years back (which is now out of print and which featured forced German subtitles during playback). The image is a fair bit soft throughout but much of this looks to have to do with the way that the movie was shot. Detail isn’t always so strong and colors sometimes look a little faded. Generally the image is okay despite the presence of some minor print damage and moderate to heavy grain but overall if the picture quality won’t floor you, it’s watchable enough.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that’s on this DVD is about on par with the video in that it’s sufficient if unremarkable. The dubbed dialogue can be a bit on the flat side sometimes but there aren’t any problems with all but the most minor instances of hiss. The score sounds alright and the levels are well balanced.

    The main supplement on this disc is a vintage interview clip with the director entitled Talking Dirty With Joe D’Amato in which the late filmmaker talks quite openly and jovially about his work on this film and about other pictures that he made with the infamous Laura Gemser. D’Amato, who comes across as a really likeable and nice guy here, speaks in English and can be a bit hard to understand at times and unfortunately no subtitles have been included, but it’s still great to see this included here as it’s both interesting and amusing.

    Aside from that, check out the movie’s three minute theatrical trailer, taken from what looks like a tape source but presented in perfectly watchable shape. Menus and chapter stops are also included.

    The Alcove – The Final Word:

    The transfer isn’t going to floor you but it’s certainly watchable enough and the included interview with D’Amato is a nice extra. As to the feature itself? It’s nice to see it here uncut and while the plot might meander a bit and the acting might seem a bit wooden, it’s got enough sex, sleaze and intrigue to more than make up for that. Entertaining enough and beautifully shot, The Alcove should be considered essential by anyone interested in the European sex films of the era.