Junesploitation 2021: La Pretora (1976)

June 17: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is Lucio Fulci.

Lucio Fulci was born in Trastavere, Rome 94 years ago today. The son of a single mother from a Sicilian anti-fascist family, he was raised by her and a female housekeeper who encouraged him to be a lawyer, but he ended up going to medical school. After dropping out, he worked as an art critic before apprenticing at the Centro Sperimentale.

While he’s become known as the Godfather of Gore, Fulci didn’t start making his most famous horror work until 1979, a full 21 years after he wrote his first script, Toto in the Moon. He worked with the famous Italian director Steno on several of Toto’s films before directing the films of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia (How We Robbed the Bank of ItalyThe Swindlers).

His career covers nearly every genre. Westerns (Massacre TimeSilver SaddleThe Four of the Apocalypse), giallo, both before and after Argento (Perversion StoryDon’t Torture a DucklingThe PsychicA Lizard In a Woman’s Skin), poliziotteschi (Contraband), post-apocalyptic science fiction (Warriors of the Year 2072), peplum by of Conan (Conquest) and even family fare (White FangWhite Fang to the Rescue).

So while Fulci may be known for his eye-popping horrors — and rightfully so — I wanted to celebrate his birthday by checking out another genre he covered, the commedia sexy all’italiana.

If you’re making one of those movies, you need an attractive female lead. And this movie boats perhaps the finest example of an actress in the genre, the French-born Edwige Fenech, who like Fulci also had a Sicilian mother. While she’s known for her work in giallo such as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, All the Colors of the Dark, The Case of the Bloody Iris and Strip Nude for Your Killer, Fenech also found her greatest  box office success in this very Italian sex comedy genre, making appearances in movies like Ubalda, All Naked and WarmGiovannona Long-ThighPoker In BedConfessions of a Lady CopThe Schoolteacher and many more.

La Pretora, which translates as My Sister In Law, stars Fenech in two roles. She’s Judge Viola Orlando, a tough arbiter of the law who is feared in the Veneto regions (which includes Venice, in case you wonder where this takes place). She’s made plenty of enemies, who soon learn that her sister Rosa is a woman of loose morals who appears in adult magazines. They hope to confuse her images and reputation with that of our protagonist.

Beyond dealing with an outraged populace who can’t believe that a judge could appear nude in a magazine, Viola is also dealing with her love life — or lack thereof — with her fiancee, who wishes that she was as open as her bad seed sister.

Working from a script by husband and wife Franco Marotta and Laura Toscano(, who also wrote the original Inglorious Bastards, this movie finds Fulci not working with an unfamiliar crew, such as cinematographer Luciano Trasatti, who was the director of photography on And God Said to Cain.

However, Fulci had plenty of experience with editor Ornella Micheli (Dracula in the Provinces, Operation St. Peter’sDon’t Torture a Duckling) and would work with assistant director Roberto Giandalia on The PsychicZombiContrabandCity of the Living DeadThe Black CatThe BeyondHouse by the CemeteryThe New York RipperManhattan Baby and Murder Rock.

I understand that these movies were made so that guys could ogle Edwige Fenech — seriously, there’s a moment in this movie where men literally become Tex Avery wolves with their eyes bugging out so much that Fulci had to just be dying inside with the need to smash or pierce them — many don’t take the time to notice just how good she is in these films, able to master comedy that transcends the time and language barrier.

As for Fulci’s work here, the movie looks great, but if only knew him from his 1979 and beyond — pun unintended — films, you may never guess that this was him. He also made another sex comedy, The Eroticist, that I want to check out. And it’s pretty amazing when you think about the fact that more than a quarter of his films were comedies.

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