Filippo Walter Ratti made some classy movies in his life. There’s the biographical Eleonora Duse, the Zorro ripoff The Black Mask (which made over a hundred million lire), the Christmas Carol remix It’s Never Too Late and a story of the 1944 Ardeatine massacre titled Ten Italians for One German. In 1966, he made Operation White Shark, a Eurospy film and then didn’t make anything for five years.

Then he made Erika.

Ratti used the name Peter Rush for this and his next three movies, the last of his career. Night of the Damned has a witch killing people to stay young. Mondo Erotico is, you know, a mondo. Crazy Desires of a Murderer is a giallo by way of gothic castles and eyeballs being torn out of the heads of gorgeous women.

Then there’s Erika.

I can’t believe that Erika played the U.S. and even more, I can’t believe that a hardcore version was supposed played Cannes in 1971.

It feels more like a movie that Joe D’Amato would have made — well, did make — with Patrizia Votti (AmuckLa morte scende leggera) as the twenty-year-old Erika who makes her way from Germany to the home of her mother’s acquaintance Baron Giovanni Laurana (Giuseppe Fortis, War of the Planets). Dropped a gorgeous young blonde into a house full of Italian men is a bad idea, as you can guess, as she instantly hooks up with the Baron’s son Renato (Pierre Brice, who is also in Ratti’s Night of the Damned, as is much of the cast, which makes me think both of these movies were shot at the same time*), despite the fact that he’s due to be married to Concettina (Carla Mancini, who was chained up in The Girl In Room 2A). There’s also the younger brother Luca (Bernard De Vries), who Erika also falls for, and the film gradually goes from frothy sex comedy to near gothic tragedy by the end. Erika is gorgeous and seems unattainable, yet she destroys everyone she touches.

Erika supposedly made 300 million lire but was banned for how sexy it all is. This seems kind of ridiculous, as it’s nowhere near as dirty as Italian movies can be. But who knows, 1971 was sort of early. It has a really provocative soundtrack by Roberto Pregadio, too. He also did the scores for Smile Before Death, Death Carries a CaneSS Experiment Camp and The Last House on the Beach.

*They even share the same screenwriter, Aldo Marcovecchio, and that film also had an adult version — Night of the Sexual Demons — that screened in Cannes. They were both made at Elios Studios in Rome, so I think this has gone from theory to close enough to truth. To be fair, everything from Phenomena to Play MotelKeoma and Shanghai Joe were made there. Also, not that it’s infallible, but Wikipedia says that both films were made one after the other on the same sets.

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