EAT IT [Mangiala] (1969; Video Screams).
Looking for something unconventional? If so, check out this ambitious, uneven, but also wildly inventive Italian comic-fantasy, which tackles humanity's insatiable appetites -- whether it's food, sex, entertainment, or modern-day consumerism. The first (and last) film from director Francesco Casaretti, who co-wrote the surreal script with Franco Bucceri, it features an absolutely fearless dual performance by Frank Wolff. A US-born actor who began his screen career in films like Monte Hellman's BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE and Roger Corman's SKI TROOP ATTACK, Wolff relocated to Italy in the 1960s and became a regular in spaghetti westerns such as ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, THE GREAT SILENCE and GOD FORGIVES... I DON'T!, but tragically committed suicide in 1971 at the age of 43... A strange discovery is made in the rural countryside when a filthy, nude, adult male (Wolff) is found buried under some brush and in a catatonic state. A helpful farmer hauls this stranger back to his home and cleans him up, with two huge bottles of wine awakening the man, who then proceeds to eat every single thing put in front of him. Mute, clueless and utterly voracious -- not just for food but for the opposite sex -- he's also able to seduce any woman with a hypnotic moan, and soon schtupps the farmer's wife, their wizened old granny and eventually winds up locked in the cellar with his host's two beautiful, scantily-dressed blonde daughters (Monica Herfert and Silvia Dionisio, who'd later star in future-husband Ruggero Deodato's WAVES OF LUST). Hard to believe, the plot gets even stranger when a mega-corporation's marketing employee Volpi (Paolo Villaggio) learns that this individual finished off 22 pounds of their "Eat It" canned meat in only two hours! Moving him to their high-tech headquarters, he becomes their new mascot, "Mr. Eat It." And the more of their sludge-like processed beef he ingests, the more he screws! "Mr. Eat It" quickly becomes a television pheno-menon, and the company's egomaniacal "Commendatore" (also played by Wolff) keeps his new cash-cow caged, naked and continually satisfied with meat and unsuspecting women. Naturally, this insane situation quickly gets out of control... There's certainly a lot going on here, with inspired ideas and outrageous moments sprinkled throughout, but the overall film is less of a coherent whole (e.g., we never learn anything about who "Mr. Eat It" is, or where he came from) than a messy, scattershot absurdist satire. Casaretti keeps the film barreling along, particularly once "Mr. Eat It" makes his debut, while skewering the lunacy of media celebrity (the guy becomes an overnight sensation simply by devouring huge cans of gross, gooey beef on-camera, often surrounded by sexy dancers, musicians or clowns), amoral corporations (the "Commendatore" hopes to increase sales by encouraging death row inmates to choose "Eat It" as their last meal) and advertising (children are taught about the deliciousness of beef via TV commercials featuring cattle excited to be killed, ground up and canned for human consumption). Often extremely funny and always incredibly bizarre, the production also benefits from an Ennio Morricone soundtrack and pseudo-futuristic sets that look like leftovers from some cheap but groovy Italian space opera.
© 2021 by Steven Puchalski.