Ruggero Deodato is one of those artists who career will forever be defined by a single work. Cannibal Holocaust looms so large in his filmography that it is hard to convince non-fans that he had a career outside of that film. Thankfully Raro Video USA has done an amazing job uncovering some of his other work, including the amazing Eurocrime film Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man, and this film, Waves of Lust. Even though Waves of Lust is exceptionally hard to get a handle on in terms of a consistent tone, it is a great example of the kind of work being done by most working directors in the mid-'70s in Italy.
Waves of Lust is not a plot driven film. There is no real central conflict, there are conflicts everywhere, so it's difficult to determine who is supposed to be the hero and who is supposed to be the villain. None of the characters have any kind of back story, nor do they have any explicit reason for being where they are or doing what they do. All of the action in the film appears to be a result of a confluence of coincidences taken advantage of by different characters at different points. Everyone is looking out for themselves, and with that kind of selfishness on constant display it's hard to root for anyone.
What is not hard to enjoy is the aroma of J&B whisky wafting from the screen at every turn. J&B is the unofficial totem of '70s Italian genre films, that yellow label is visible in damn near every one of these films, and there may not being another film from that era that shares the quantity of J & B being conspicuously chugged as in Waves of Lust. Though it is probably the most obvious piece of '70s paraphernalia in the film, it's far from the only thing that screams "1975" in this weird little movie.
In the short documentary that accompanies this film, Ruggero Deodato mentions that he was uncomfortable with the sexy components of the script, and that he would have preferred to stick more to the thriller bits. However, is has always been the case, the men who pull the purse strings often call the shots and Deodato was coerced into turning his caper film into an erotic thriller. The main four leads consist of two couples, a domineering financier named Giorgio (John Steiner) and his timid sexual slave Silvia (Elizabeth Turner) and their unexpected guests on a journey out to sea, the sexually liberated and potentially devious Barbara (Silvia Dionisio, Deodato's then wife) and the relatively laid back, though quietly smoldering Irem (Al Cliver). The couples play mind games with each other throughout their journey, never really revealing their own intentions, but in the mean time they reveal a lot of skin, particularly the ladies, though Al Cliver's cutoff jeans are nothing to scoff at.
Tits, ass, and bush abound in Waves of Lust. This film is a hare's breath away from being a legitimate porn film, one gets the feeling that if they'd allowed the camera to run for a few more seconds, we'd probably have gotten some penetration. But no, this is not a sex film, it's an "erotic" film, so we just get teased. The ladies in question are pretty decent looking, especially Dionisio, who was a model at the time and insisted that Deodato cast her in the film when she discovered that there'd be naked ladies around, presumably to keep an eye on him. Luckily, though, it is we who get to keep our eyes on her, and she is quite a sight.
In spite of the goofball synthesizer soundtrack and some completely unnecessary on-screen animal violence, Waves of Lust is an interesting, and at times even fun, film. If you like '70s Italian genre films, this might be a fun one to try, otherwise, I'm not sure that I can recommend it as a good film on any standard scale. Proceed with caution.
Unfortunately, this weird little gem doesn't look so hot on DVD. The transfer appears to be interlaced and there is no fine detail anywhere on screen. In addition to the lack of definition, the colors bleed, and there is frequent ghosting. It is not one of Raro's finest hours, however, judging by the archival footage in the documentary, it looks a lot better than previous editions have just be virtue of the fact that it is widescreen anamorphic transfer. The sound is equally shaky. The English dub track is a tiny bit louder, but it is not the on-set language, and I can't really recommend it. The Italian post-sync sound is very muddy, but matches better with the actors' performances. Neither is stellar.
What is decent about this release is that Raro have included several really cool bonus features, including the above mentioned documentary featuring interviews with Deodato, Cliver, and the co-author of the short story on which the film was based, director Lamberto Bava. The documentary delves into how little interest Deodato had in making the film in the first place, and his jealousy over his wife's fame at the time. Pretty decent stuff. There is also a reel of "deleted scenes", though I went through them and didn't really see anything that wasn't in the film. Lastly we get a longish reel of TV ads directed by Deodato during the late-60's and early '70s between the lackluster beginning of his career and his late '70s heyday. There are no English subs, but Deodato provides commentary for all of them, and they are all surprisingly cinematic, showing signs of obvious talent.
Waves of Lust doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and if you try to latch onto a sympathetic characters, like I did, you'll likely just end up frustrated. It's a film that best left to simply wash over you, if you can let it happen, you'll probably be alright.
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