Contributing Writer; Texas, USA

Severin Films has been very busy over the last several months delivering one stunner after another. In an effort to catch up on the deluge of quality releases, we're offering our opinions in a gallery of their most recent Blu-ray releases.

Continue reading below for reviews of Roman Polanski's What?, John LaMond's Felicity, Frank Henenlotter's That's Sexploitation!, and the compilation Kung Fu Trailers of Fury.


  • Roman Polanski
  • Gérard Brach
  • Roman Polanski
  • Marcello Mastroianni
  • Sydne Rome
  • Hugh Griffith
  • Romolo Valli

Roman Polanski's 1972 film What? (Che?) is an odd little film. Released between the critically acclaimed duo of Macbeth and Chinatown, What? sees Polanski taking a sideways swipe at the type of comedy he'd executed so successfully with 1967's The Fearless Vampire Killers. The film has been cut to pieces over the years, and has until now been unavailable on digital home video in the United States, but Severin Films is here to save the day with a lovely new Blu-ray release of a film that should find plenty of fans with a bit of exposure, pun intended.

When an innocent American girl names Nancy, played by Sydne Rome, literally stumbles into a chaotic Italian villa her world gets turned upside down in a hilariously ribald sequence of odd events. What? appeared at the tail end of a wave of European sexy art-house comedies that put plenty of skin on American independent screens, though this one seems to have slipped through the fingers of history, in spite of its directorial pedigree. In addition to Polanski in the director's chair, we also get the king of Italian sex comedies, Marcello Mastroianni as Alex, a syphilitic pimp who has won the heart of young miss Nancy in spite of his many glaring faults. It's a truly strange film, but one with a quaint charm and just enough edgy sex and violence to leave its audience, both popular and critical, a bit confused and titillated.

There isn't much of a plot to What?, the film simply meanders from one outrageous situation to another, each vignette most likely ending – or beginning, and sometimes both – with Nancy bare-ass naked. In spite of the saucy nature of the film and its characters, there is surprisingly little adult action on the screen, though there is nudity to spare from Rome, who appears to have embraced the free-wheeling '70s with abandon.

What is apparent, however, is Polanski's hearty appetite for satire and bawdy humor. Everyone engages is some sort of farcical behavior, not least of which Mastroianni's former pimp character and a clergyman who happens to be staying at this villa. Everyone is in competition with everyone else in terms of who can create the most ridiculous little biome within this secluded compound. Sydne Rome does a wonderful job portraying the wispy conduit between each of the numerous letches and louts within the villa, and a lovely surrogate for an audience likely to be as confused as her protagonist, but also just as amused as we are.

I'm not entirely surprised that American audiences didn't take to the film, our prudish and puritan nature doesn't mix well with the less stuffy sexual attitudes of Europe then or now, but I am surprised that the film hasn't had a proper US release on digital home video. Severin Films rectifies that issue with this lovely disc and for any fans of this period of European sex comedy, you are sure to find something to enjoy in What?

The Disc:

Severin Films previously released What? on DVD in the UK back in 2008, it was among their first releases but never made landfall here in the States. This new Blu-ray is a substantial improvement over that other offering in terms of audio and visual fidelity. The new HD transfer of this uncut version of the film is beautiful to look at, and the restoration is pretty damned good for a film of this vintage. No major damage is present, and the clarity and level of fine detail is quite impressive. There are moments in the film that look as though they could've been shot yesterday, and I found myself surprised at just how good it looks. The new audio track is clean and clear and treats Polanski's dialogue and Claudio Gizzi's score with respect.

Severin have ported over their extras from the 2008 DVD they released and they are just as good now as they were then. A thirty minute interview with star Sydne Rome covers her introduction to Polanski and the shooting of the film. She has a general positive view of the film and her director and she's happy to recount these stories. Interviews with composer Gizzi and cinematographer Marcello Gatti round out the package and deliver enough interesting anecdotal and historical context to justify their inclusion. The only thing that the package lacks is input from Polanski, but its absence is understandable in light of numerous factors which will surely be obvious to most film fans.

What? definitely deserves a second look as it serves as a bit of a last hurrah for Polanski's absurdist streak so obviously on display in The Fearless Vampire Killers. Definitely recommended.

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