Top Sensation (1969), also known as The Seducers, and Swinging Young Seductresses is the first of only two films directed by Ottavio Alessi – the other being the Italian black comedy What Ever Happened to Baby Toto? (1964), itself a parody of Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Though Alessi began his film career as an assistant director, he enjoyed a successful run as a screenwriter, alternating between genre and artistic projects.
Top Sensation blends several generic elements – including erotica and the thriller — to controversial and cult effect; during the initial theatrical release the film garnered an ‘X’ certificate in the US, and it has since gone on to generate a fan following due to the pairing of two of European genre cinema’s stars. Edwige Fenech was a relatively new name at the time of the film’s release, but she would go on to star in several Sergio Martino giallo films. Rosalba Neri, on the other hand, had already established a name for herself from her appearances in Jess Franco’s films. This cinematic coupling was a lone outing for the two stars, as they would never work together again.
Thought to be an incomplete print, as master copies were damaged in storage, Top Sensation was released on DVD on 11 July 2016 in the UK by Shameless Screen Entertainment. This is the most-complete version of the filmfirst time the film has been passed by British censors, as it was refused certification in 1970 due to its provocative subject matter and scenes –- namely incest, rape, and an infamous scene between Fenech and a goat.
Top Sensation concerns Mudy’s (Maurizio Bonuglia) sordid attempts to ensure that her son Tony (Ruggero Miti) experiences sexual awakening in order to transition to manhood. She concocts a plan for married couple (Aldo Bonuglia and Neri) and another woman, Ulla (Fenech) to embark upon a yacht trip that results in a series of nefarious deeds and, ultimately, murder.
A perversely pleasurable watch, the camera lingers unapologetically over flesh as Santa Maria Romitelli’s playful and memorable score captures the atmosphere perfectly, from its erotic fusion of art and exploitation cinema to the stunning shots and minimal narrative.
The Shameless Screen Entertainment release includes a Camera Obscura featurette with actors Neri and Salvatore Puntillo, providing insight into a cult classic. As the most-complete version of the film, it also has alternate scenes. The quality of the restoration is patchy, with the new scenes noticeably different to the existing material. This isn’t something to critique, however, as the finished film was largely considered lost. This makes the DVD a definite collector’s item, which should be picked up by completist fans of Italian genre cinema.