Boccaccio '70 (1962) reviewed by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I have a special connection to this film. As you probably know if you are reading this, I spend most of my time these days writing about, cataloging, and generally apotheosizing film nudity. This would come as quite a surprise to those who knew me in the twenty five years when I was impersonating a straight-laced corporate executive, but in fact it is a return to my roots. Watching Boccaccio '70 on DVD brings it all around to a full circle for, you see, this movie represents the first time I ever saw a naked woman on screen.

The year was late 1962 or early 1963, and nobody was naked on screen in American movies then. Later that year, Elizabeth Taylor showed a part of her bum in Cleopatra, but I didn't see that movie then. I don't think I saw any loose flesh in an American movie until about a year later when The Pawnbroker truly broke the nudity barrier and received for its efforts the dreaded "condemned" rating from the Catholic Legion of Decency. I think that meant you would go straight to hell if you died between seeing that film and your next confession.

Boccaccio '70 somehow managed to sneak in under the radar of controversy, perhaps because the nudity was minimal and the audiences small in number, or perhaps because it was an acclaimed foreign film in three unrelated segments, each directed by a screen legend: Luchino Visconti (Obsession), Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita), and Vittorio De Sica (The Bicycle Thief).

My friend The Duck heard through the official teenage guy grapevine that this film had some nudity in it, so he resolved to see that nudity, and he persuaded me to join him in his wanton pursuit of screen flesh. I was happy to oblige. We soon found, however, that it wasn't all that easy to pull it off. The theater was out of walking or biking distance, and we were fourteen at the time and could therefore not drive ourselves there. The situation required us to conceive a fairly elaborate plan to dupe my mother into chauffeur duty. Here's how it worked. There were two theaters about a block apart. One was screening Boccaccio '70 while the one around the corner was showing an innocuous film. My memory tells me that the decoy was Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and that's how I've always told the story, but a double check of the release dates at IMDb doesn't seem to confirm that. Darby would have been out for four years at the time Boccaccio '70 came to Rochester. Oh, well, these events happened 50 years ago, so I guess I may be hazy on some details. Let me use Darby in my anecdote, although it was probably something else. I know for sure that I had already seen the decoy movie and could recall it in sufficient detail to pass muster if my mom pursued an interrogation. She never did. 

The drop-off procedure was the easy part. We waved good-bye to my mom, pretended to check our wallets, then walked around the corner as soon as her car disappeared. The pick-up was trickier because our film got out later than Darby, so we told mom we'd get an ice cream or a hot dog or something after the film, and arranged for her to pick us up a full hour after Darby ended. That way there was no reason for her to question why nobody else was coming out of the theater at the pick-up time. Why so long? Our film would get out only a few minutes after Darby, so we might have to stand outside for nearly an hour on a cold Rochester night. Well, that was a price we were willing to pay, but we knew it would not be that long. We had adjusted for the fact that my mom was always early for everything, so we had to consider exactly where we would be when she would first spot us - which would occur a half an hour before she was supposed to be there.

Was it difficult for two snot-nosed kids to get into the only film in town with bare flesh and naughty stories? Not at all. In our paranoia and guilt, we had imagined that there might be problems with some officious moral guardians, and we were prepared to go back and watch Darby if necessary, but there were no hurdles of any kind. The MPAA rating system (version 1.0) wasn't enacted until 1966, so there were no specific rules or guidelines about who could see which movies. Sure, if we had tried to sneak into a porn film we probably would have been turned away because the establishment would not risk a charge for corrupting the morals of minors, but this film was an award winner at Cannes and some of it was directed by the guy who did The Bicycle Thief. Moreover, there had been neither public protests nor outraged editorials to draw attention to the film. Frankly, neither the cops nor the theater owner were concerned about screening out minors. Nobody asked our age. We simply paid for our tickets and walked in.

Thus it happened that I saw Romy Schneider offer a very brief flash of her breasts in the Visconti segment, the first succulent forbidden flesh I had ever seen. As it turned out, we also liked the movie, although the Visconti portion was memorable mostly for Romy's flesh. That segment was meticulously crafted, artistic, and bittersweet, offering insights into the nature of human relationships and the death of love - in other words a whole bunch of crap to 14 year old boys.

We thought the other two segments were magnificent. Fellini directed a crazed, surreal story about a gorgeous woman (Anita Ekberg playing herself) who comes to life from a sexy poster to torment and tempt the pious censor who forces authorities to cover the poster. I have never forgotten the humor of the story, the bizarre carnival atmosphere of the sights and sounds, and the sight of the zaftig Ekberg rolling around on the ground in a dress which barely contained her monstrous breasts. In those days I didn't know Fellini from Frank Nitti, but I determined that I liked him. We also loved the segment by De Sica. Sophia Loren raffles herself off for one night, but then decides to cut a deal with the winner because she is interested in exploring a new relationship and doesn't want to start it off by prostituting herself to a local douchebag. She strikes a bargain wherein she avoids the sex, the winner gets to keep all the lottery money, and he also gets to say he went through with a wild night of any kind of amour he can imagine, which she will verify. The rest of the men in town are so impressed with his yarn that they hold a parade for the sad, homely fellow, and he ends up both honored and rich with the lottery money. Sophia, in the meantime, gets the hunky guy and all ends well.

The idea behind the film was to bring the ribald spirit of Boccaccio to the screen in modern times, using modern characters and settings. One of Italy's greatest writers would be interpreted by three of Italy's greatest directors, starring three of Europe's sexiest stars. Italians responded warmly. Boccaccio '70 became the all-time box office champ of Italy, outpacing Fellini's La Dolce Vita, and eventually taking in a quadrillion lire (about $1.37). OK, I'm kidding about those numbers. It actually grossed $200,000, but that really was the all-time Italian box office champ as of 1962! It was obviously a good idea then, and the whole concept still seems like a good idea to me, given the fact that Boccaccio was not only a famous writer whose stories featured clever and ironic twists, but he was also funny and obsessed with sex. I'm not sure how well this film really captures Boccaccio, but I don't know if that matters. I liked the Fellini and De Sica segments when I was 14 and, unlike most of the films I re-watch 40 years later, I still like them today. I wasn't the only one turning a thumb up. My significant other just happened to walk by while I was starting to watch the Fellini story on DVD, and she ended up watching that entire episode. And you have to understand that she liked the story even though she had no interest in the fact that Anita Ekberg was falling out of her clothes!

The film was originally conceived as a four-parter, with the additional segment directed by Mario Monicelli (La Grande Guerra). The original four-part film, which ran 210 minutes and was shown with two intermissions, was seen in the Italian theatrical release, but Monicelli's segment was cut from the version screened at Cannes, as well as from the American theatrical release. The DVD has been created from the original Italian print, as digitally remastered from the vault interpositive, so it has all the original Italian credits and titles, and Monicelli's segment has been restored. That segment is a perfectly good story, but I can see why producer Carlo Ponti decided to cut it. It is not especially humorous, and it basically consists of two newlyweds talking together in a single room. At any rate, you can now see the full four-part version of this film for the first time outside of Italy.



  • You can choose either English dubbing or English sub-titles.
  • For each segment there are several black-and-white photos taken during filming or backstage.
  • There are some pictures from the American premiere.
  • There are the original Italian and American trailers.
  • There is a brief bit of archival film footage from the set.
  • The best extra in this two-disk set is not on either disk. It is a re-print of the original American press kit!

There is only one thing which prevents the DVD set from being a complete presentation. Fellini originally submitted his story at eighty minutes, and later cut it back below an hour. I was really hoping to see the eighty-minute version as he originally conceived it, but it apparently had been trimmed before the theatrical print was created. That original footage may no longer exist, but it's Fellini, dammit, so I can dream!


Romy Schneider - brief breasts

Anita Ekberg - mountains of cleavage

Sophia Loren - a see-through bra, but one which strategically covered her nipples.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online except TV Guide, which awarded a tepid 2.5/5

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. I realize that Italian comedies from the 60s are not everyone's cup of tea, but this is well worth a look if you are at all interested in that period or these three (or four) great directors.

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