May Morning (1970) from Tuna

Also known as "Alba pagana" or "May Morning in Oxford", May Morning is an Italian-made story about the hypocrisy at Oxford in 1970. The title refers to a tradition so old that nobody knows where or when it originated. "May Morning" is the morning of May first, when a hymn is sung in the gardens. The night before that is the time for an Oxford Commons ball, where a more recent tradition requires all of the students to get drunk while dancing to really bad rock music, then screw in the grass. This is the setting for our story.

Note that I am writing a complete spoiler, in the hopes of convincing all of you not only to avoid this film, but to be highly suspicious of anyone who has seen it and praises it.


The story centers on Valerio Manelli, an Italian underclassman who just doesn't fit in, which is a serious problem at Oxford. He is an excellent oarsman, however, and is given a chance to row on the main Oxford crew, which would make him a "blueman" and pretty much stop all the harassment. Regrettably, the daughter of his tutor (Jane Birkin), who is also the girlfriend of one of the most important upperclassmen, tries to seduce him, and her mother is caught watching them. Manelli tries to apologize to the upperclassman, who becomes offended at the conversation as bad form. The upperclassman baits him into saying the wrong thing at the dining hall, and challenges him to drink two quarts of beer in 30 seconds. When Manelli refuses, he is booed out of the hall, and finds he has lost his place on the crew.

Going back to the upperclassman to try and work things out, he ends up beating him up, and is "rusticated," or kicked out. He has until the next evening to pack and leave. A bitter Manelli convinces Birkin and the upperclassman that he is going to go screw her mother. It is probably important at this point to mention that Birkin's mother is a voyeur and has a thing for young girls, and that her father is either gay or a cross-dresser or both. They follow him, and find her mother undressing and caressing an inebriated young girl Manelli brought along for the purpose. Birkin runs out, heading back to the Commons and Manelli follows.

Then the film gets strange. Manelli helps restrain Birkin while the band gang-rapes her. Then he makes love to her. The two leave arm in arm, heading for a punt boat so he can take her home. At that point she pushes him into the river, whereupon she and the band members beat him to death with oars.

Scoop's notes in yellow:

I haven't seen the film and, after reading Tuna's comments, never will.

But the tag line on the DVD box cracked me up:

"They laughed. They danced. They loved. They killed."

It's a Mel Brooks song. Recognize it? It's the theme from Mel's Robin Hood spoof, "When Things were Rotten."

"They laughed. They loved. They fought. They drank.
They jumped a lot of fences.
They robbed the rich - gave to the poor
- except what they kept for expenses!"




  • No features except the original theatrical trailer
  • the transfer is not anamorphically enhanced, and is not especially vivid



Jane Birkin shows breasts in the seduction scene and again in the rape scene.


The Critics Vote ...

  • Apollo scores it 35/100. Apollo readers score it 16/100.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.0/10, but this is based on a mere eight votes.
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 D-. This strange film was shot in and around Oxford and the photography is very nicely done. Unfortunately, the English dubbing is laughable, the sound track appalling and, well, you should just plain avoid it.

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