15 February 2005 | ItalianGerry
Another bitter rice girl...
"Pietro worshiped her. Mario wanted her. Gianni took her." So reads the newspaper publicity promoting this film when it played widely as "Rice Girl," often at drive-in theatres, alongside "Fatal Desire," the Anthony Quinn film that was made from the opera "Cavalleria Rusticana." "2 explosive motion pictures - 1 big show!" was the come-on line of the package's distributor Ultra Pictures.
The original title "La risaia" actually means 'rice field' and the movie is an obvious attempt to recapture the success of the earlier "Bitter Rice" with Silvana Mangano as the rice field worker or 'mondina' and her travails. Here she is Elena, played by Elsa Martinelli.
The reason Piero, the rice farm owner, worshiped her is because he starts out having a fatherly affection for the young beauty, and then, surprise, through some investigation, he discovers he actually IS the girl's father, by a woman he had had an affair with years earlier and then abandoned.
Mario, Pietro's nephew , wanted her, well, because he was an irredeemable low-life.
Gianni the car-tower took her, well, because he was genuinely in love with her and they became engaged.
Despite the contrivance of the whole father/daughter history, the movie manages to capture our interest. It is reasonably well performed, especially by Folco Lulli as Pietro the heavy-set dad with a sterling caring heart. Elsa Martinelli is ravishingly beautiful but never has much to do except look ravishingly beautiful or else hysterical and threatened when nearly raped by Gianni. There is one very nice scene, for me the best of the film, between Folco Lulli and Vivi Gioi, who plays the girl's mother, when Pietro finds her in order to discover the truth about the girl. Michel Auclair and Rik Battaglia as cad Mario and lover Gianni are serviceable if not distinguished in their respective roles. Veteran actress Lilla Brignone is excellent as Pietro's nasty unloving and unloved wife.
The ending has Gianni accidentally killing Mario and noble daddy taking the rap so that his daughter and her boyfriend can remain together.
"La risaia" was shot in CinemaScope and Ferraniacolor by a director, Raffaello Matarazzo, who was famous for his series of very popular soap operas that did very well at the Italian box office.