8 August 2008 | Bunuel1976
INSURANCE ON A VIRGIN (Giorgio Bianchi, 1967) **1/2
This is one of a myriad low-brow comedies with a Sicilian backdrop made in the wake of DIVORCE, Italian STYLE (1961) – with which it shares co-scriptwriter Alfredo Giannetti and co-star Daniela Rocca (though here she’s made to retain her looks!).
Anyway, the plot has both familiar and novel elements: the teenage daughter (Romina Power!) of a poor family is being asked in marriage by a middle-aged aristocrat (Vittorio Caprioli – not as broadly comic as usual). Goaded by a money-grubbing relative (Leopoldo Trieste), the father is made to insure his daughter’s virginity for a year: he will pay 1 million Italian Lire each month and if, by the time the policy term expires, she will have retained her purity, the insurance will award the family 100 million Lire! Given that practically everyone but Caprioli (and, naturally, the bank) knows Power is in love with a local boy – who wishes nothing more than to make her his wife – the family has done this in the event that the relationship between the youngsters is consumed and the wealthy prospective groom rejects her (incidentally, he himself keeps Rocca as his mistress – who, needless to say, had always hoped she’d be the one to eventually inherit Caprioli’s fortune)!
Still, to appear in good faith, the family has the girl put into a convent school for the duration – while the boy is sent off to work on an oil rig far away; besides, all parties concerned (family, spouse, bank), have planted spies in the vicinity of the convent to observe the situation: actually, even here Power rouses the lecherous attentions of the elderly caretaker (who’s constantly being rebuked by the nuns for it)! In any case, Trieste has the upper hand for a while as he manages to have the boy infiltrate the convent grounds; the latter flees the place with Power in tow (after having entered the wrong room, he and Power are then embarrassed to be in the presence of religious icons). So, they go to the city intent on spending the night together…but events don’t go quite as planned here either; nonetheless, we get a happy ending of sorts – with the kids getting married and Caprioli deciding that Rocca was his ideal partner after all (the four newlyweds even share the same train during their honeymoon trip!).
Though essentially slow-going and rarely laugh-out-loud funny (being an early example of the rustic comedy type, it’s not as coarse as later outings either), all things considered the film emerges a pleasant-looking and generally engaging trifle – kept going by plentiful twists, but also the local color and sounds peculiar to European countries steeped in religious and family traditions.