|Vintage Pulp||May 9 2012|
Party Selvaggio, aka The Wild Party, is an interesting attempt to capture the decadence and glamour of 1920s Hollywood. The screenplay is based on a Joseph Moncure March poem, which in turn is loosely based on the infamous Fatty Arbuckle scandal of 1921. In brief, Arbuckle was accused of sodomizing an actress named Virginia Rappe with a bottle, an act which led to her death due to a ruptured bladder. No such thing happened, but sensational news reports portrayed Arbuckle as a fat lecher who routinely used his bulk to overpower helpless women. These fairy tales proliferated to the extent that morality groups—which were about as restrained and reasonable back then as they are now—were calling for Arbuckle to be put to death. He was acquitted at trial, but his reputation, career, and life were destroyed.
In Party Selvaggio, the Arbuckle role is played by James Coco, who decides to throw a bash for major Hollywood players in hopes of revitalizing his ailing career. Unfortunately, the shindig goes horribly wrong. Coco earned some praise for his portrayal, but the star of the film is really Raquel Welch. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say she’s the draw. The poster lists her second but places her image front and center, and she gets top billing in the official trailer. This was Welch stepping away from overtly sexual roles and being given a chance to act, which we mentioned was her driving ambition during the mid-point of her career. So how did she do? Well, despite the presence of legends-to-be Merchant-Ivory in the producer-director roles, this is a party you can miss. Welch gives her all in what is essentially a musical role, but the film never strikes the right chords. Don’t you just love this Italian poster, though? Party Selvaggio opened in Italy this month in 1975.