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Featured DVD Review: Love Kittens

May 12th, 2011

Love Kittens - Buy from Amazon

Love Kittens is a four-disc set featuring four racy films from the early 1960s, or at least films these films were seen as racy at the time. One of the great aspects of looking back at how taboo material was treated decades ago is just seeing what was once considered taboo is now commonplace, or even quaint. Will this be the case here? Or have these films aged well?

Sweet Ecstasy

The film centers on a group of rich kids who live on the French Riviera and spend their time indulging in hedonistic desires. Oliver is introduced to this world one night when he goes to visit his sister, Claire, a famous stage actress. After the press swarm her, he leaves only to meet Barbara, a young actress who has a small part in the same play as Claire. They have an instant connection, which is enough to clear up Oliver's depression. Babara is friends with the group, sort of, and Maddy, the leader, takes an instant interest in Oliver. It's not so much friendship, but they see him as someone they can corrupt, or in their mind, save from his own idealism. He asks Elke, the only other member of the group not blessed with rich parents, to seduce Oliver and bring him over to the dark side.

At first Oliver is happy to be at the center of attention, especially when that attention is coming from Elke. But eventually he has to decide between this new group and Barbara. When the group accidentally burns down a yacht, he figures out which way is the right way. But Maddy's not quite done with Oliver.

In the world of cinema, bored rich kids have to be the least compelling commonly used protagonists. Perhaps back in the early 1960s, watching a good kid like Oliver being tempted into the hedonistic world of Maddy and the others may have been fresh, but it's not anymore. Elke Sommer does bring a lot to her role and it's no surprise the film pays so much attention to her, but it's not enough to be more than just an interesting curiosity of the times.

The Extras

The extras include the trailer, film notes, and an image gallery. (All 15 images feature Elke Sommer, so its clear that the people who made this DVD knew what the biggest selling feature was.)

Daniella By Night

Elke Sommer is the star of this film as well, this time playing the titular Daniella, a fashion model hired to go to Rome for a shoot. The previous model who was hired for the job died, so her trip starts on a sombre note, but this is still her big chance. When she gets there, she finds her life will be a lot more complicated than she thought. Her boss, Count Castellani, takes an interest in her, which doesn't sit well with the Count's girlfriend. She also meets Karl, a reporter who is working on a big story. That big story just happens to be her boss, who isn't a fashion icon. That's just his cover. He's actually involved in some rather shady business involving stolen microfilm, business that Daniella is about to be caught up in.

A beautiful women caught up in a spy story, it's should be a great movie, or at the very least, a great B-movie. At times it is very fun, but at other times it is also moves too slowly for its own good. It does possess a sense of style that lifts it above the usual B-movie offering. Finally, it clearly shows what Elke Sommer has to offer, and I don't mean the nude scene. (Although apparently it was her only nude scene in a movie.) She has the charm and sex appeal to pull off a role like this with ease.

The Extras

The only extras are a photo gallery and the trailer.

The Nude Set, a.k.a, The Fast Set

We meet Sophie Durville (played by Agnes Laurent) as she enters a sweet shop and buys several desserts and eats them all. You see, she's on a hunger strike, or at least that's what she wants her parents to believe. So she has to eat now so she can refuse to eat during dinner. She wants to move to Paris to be with her boyfriend, Jack a medical student, but her father is convinced she'll end up hanging around anarchists, or worse. Of course in the end he relents and Sophie is allowed to go to Paris and stay with her aunt.

When she arrives in Paris, Jack is there to meet and drive her around Paris in a car I can only assume he found at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box. However, while Sophie is happy to be with Jack, she doesn't seem to fit in with his friends, or with the Paris nightlife, or the art scene. She's particularly upset at Jack's fascination with the "Glamour Girls". I think Burlesque would be the more appropriate term. Will they be able to make it work? Will Sophie win over Jack's friends? And more importantly, just how many Burlesque acts can the squeeze into an 80-minute movie and still have room for the plot?

The plot itself is a rather typical one for a romantic comedy and if it weren't for the Burlesque elements, the film would be mostly unremarkable. There's nothing wrong with it, the two leads have the right chemistry, the obstacles in the way of the romance are handled as well as they would be in most romantic comedies, and there are some nice shots of Paris in the film. There's nothing shocking about the nudity when viewed today, and while it feels gratuitous at times, it doesn't feel exploitative.

The Extras

The only extras are some notes, images, and the trailer.

The Twilight Girls

Agnes Laurent returns, but this time playing a secondary role. This film is also important for being the first film with Catherine Deneuve, although she was just 13 years old at the time and her character was a minor one.

The real star of the movie is Marie-Hélène Arnaud as Catharine, the new girl in an exclusive French boarding school. She's much more sophisticated than her classmates, so much so that when she arrives, some of the younger students think she is a new teacher. She quickly becomes the center of attention with Dean, a composer vying for her attention, but also from a classmate, Monica. (There's also an older artist, but he seems quite out of his depth.) Not all the attention she gets is welcome, as one of her fellow classmates is jealous and taunts her about her past.

When the school learns Catharine and Dean's relationship might be too serious, they take drastic measures to prevent the pair from eloping. Monica becomes the only way for Catharine and Dean to communicate, but will her crush on Catharine get in the way of her being a good friend.

Arguably the best movie in the set, and while the frank discussion of teenage sexuality seems positively tame by today's standards, the story itself holds up rather well. It's a little melodramatic and can dance quite close to soap opera territory on occasion, but it is still a good movie. Also, Catherine Deneuve is cute as the mischievous Adelaide.

The Extras

This is the only DVD with a real extra, and its limited to a 5-minute featurette on the changes made to the film for American audiences, and how that got the film in trouble with the New York censor board.

The Verdict

Of the four films in Love Kittens, none are really classics. The bored rich kids in Sweet Ecstasy are too hard to empathize with, even in the end. Daniella By Night has a few pacing problems, but is otherwise a fun movie. The Nude Set takes a standard romantic comedy plot and inserts several Burlesque acts. While The Twilight Girls is arguably the best and avoids too much melodrama. There are almost no extras on the DVD, and some of these films have not aged well, both thematically and also in terms of video and audio quality. They are closing in on 50 years old, so that's not a big surprise. That said, if you are interested in films of the era, it's worth checking out. And this box set is less than half the cost of the four films individually.

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