Margherita is an Italian diva caught in a ménage a trios plus one. That'll be a ménage a quatre then? Something like that.

It sounds so promising, but Ferreri's little Italian romp is neither funny nor meaningful. As one may expect, though, being Italian it does manage to knock out a fair bit of style, with a rather sultry, suave female lead (Caroll Baker) playing devious seductress, Margherita. Spoilt for choice, she is unable to decide on which of her three lovers she really wants. On a whim she takes off to visit her friend Mario (William Berger) in Croatia, who persuades her to invite all three over together so she can pick her favourite.

First up there's Gianni (Gastone Moschin), a sugar daddy with deep pockets and good connections. Recently dumped when he tries to tie the knot with Margherita, he is in direct competition with Mike (Michel Le Royer), a somewhat younger, ruggedly handsome, blonde-bearded wild card of a man with an eye patch and a leopard for a pet. Last and probably least is lover No.3, Gaetano (Renato Salvatori), bespectacled and squarest of all but best dressed, suited and booted in Italy's finest.

Slowly Margherita plays one off against the other with some tried and tested female mind games, causing below the belt punches and high elbows in the boys camp. First turning on Mario for colluding with her in setting them up, as each believed they had been invited alone. As the testosterone drives the fight, they turn on each other, competing hammer and tongs for her warped affection. But poco a poco, having being pushed beyond their limits, she tires them out. Scratching their heads at their naive stupidity, they make a U-turn and devise a cunning plan of retribution for the queen of cock tease.

Shot in 1967, around the time the French had made the ménage a trois theme as common as breakfast the morning after, Marco Ferreri makes light of the business of female sexual promiscuity. Bordering on the farcical, The Harem doesn't have enough to sustain it as a decent sexual romp. With next to no plot, it's up to the characters to lead from the front, and although Caroll Baker is perfectly cast, since Ferreri has gone for romp instead of the heavy set script of say Jules et Jim -to make a distant analogy - his characters resemble cartoon strips without the hilarity. Imagine the Carry On films without the smutty humour. Eh, I don't think so.

Style is nothing without substance, and The Harem is just that. While the ending is just and fair, the transporting vehicle is a Ferrari with a Fiat engine.

Reviewed on: 28 Jul 2006
Share this with others on...
The Harem packshot
A seductive woman pushes three men beyond their limits, toying with their sexual desires and male pride.
Amazon link

Director: Marco Ferreri

Writer: Marco Ferreri, Rafael Azcona

Starring: Carroll Baker, Gastone Moschin, William Berger, Michel Le Royer, Renato Salvatori, John Phillip Law, Ugo Tognazzi

Year: 1967

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Italy, West Germany


Search database: