Color, 1979, 88m.
Directed by Neri Parenti
Starring Johnny Spezia, Ilona Staller, Gloria Piedimonte, Aldo Conti, Francesco De Rosa, Barnardino Emanuelli, Claudio Bigagli
Code Red (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The Face with 2 Left FeetWow. There's really no way to adequately prepare for The Face with 2 Left Feet, an Italian disco comedy The Face with 2 Left Feetoriginally released as John Travolto... da un insolito destino (a weird pun on the original title of Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away). The entire production is basically one big, panting case of hero worship for John Travolta, specifically his role in Saturday Night Fever, with Italian celeb lookalike "Johnny Spezia" (Giuseppe Spezia) appearing in his sole starring role as a hotel cook named Johnny, of course. He and his coworkers (most of them waiters) head out at night to the local discotheque called John's Fever (yes, really), where everyone gets down on the dance floor except Johnny. Instead our bespectacled, mustachioed schlub sits there and pines for the club's pretty DJ, Ilona (Staller), who's dating the thug owner, Mr. Raoul.

A movie outing to see Saturday Night Fever for the millionth time inspires the gang to use Johnny's resemblance to the film's star to help him get the girl, so they shave off his mustache, give him contact lenses, and dress him up in a white disco suit. The end result works like a charm, except Johnny's a complete klutz who can't walk across the beach without falling into a hole. The scheme evolves into a plan to pass Johnny off at the club as the real Travolta, but they decide to use contractual obligations as the reason he can't dance when he makes his big appearance. Will Johnny find a way to get some night fever and boogie down with his true love?

Believe it or not, this was actually one of two Italian disco cash-ins released in 1979; the other was the equally obscure Disco Crazy, which is worth hunting down as well. What sets this one apart is its sheer, unrelenting Travolta obsession, which has the effect of turning this into a strange pop culture artifact capturing a brief, very specific period in history just before the disco bubble burst. Spezia is limited but actually passable in his role, though obviously there was nowhere else for him to go career-wise; on the other hand, The Face with 2 Left FeetStaller was just getting warmed up. A softcore starlet from films like Yellow Emanuelle and Skin Deep, she would unveil her more famous public persona the same year as "Cicciolina" in the popular Cicciolina Amore Mio. The Face with 2 Left FeetWithin a few years she would become one of Italy's most famous porn stars under the Cicciolina name, appearing alongside actors like John Holmes and also turning out occasional pop albums. She continued her career after being elected to the Italian parliament and continued to advance her love-based political views in later years, including an effort to stop terrorism by offering to sleep with Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Also noteworthy among the cast as one of Johnny's pals is Claudio Bigagli, who goofs off for the camera here but went on to become a familiar face in a string of art house titles like Mediterraneo, The Night of the Shooting Stars, and Fiorile.

Though he didn't apparently have much to do with the production, this film was presented by producer Alfredo Leone who had spent the earlier part of the decade on a handful of Mario Bava films like Lisa and the Devil and Baron Blood. Presumably the demand for disco movies dried up before this had a chance to play much outside Italy; the English dubbed prints are very scarce, and the film became a tiny footnote very quickly as Italian filmmakers were more focused on Star Wars clones and horror movies. Seen today this is incredibly bizarre stuff, and for disco music fans, there's a virtually nonstop parade of songs on the soundtrack (a couple humorously aping some familiar Bee Gees hits) including many co-written by composer Paolo Vasile like "Runaround," "Mirror," and "The Show Is Over," plus offerings like Antonia's "La Bomba," Tony Renis' "Disco Quando," Linda Lee's "Go Away," Take Five's "Shock Me," and Susy Pintus' "Yellow River." The most intriguing song by far is Easy Going's "Baby I Love You," one of a handful of late '70s disco projects from Goblin member Claudio Simonetti and collaborator Giancarlo Meo (the same year they scored an American dance hit with "Fear").

Sold directly through their site, Code Red's DVD release of The Face with 2 Left Feet marks what may be its first incarnation anywhere on home video. Apart from the somewhat ragged opening credits (which look like they were hastily assembled in the editing room), the source material looks fine with plenty of gaudy neon colors all over the place. The mono English dub is comparable to other Italian films of the time, including a number of voices you'll recognize from other exploitation films of the era. Also included are additional Code Red trailers like the incredible Raw Force, Just Before Dawn, The Vampires' Night Orgy, Splitz, and Class of '74. You'll never find another party disc quite like this one.

Reviewed on June 2, 2013.