Remember the rumors of death that once circulated about Paul McCartney and Henry Winkler, provoking gullible fans into premature mourning? The arrival of "The Divine Nymph," another barely presentable potboiler extracted from the Laura Antonelli backlog, makes me wonder whether if isn't high time Antonelli appeared in public or announced the start of a halfway attractive film project, lest the impression grow that she has died, retired or perhaps gone to fat.
"The Divine Nymph," now at the K-B Fine Arts and Georgetown Square, is the fifth or sixth Antonelli picture to reach town in the last year or so. Typically, it gathered dust on an importer's inventory shelf for a couple of years before making the rounds, presumably on the theory that Antonelli fans would put up with the most wretched and boring exposition imaginable for a brief gawk at her naked flesh.
"Nymph" puts that theory to an acid test. Its only interesting feature is a sustained shot of Antonelli reclining in the full-frontal nude on a chaise longue. You can feast your eyes from a comprehensive but static vantage point for perhaps a minute. Everything else in the movie is superfluous. Antonelli doesn't even get to practice her patented ecstasy pantomine, a specialty act that has done almost as much as her ripe physique to attract attention. On two occasions she emits her patented gasp, when suddenly confronted by admirers, but somehow two of those don't equal one of the other.
A lugubrious, moldy tale of erotic misery set among Jazz Age decadents in Roman high society, "Nymph" casts Antonelli as a fashionable tart who inspires insane jealousy in a libertine suitor, Terence Stamp. What particularly frustrates him is the knowledge that she was originally seduced by a rival libertine, Marcello Mastroianni. Hoping to get even (or something), Stamp encourages Antonelli to flirt anew with Mastroianni and then leave him dangling.
Caught between a pair of rich, inflamed good-for-nothings, the heroine doesn't know which way to turn. Who can blame the poor child for exclaiming, "God, I hate men! One has me, the other wants me. What can I do?"
About all she can do is temporize, so the movie maunders along from one chic setting and inconclusive rendezvous to another, always promising far more tantalizing vice than it delivers. By the time these sluggish charades conk out entirely, abruptly terminated by an act of suicide, customers may feel pretty irked at both themselves and the movie. Can the naked body of any actress be expected to compensate for this much tedium?
There's usually a lag between the release of a foreign-lanaguage movie in its native country and its release in the United States, and the time-gap may undermine Antonelli's budding career as an art-house sex star. As one four- or five-year-old lemon after another is squeezed for a little spare revenue, you wonder whether she has actually worked recently or what she looks like at the moment.
Terrence Stamp really has become unrecognizable. I doubt that anyone could match the young actor who appeared in "Billy Budd," "The Collector" or "Modesty Blaise" with the almost vampirish figure who appears in "The Dinve Nymph." An elegant, cadaverous, thin-mustached reprobate, Stamp recalls no one so much as Zachary Scott playing sadist to Joan Crawford's mashochist in "Mildred Pierce."