The Chastity Belt (1967) DVD Review: As Uncomfortable As You’d Expect

Every once in a while, a film critic encounters a difficult obstacle to overcome. The late ’60s, Italian-made sex comedy The Chastity Belt ‒ originally given the very late ’60s title of On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who… ‒ proved to be one such challenge. Starring Tony Curtis and Italian bombshell Monica Vitti, this 1967 medieval “farce” incredibly credits A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum writer Larry Gelbart, the same man who would later turn Robert Altman’s hit M*A*S*H into an even bigger television sensation. After making it into the film only a few minutes, I began to wonder how much involvement Gelbart really had with this dud.

Directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile, The Chastity Belt was released in its native Italy in ’67, in-between Tony Curtis’ last two major film roles: Blake Edwards’ madcap comedy The Great Race in 1965, and Richard Fleischer’s gritty serial killer profile, The Boston Strangler in 1968. The latter film essentially granted Curtis a reprieve on his waning career, as audiences had grown increasingly tired of his (usually cringe-worthy) comedy schtick. Alas, The Chastity Belt didn’t hit US theaters until 1969, wherein the few people who saw it lost what newfound confidence they had previously developed for poor Mr. Curtis.

The Chastity Belt opens harmlessly enough, with Curtis ‒ and his ever-present New York accent ‒ getting his slapstick on right away as a total yutz who has somehow, miraculously, managed to pass his Knight’s Exam. Setting forth to claim as much land as he can before he passes out from sleep deprivation, he places his sword into the ground just shy of peasant girl Monica Vitti’s humble country shack, where she lives with her game warden father. Vitti, who falls madly in love with the allegedly noble knight at first sight, moves the location of his sword so that Curtis will govern her land, and ‒ more importantly ‒ her. It’s a shameless, selfless act of desperation she soon begins to regret, along with anyone who paid good money to see this film.

As it turns out, Curtis’ nutty knight is a total and utter douchebag, prone to nailing down windmills to enforce taxes upon the little people or even ‒ in one extremely tasteless moment of comedy ‒ executing the very man who saved his life as a child by dropping him down a well, context notwithstanding. He also takes to bedding every woman in his domain, something which busty beauty Vitti objects to, especially as she is the top (unobtainable) priority on his “to-do” list. She resists his completely absent charms (as do we), infuriating him to the point where he becomes even harder to watch without searching for the remote control. Naturally, he marries her once he realizes he’s in love, only to find out he has some Crusading to complete.

Enter the (re-)titular contraption, the presence of which is about as existent as the unfunny comedy in this, uh, unfunny comedy. And still, after all that, Vitti ‒ garbed in a golden suit of armor as she masquerades as a knight (one of the few highlights of the film) ‒ continues to chase after Curtis, presumably for fear of contracting a deadly urinary tract infection if nothing else. This leads her to the friendly arms of another knight, as played by future giallo regular John Richardson, who is ‒ as per usual ‒ dubbed by another actor. A hammy Hugh Griffith briefly airs The Chastity Belt out a little as an extremely randy sultan who tries to convert Tony to Islam as he tries to pick Vitti’s lock.

Toss in a forgettable score by Riz Ortolani, a dash of Three Supermen-style physical humor (believe me, even a dash is way too much) and an appalling lack of respect for “soulless” women ‒ nay, audiences, in general ‒ and you have a film which will make you long to have Tony Curtis as The Boston Strangler knock of your door, just so you’ll be spared the agony of having to try on The Chastity Belt.

Presented in an apparent alternate version to the rated domestic theatrical cut, the Warner Archive Collection adds this abomination to its library under its “better-known” US title. Sourced from what looks like a few different prints, the overall 2.35:1 widescreen transfer of The Chastity Belt is quite nice. A few shots appear to be optical zoom-ins; presumably to keep the already tame sex comedy even tamer, with what brief instances of nudity there are kept to a “bare” minimum. Aurally, the mono soundtrack comes through just fine, although there were a few times where I could swear Tony Curtis’ was dubbed-over by Mel Blanc. No special features are included for this WAC MOD DVD-R, which is perfectly fine with me, as it took me several days to make it through this mess anyway.

Suggested for horny Italian tweens and established cinemasochists only.

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Luigi Bastardo

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