A Strange Type (aka, Uno Strano Tipo) (Lucio Fulci, 1962)
Another rare glimpse into the early filmmaking ventures of the late great Italian genre filmmaker Lucio Fulcio, this being one of his numerous early comedies; he apparently directed about 20 of these home-grown rock and roll entertainment numbers aimed directly for a mainstream audience — of which, apparently Italian audiences have historically always had a hankering for – which numbers even more than the eye-popping surreal cinematic trips of extreme sadism and gore he’s remembered (and eternally adored) for.
This effort follows the wacky exploits of real life pop star Adriano Celentano, his entourage and twitchy agent as they attempt a vacation away from the bustle of pop star life in a picturesque coastal town in the South of Italy… only to discover that not only does everyone seem to inexplicably personally know Celentano, but openly dislike him — especially the gorgeous local woman who claims her child is his — and is determined to hold him to it, by any means necessary (leading to a bit of clumsy, though amusing enough – which kinda describes the film in general — situational comedy, as Celentano fumbles to hide the crying baby foisted upon him from his fiancée and her stiff disapproving father who have shown up to see him perform).
Celentano himself is an engaging enough of a character, being an easily digestible, fairly inoffensive pop star (though those spastic and kooky moves he does when he performs are… well… definitely unique). Things get a bit more odd and interesting (including in a lot of wrong ways) in his second role in the film, in which he plays the look-a-like of himself who goes around impersonating Celentano (leading to all the confusion, natch) as a way to score with the groupie girls and make cash for himself and the seedy agent who represents him. Celentano plays him in such awkward, grunting and physically contorted ways, it comes off as equally misguided (if even more low rent, and that’s saying something) as Jerry Lewis doing his worst spastic shtick.
It’s worthwhile to note that “Uno” is directed in a perfectly competent style (especially in navigating between the various comedy moments and types, from physical to dialogue-driven). Along with his spaghetti western Massacre Time and the brilliantly done historical torture drama I saw next in the series, Beatrice Cenci, the three together reveal pretty clearly that Fulci not only can work within any genre thrown at him, but also clearly understood how to coherently present narrative. They make a pretty strong case that the narrative ambiguities marking his later, much more renowned surreal gore epics (such as The Beyond and City of the Living Dead), for which he’s often been accused of incoherence and ineptitude, were in fact deliberately conceived by the director as experiences operating on the level of nightmare, with the narrative uncertainty adding immeasurably to the powerful sense of dread that cling to these films.