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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The "Number One" couple!

Dear reader, this entry for now will be the last entry because I am going abroad for the month of February 09. I will probably be back at the end of that month! Therefore I have made a longer entry than normal so you have a little something to read during my absence! I'll send you all a postcard from Marrakech (Marocco)! Enjoy! Mirko di Wallenberg

Marisa Mell was a beautiful 26 year old young women in 1965 when the sixties were in full swing. She was enjoying her life very much. Things were finally coming together. Her career was in the lift after her latest movie “Masquerade” with international stars Cliff Robertson and Jack Hawkins. Dreams of being an international movie star, what she always wished for from the first day she entered drama school in Vienna, were becoming a reality. Important producers were taking notice of the Austrian actress with the chess nut brown long hair, the piercing emerald green eyes and voluptious lips. Austria and Germany, untill then her most important movie markets, were becoming to claustrophobic. Life had so much more to offer on each level and Marisa Mell longed to discover it all, one way or the other. She was ready for the next big step in her career and life! So when the offer came from producer Carlo Ponti, husband of actress Sophia Loren, to work in Rome (Italy) for the production of his next movie “Casanova 70” with Italian mega star Marcello Mastroianni she could not believe her luck. Although her part in the movie was a gloryfied one, with other Euro stars like Michèle Mercier of “Angelique” fame and future co-star Virna Lisi, in “Le Dolci Signore” (1968), it was definitely an A-movie so it could be a major boost for her career.

When arriving in Rome, Marisa Mell was not the only Austrian actor there at that moment. Among the incrowd was also her fellow country man Helmut Berger who had arrived in Rome in 1964 after having spend several years in swinging London. He also wanted more from life than his endeavors in London. Shortly after being in Italy, Helmut Berger had, on a fatefull day, an encounter that would change his life completely forever. Together with a friend he made a stop in Voltera, near Florence, on his way to Assisi, where he would study the architecture. During their lunch break, Luchino Visconti, a world famous Italian director, was filming his latest movie “Sandra” with Italian star Claudia Cardinale not far from the restaurant. Helmut Berger watched the filming during the entire day and at the end of that day, Visconti made acquantaince with the beautiful young man. Visconti, officially “Don Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Duc of Lonate Pozzolo”, was a member of one of the most important and wealthy aristocratic families in Italy. He fell in love with Helmut Berger within days after their chance meeting and they became lovers in a marriage like relationship untill his untimely death in 1976. Due to his liaison with Visconti, Helmut Berger had immediate access to money, wealth, jet-set and the aristocratic circles in Rome of the sixties. When looking back it is ironic to see on the Visconti weapon the dragon snake (symbol of the Visconti family since the 14th century) eating his enemy. After the death of Luchino Visconti, Helmut Berger was immediately dropped by the family and left in the cold with very little money due to the absence of a testament by his partner. The years following this tragedy Helmut Berger needed more than 10 years to recover from the loss of his partner. Alcohol and drugs were for a very long time his only home. Since that day his career went nowhere and even today he has never reached the heights again that it had as an actor when working with his lover. Their movies like "The Damned" and "Ludwig" are regarded today as true modern classics at the top of European cinema! So in the mid sixties two Austrian actors came to the Eternal City! You can imagine that for Marisa Mell coming from a mostly rainy dreary city like Vienna, Rome was the capital of sunshine and modern life. Freedom in every way! The best of it all was that she was getting payed for staying, working and partying. How much better could life become??? After work, it was party time in warm fashionable Rome! The Italians always knew how to party and enjoy life to the fullest. Being a beautiful women, even to Italian standards, the Italian jet-set composed of aristocracy, artists, playboys and playgirls, politics and gangers fell quickly in love with "La Mell" . They embraced her as one of their own and she became very quickly after her arrival the talk of the town. The invitations to exclusive gatherings, partys, clubs and night clubs came in by the buck load. So after her arrival she met her fellow country man Helmut Berger in those cirlces, befriended him and with his connections to a member of the Visconti family it opened many doors for her also. They were at that moment the most beautiful couple in town. Who could beat them??? It was only natural that they were attracted to each other! Beauty attracks beauty! But that was not enough! The best was yet to come for Marisa Mell when she met, probably thanks to Helmut Berger and his artistocratic circle, the most wanted playboy of all in Rome with the name "Pier Luigi Torri". He was a fixture in Roman society at that moment. He was a young, eligible bachelor from an aristocratic family, just like Luchino Visconti. As a young man he was involved in the production of several soft-porn Italian movies. Whenever his picture appeared in the Italian yellow press, he was listed as "Torri, the movie producer". In reality however, Torri was one of those people who were mostly famous for being famous. His background, style and propensity for trouble all made him an eminently reportable personality. As mentioned Pier Luigi Torri was known as a grand playboy and a jet-set figure. He seemed to spend his time in the most glittering and expensive casinos and nightclubs in Italy and Monte Carlo. He won and lost millions of Italian lira at the gambling tables. He owned several houses and villa's, his yacht was reported to be one of the largest and fanciest in the world. The story goes that one time he was approched by Prince Rainier of Monaco to buy the yacht! Torri refused and got the wrath of the Prince for the rest of his life. He drove Rolls-Royces and Ferraris. Another story from 1963 tells from an evening at a nightclub "Cabala" in Monte Carlo were Torri gratuitously insulted a woman who approached him in the club. When he didn't get the appropriate response to his insult, he escalated the abuse further until a gentleman in her group threw a punch at Torri. To escape the attack, Torri, who was more a lover like Casanova, not a fighter, fled by leaping over people and tables, as he went, all eyes in the club were upon him. Once across the room he climbed some stairs to a small door and lunged through it. The door however, was not an exit from the club but rather an access port to the building's chimney. Torri re-emerged covered in soot, dizzy from smoke and with singed hair. The clientele roared with laughter and applauded his comeuppance. The incident was reported in all the newspapers next day. From that day, Torri became the star of the Italian society press. Meeting this man was for Marisa Mell a revelation. Not only was he extremely wealthy but he was the man of her dreams. The beginning of a very turbulant relationship was eminent. Deep down they were what we now call soul mates and they were made for each other untill the very end! Torri and his business partner Bino Cicogna always had a dream of running their own nightclub. A club that would be truly unique. First they located an obsolete war ship and planned to place it fully-refurbished with all amenities in the harbour at Basilia. Their plan was to create an exclusive gambling casino for the European trash/cash set. Their idea gave a great deal of press coverage to Torri and Cicogna as they attempted to put the deal together. It didn't work out in the end ! One of the fancier clubs in Rome at the time was called "Number One" located on the now famous Via Veneto. This nightclub was the place to be during the height of the dolce vita. This is where Torri and Bino spent much of their time. The club was managed by another well known playboy called "Vassallo". Vassallo attended artfully to the whims and fancies of his want for nothing clientele. Years before Club 54 in New York, he pioneered the practice of roping off part of the club for the exclusive use of those who qualified as VIPs. Marisa Mell and Pier Luige Torri were on top of that list. So they had always free entrance. In the mid sixties, next to partying, another ugly beast begane to raise its head: The Big C. or Cocaine. A nightclub as "Number One" could not resist this temptation. The motto was: "What the costomer wanted, the customer got". Cocaine became the fancy drug. The jet-set believed that it enhanced love-making and the wide-open sexual practices. Orgies and every variation on love making was the centre piece of a lot of conversations and activities. People seated in the VIP lounge could signal their desire for some white powder by ordering certain code drinks. For example a gin fizz would bring the drink to the table but also a packet of coke costing an additional fiftythousand Italian lira (a lot of money at that time in regard to a normal monthly pay check). Bino Cicogna, Torri's partner, became totally involved in the 'coke' scene with an addiction so great that his nose and mouth began to show signs of collapse and disintegration. Bino was so far gone that he made a final desperate attempt to divorce himself from the drug and the entire scene that was destroying him. He fled to Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). Within a few weeks after his arrival in Brazil, he was found dead, with his head inside a plastic bag in an oven. After investigation, the conclusion was that he committed suicide in despair of his failure to cure himself. There was much speculation that Bino had been murdered because a clean, rehabilitated and sober Cicogna Bino would return to Italy to expose or denounce drug distribution at "Number One". Torri was devastated by the loss of his best friend and firmly believed he had been murdered. Not content to grieve alone, he went to the club one night and positioned himself in a prominent place. Calling for silence he announced to the assembled visitors that, Bino Cicogna was dead. "He was my greatest friend." He did not stop there. On and on he went with his rhapsody of grief accusing his listeners of being the cause of Bino's death. Finally, in a histrionic frenzy, he raged at the crowd, "I will destroy all of you!" The link between Bino Cicogna's supposed drug-related death and Torri's accusation at Number One solidified the rumors flying around Rome that drugs were being served in the club. It was the beginning of the end of the club. The police finally decided to act on the accusations. One night while Vassallo was away in Paris (France), the nightclub was raided. Cocaine was found on the premises. Many people in the club were arrested, many of them rich, influential and famous. A police investigation was commenced into all regular patrons of "Number One". The police anxiously awaited Vassallo's return to Rome. They staked out all the airports hoping to apprehend him. He arrived at Fiumicino Airport and the police followed him as he drove his yellow Volkswagen to his lawyer's office. When Vassallo went inside, the police removed his car and conducted a search. Under the car battery, they discovered a sizable quantity of cocaine. Subsequently, they claimed that the chemical composition of the drug in Vassallo's car was exactly the same as that found in the nightclub. He was immediately taken into custody for questioning. He had an exculpatory explanation for the drugs. He told the police and the media was, "I've been framed. Torri hates me. He planted the drugs in my car and at the club to make good on his threat to destroy me." The judicial system in Italy now had a big, big problem. On one side they had the arrest of all the customers in Number One for using drugs an a large scale in a public place because Number One was not a private club. On the other side they had the new allegations about Torri planting the cocaine.

So they needed to clarify the latter first if they would gone on with the first. Another problem was that among the 300+ arrested guests were a lot of very, very prominent Italian and Roman high society people from all sectors of life going from entertainment over government to politics and old aristocracy! It was media frenzy! The sharks smelled blood. Gossip galore in Rome, Italy and the world and Marisa Mell with her lover were in the middle of it! The public became into two camps: "Everyone is guilty or everyone is innocent." The latter group believed Torri was behind the frame-up of all these influential people. The conclusion by the authorities was then quickly made. Soon after the investigation against Torri began, it was determined that he should stand trial on the allegations that he planted the drugs. Then something strange happened with Pier Luigi Torri! He got a superiority fixation. Torri made himself hated wherever he went. He even enraged one of the judges by parking his Rolls-Royce in the judge's personal parking space. And the case went more stranger! One day, a young, beautiful woman arrived at the courthouse. She said she had evidence to give. She was led into the chambers to make her declaration but instead of talking, she produced a tape deck. She advised the court that her evidence was recorded on tape and she wished to play it for them. On the tape was a voice which everyone in the courtroom recognized immediately: "The chief judge/prosecutor of Rome". The court was hushed as all the assembled heard the voice say, "If you love me again one more time like this, very soon I'll let your boy out." That was too much of the case. The Italian papers had a field day, trumpeting the scandal upon scandal on this case. The prosecutor's office was in turmoil. The officials were very embarrassed and angry, not at the chief prosecutor, but rather, at the persons who would go to such lengths to bring the prosecutor's office into disrepute. It took little time for the prosecutor's office to announce their official response to the tape: a trap designed specifically to destroy the reputation of the chief judge. There was evidence that Torri had instigated the making of the tape and he was now charged with "defamation of a judge". In 1968, after a full year of trial on the original drug charge, Torri was acquitted. On the defamation charge however, he was convicted and a prison term was imposed. His lawyer Bombara immediately appealed the decision and Torri was allowed to remain free while the appeal was heard. Bombara called Torri into his office and told him he would fight like a tiger for him but he must be prepared for the worst as the politics of this case were clearly against him. On the day of the appeal Bombara went before the judges and argued the case with everything he had. During a break in the proceedings he telephoned Torri to update him on how things were going. It was to late Torri had left Italy. He could not face the prospect of jail. Bombara knew that unless the appeal was successful, Torri would probably remain a fugitive. The appellate court voted to uphold the conviction. Of the many prominent people awaiting trial on the drug charges arising from the Number One case, all had their trials stayed indefinitely once Torri's appeal was upheld and he had fled Italy. Torri was about the only friendly witness for the prosecution's case about drug activities at the club. With Torri's conviction he was now a criminal, and could not be a credible witness. And, with his absence, there was no chance of his testifying at all. It was a most convenient result for the beautiful people who had been under investigation. So after the whole story was over and done with for now where did this leave Marisa Mell in all of this? Glad you asked! As you can imagine, the whole story did not do her any good. Officially her relationship with Pier Luigi Torri ran from 1966 untill 1969. During this periode she made some of her best remembered movies like "New York Chiama Superdrago", "Les Dolci Signori", "Danger: Diabolik!" and of course "Una Sull'Altra". She was pretty busy and productive! She could set her mind on her work and not on the pending court case of her still beloved partner. Although I have never read anything about it but in the logical string of events Marisa Mell could have been arrested also together with the other guests of Number One. On the other hand she could have been very, very lucky and not be in the nightclub on the moment of the arrests because she was working abroad to do her movies or on the set somewhere in Italy away from Rome! I think the latter happened! Fact is she was devastated! Her world must have cumbled down and shattered. Altough Marisa Mell was known as a very loyal friend and partner there must have been a moment in the whole history that she got into a conflict of concience! Choose between her own life and safety or follow the man she still loved! Marisa Mell was inside still a women from Austria from simple background who became an international actress in Rome. The one thing she could never have imagined was that she would be thrown into a world of absolute wealth, politics, secret agenda's, power and corruption. It must have been way above her league. For Torri and his friends and partners, it was something that was a way of life they knew all their life! Glamour, top end jewels and couture fashion is one thing but be confronted with the pitts of hell of human behaviour is another thing. What was she going to do? At one point in 1971, Torri must have asked Marisa Mell to choose for him and their love, or for that what was still left! In case, "come with me abroad". In other words probably give up her movie career and passion and become a fugitive with him forever in another country that would not extradite them to Italy! Fortunately Marisa Mell did not choose that way of life and stayed in Italy while Torri ran to Monaco! But that was not all she had to endure. Something much more worst did happen during her relationship with Torri that affects every women in the profoundest way possible, into the heart of being a women: pregnancy and marriage! In hindsight, Marisa Mell never had any children, although in some stage of her life she would have loved being a mother. It never did happen but during the 1966-1969 periode, she got pregnant from Pier Luigi Torri! That is a known fact! What is not known is the way how that pregnancy ended either by miscarriage or by an abortion. Several theories go around. Some people state that Marisa Mell, around 1968/1969 at the height of the case, had a miscarriage due to the stress of the Torri Case. Others state that this was not the case but that she had an abortion under pressure of Torri who would not have a child at this moment in his life! Generally excepted is that she had a miscarriage! Abortion in a ultra catholic land like Italy and Rome as the seat the Catholic church was out of the question, and surely not by an internationally known famous actress. And if that wasn't enough mystery, there was the case of the marriage with Torri! A lot of people in the vicinity of Marisa Mell state that at one time during their relationship she was married in secret with Torri. Other say that this was her deepest wish but that it didn't happen. Whatever the case not much can be found about it. Marisa Mell has, to my knowledge, never confirmed it officially that she was married to Torri and the yellow press never had any article about an official divorce or annulment. Fact is that Marisa Mell and Pier Luige Torre made one movie together in 1970, a year before his escape, and during the procedures of the trail, called "Senza via d'uscida". Although this movie is regarded as one of her best movies, it was a flop commercially! After the escape, Marisa Mell tried to continue her life in Rome without her soul partner. It was a hard time but there was already another man appearing on the horizon who would also make a big impression on her, but that is another story. What did happen to Torri in Monaco. Well, remember, the conflict with Prince Rainier over the yacht of Torri. Prince Rainier finally found a way to pay Torri back by arresting him. After one of his outings on sea with his yacht, customs waited for him on shore and did very thorough sweep and found one hundred million undeclared liras in a safe. Torri was put behind bars. The trial was held in Nice (France). At the trial the lawyers were able to show that Torri had been denied the required statutory time limit to make a proper declaration. His yacht had entered the harbor at 1:00 am in the morning. The raid and seizure occurred in the early hours of the same day before he was legally required to complete his declaration. Torri was found not guilty. Torri left Monaco and went on living in London. Several years later, while living in London, Torri met Adnan Khassogi, a new but important player in the international social scene. Khassogi was reputed to be an arms dealer who had apparently accumulated a vast fortune. He heard about Torri's beautiful yacht and he asked Torri whether a friend of his, an Arabian Prince, could use his boat for a week's cruise out of Gibraltar. Khassogi was prepared to pay a very handsome sum to charter the vessel and so Torri agreed to the proposal. Unfortunately, a significant cultural gap existed about the proper activities that could occur on board his yacht. When it was returned to Torri, it had been desecrated. Mahogany cupboards and drawers had been ripped out to feed the open fires made on the teak deck to cook meals of goat and lamb. Several animals had been brought on board to be kept in a stateroom until they were slaughtered. Accoutrements such as the fine cutlery, dishes and glassware had been lost or broken. When Torri surveyed the damage he was appalled and outraged. Torri was a man given to extremes at the best of times. Doubtless the blowup between himself and Khassogi was a memorable one. Eventually he sued Khassogi for the cost of repairs to his vessel and was awarded damages. But Khassogi, despite his reputed wealth, simply refused to pay. The two men became bitter and openly hostile to one another. They developed a hatred toward each other that ran deep. Each would slight or insult the other whenever they accidentally crossed paths in London. Then in august 1977, at the height of his conflict with Khassogi, Torri got arrested again in the UK. Torri always told people around him that the political influence of Khassogi as an arms dealer was behind his arrest.

But Torri wouldn't be Torri. He escaped justice in Italia once so could he do it again in the UK? Yes. During his hearing he was able to escape with two other Italian inmates at the court of justice via the ventilation shaft in the men's toilets. After much trouble he got to New York. Relying on some loyal friends he could rebuild some kind of life again for himself in disguise. Unfortunately he could not long enjoy his new found freedom.

In March of 1979, two years later after his escape in the UK, the FBI got a tip! They quickly found his whereabouts. He was spectactulary arrested in New York around Central Park and Fifth Avenue. The media had a field day! Torri was extradited to Italy and was sentenced to seven years in prison for all his actions during the past years. After being released from jail, it seems as if Pier Luigi Torri has disappeared from the face the earth. Nothing has been heard from him ever since. Is he alive or dead nobody knows?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Am Galgen hängt die Liebe!

The career of Marisa Mell stretched from the early 60's, over the 70's and 80's, untill the early 90's. A lot of movies from her career, especially the ones from the late 60's upwards are mostly available on DVD but the ones from her early career are not. They are still waiting to see the light of day again. One of those movies is the black and white West-German WO II themed movie called "Am Galgen hängt die Liebe" (known in English as "Love hangs from the gibbet")from 1960. It got its world opening on October 21st, 1960. The Austrian director of this movie "Edwin Zbonek" won in 1961 at the Valladolid International Film Festival the "Golden Spike" for his first movie. The above picture is a staged studio photo of Marisa Mell for the press book in her role and dress as Alka, the daughter of an eldery Greek couple! On this picture you can see beautifully her emerald green eyes for which she later would be notorious.The plot: An odd, incompatible analogy to an ancient legend is the basis for this conventional wartime drama. In the legend, an elderly Greek couple were the only people on earth to provide hospitality to the god Jupiter, and he was so appreciative that he granted them one wish -- which was that they be allowed to die together. The god then turns them into two trees whose branches symbolically intertwine. In this drama set in 1944 on a Greek mountainside, Greek partisans are fighting German troops when an elderly couple agrees to give a desperate partisan refuge. They go so far as to protect him from German troops who search their home but come up empty-handed. When the shoe is on the other foot and two German soldiers seek asylum with the same couple, they also shelter them. The results turn out to parallel the "letter" but not the spirit of the legend.
After it's opening, the movie caused a little turbulance in the German cultural and film world as mentioned in this article published in the 1961 issue of the German quality magazine "Der Spiegel" for week 19 starting on page 81. (Sorry a better scan was not available!) It all started with the critics from the "Film Bewertungsstelle Wiesbaden" (FBW), some sort of German Film Board with seat in the German town called Wiesbaden. After screening of the movie they were unable to give some kind of quality label for this film because the quality of the movie in their eyes on artistic level was not in accordance with the hard subject of the movie and it's story. In november 1960, they called the movie "trash". A few weeks later at the German Movie Week in Madrid, Spain, the movie was outed by the Spanish critics as the best movie of the whole week. Oooops!!! But the German critics are not that easily beaten! They stayed with their opinion. Due to the bad German critic, most of the cinema owners did not book this movie as they normally would have done with this kind of movie. Only 360 cinema owners took the risk in stead of the normally 1300. Another result of the decision of the German Film Board for not labelling this movie was the fact that the cinema owners were not getting any discounts on their entertainment taxes which they normally would have gotten when they were showing a movie labeled "valuable" or "extremely valuable" by the board. (In the 60's, cinema owners got a reduction on their entertainment taxes to be payed to the German state when they were showing movies which got a label from the FBW. This was a way of the state to educate the German population by inciting cinema owners to show this movie to the population, not only in the major cities, but also in the rural towns, who would otherwise not see this movie at all because they were living to far away from major cities. Keep in mind that in the 60's the infrastructure in Germany, like railway and highway, was not as it is now!) The article then mentions other movies that got no label or which got questionable labels like Chaplin's "The Kid" as only "valuable" while the western "Alamo" got the label "extremely valuable".
The second part of the articles gives more examples of movies that had questionable labels by the FBW!

Although the producer had the opportunity to get some kind of appeal against the decision of the FBW, they only voiced a protest and for the rest kept quite. As mentioned before the director got a price and also the German critic of that moment Marten Beheim-Schwarzbach called the movie a "fascinating movie in every detail as a work of art". To conclude, a week after the decision of the FBW not to label this movie, the Austrian Film Board called the movie "extremely valuable". Case closed!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wien, Biberstrasse 9

Being an avid long time collector of Marisa Mell memorabilia, it is not so easy any more to get surprised or being put a smile on your face thanks to the massive number of objects one has seen and collected during hunting time. So finding an exclusive object for your collection is becoming a rarity. Finding a exclusive object with an historical significance is even more of a rarity, if not almost impossible these days where collectors are snatching up everything that comes on the memorabilia market connected to a beloved actor or actress (whatever de flavor of the month may be). But exceptions still exsist, if only because the seller doesn't know what he is dealing or doesn't care and wants only to make a return on his investment. Whatever the case, a few weeks ago I had an incredible find for me as a "Marisa Mell" fan that was not originally intended but surpises are still possible in todays hard driven movie collectors world. So what happened? Well, during an auction in Austria, there was a production photo advertised from the Edgar Wallace movie "Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee" with the main actors Marisa Mell and Adrian Hoven pictured on it.A production photo is a staged photo by the actors acting some kind of scene or very close to a scene from the movie. The photo is not taken during shooting but mostly off scene when the actors are free and waiting for an another scene to be set up by the production crew for shooting. I had not such a photo in my collection for this movie so I bought the picture.
Nothing special on first sight I hear you say! Indeed, a nice vintage picture of Marisa Mell during her production time from december 1962 untill february 1963 on the movie. When I turned the picture to see the back of it, I saw that someone had scribbled on it, probably someone from a (Austrian or German) press agency.
On the back was written in a women's handwriting:

"Gangster in London"
Marisa Mell
Wien I., Biberstrasse 9
Tel: 52-60-233

And then it hit me! The handwritting was not from some women at a press agency as I presumed but the handwriting belonged to "Marisa Mell" herself! Could this be? Upon closer inspection I noticed that the words and her name were written in her characteristic handwriting. And yes, it was all there: the flowing stream of her handwriting, the characteristic "M"s en "L"s in her name "Marisa Mell". I could not believe it! So what was the purpose of this photo and its history???

The movie later known as "Das Rätsel der roten Orchidee" was based on a novel called "Gangster in London" written by crime author Edgar Wallace. During the production of the movie everybody on the production team called the movie "Gangster in London", its official production title. It was only at the end of the production and before the opening of the movie that the producers decided to change the title to its actual known title because of the success of their previous Edgar Wallace movie "Das Geheimnis der gelben Narzizzen" from 1961. So therefore, the card most have been written by Marisa Mell before the opening of the movie and during the production of it. If not, she would have used its official title!

Marisa Mell is the stage name of Marlies Moitzi. Since the start of her career Marisa Mell wrote her name almost always in the same way or fashion with very pronounced "M"s en "L"s. In the beginning she was not very known as an actress so she had time to write her name in a very correct and clear fashion, very readable, for example her "a"s are closed at the top and are a letter "a". In later years when she got busier and had more fan cards to write, her writing would still be very distinctive but for example her "a"s would be more flatter, often open and stretched out. They somethimes looked like "o"s. If there would be any doubt about the authenticity of the writing the autograph of Marisa Mell is a certainty that it is her writing.

In late 1962, Marisa Mell was still struggling as an actress. Although the parts in her films were getting bigger and bigger, she still needed to convince the producers to accept her for a role! Her part as Lilian Granger in "Das Rätsel der Roten Orchidee" was a big step in the right direction. Being part of the Edgar Wallace franchise could mean a boost in an actor's career. So the use of a photo from that movie proved that you had a leading part, especially when your counterpart was the well known and loved actor Adrian Hoven who had already carved for himself a career in German language movies! From the writing we learn that Marisa Mell was living during the production of the movie in the 1st district of Vienna! Vienna is the capital of Austria. During the beginning of the 60's a lot of movie's were being made in Vienna for the German language market. So it was only natural that Marisa Mell, after graduation from her theatre school "Max Reinhardt Seminar", would stay in this city to get a job in the then film business. A few years later she would relocate to Rome, Italy for her career in Cinecitta. The 1st district Vienna is at present recoded as "1010" Vienna. The street where she was living is called "Biber"-strasse or in English "Beaver"-street at number "9". Take a look at the odd way she is writing the number "9". Normally a number "9" is written by putting the long stroke down from the naught on the right hand side but she makes the opposite movement and connects the long stroke down on the left hand side from the naught. I have never asked me that question but "Was Marisa Mell left handed when writing?" Today, the street still exsists, even with a number "9". The building is reformed from living quarters into an office block with a coctail bar and lounge called "Sofie's Bar", a spiritual center and a luxury car rental office! And finally we get to know her telephone number: 52-60-233. Naturally the number does not exsist anymore today and is out of order.

So what could have been the origin of this photo and the writing on the back? In my opinion, there are two possibilities. First the photo was used by Marisa Mell to be sent together with a solicitation letter and cv to a movie production firm to be concidered for a new part or audition in a future movie that she heard of. The argument against this possibility is that the picture has no staple holes from being attached to a solicitation letter but on the other hand it could have been put in an envelope together with the letter. Second possibility is that she had the picture with her and that she used it as reference card when she met some producers on a social gathering. So she wrote her name, adress and telephone number on the back of the picture together with the name of the movie she was currently working on as a reference for the producers when they later would eventually make a selection of actresses for a film part. Personally I think that the last possibility could have happened! Unfortunately we will never know.

Friday, January 16, 2009

André Schneider's "Der Mann im Keller" Teaser and Trailer

The Schneider Connection

Since the start of my blog I get a lot of mails from around the world from other Marisa Mell fans! I am always glad to hear from them and appreciate each and every one of them. It signals to me that Marisa Mell is not forgotten and a lot of people are still enjoying her movies every day and missing her very much. On Wednesday January 14th, 2009, I got a very nice mail from a German actor-writer-director-producer named Andre Schneider. Andre Schneider is a big fan of Marisa Mell since his early childhood and a collector of memorabelia from around the world of her life and work.

Andre Schneider lives in Berlin (Germany) and London (UK). He is a graduate from the world famous actor school Lee Strasberg Institute in New York. He appeared in several international TV productions like the British cult favorite's "London's burning!" and "Taggart" but also in international movies like "Wish you where here" or "Dos Billetes". But that is not enough, he is also active on the production front as producer and writer of movies like "Deed Poll" and "Der Mann im Keller".

Andre has written 2 published books in 2004 in English "Life is a sexually transmitted disease" and in 2005 in German "Die Sprache der Scherben", both available at

As mentioned Andre Schneider is also fascinated by the life and works of Marisa Mell. He has also created a site in her honor (

On this site you can find three very interesting articles about Marisa Mell written by Andre:

The first is written in German about the lives and similarities of Marisa Mell and her friend Romy Schneider (

The second is in Spanish about Marisa Mell in the movie Marta (

And finally the third one is in German as a portrait of Marisa Mell (

Andre Schneider has also a very interesting personal blog about his private and professional life. (

But that is not all. The best always comes at the end! Andre Schneider told me that he is working on a biography on the life of Marisa Mell. Personally I am very happy to hear that because I think it was long overdue and the time is going to be right to get it published around her 20th year of passing. Knowing his dedication and love for the subject, the book will be very good. In future entries we will come back to report on further developments on that front!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Das Rätsel der Roten Orchidee - Lobby Cards

In 1962, Marisa Mell appeared in the movie "Das Rätsel der Roten Orchidee" based on a novel by Edgar Wallace. In this movie she appeared with a lot of other Euro-cult stars! In her first scene she plays opposite a veteran German actor named Fritz Heinrich Rasp. He was an actor who appeared in several Edgar Wallace movies before and after World War II. This was his last Wallace movie.
Marisa Mell receives in the movie an orchidee from actor Pinkas Braun. He would also become a regular player in several Edgar Wallace movies. This was his first movie adaptation of the krimi author. In 1965 she would appear again with him in the movie "New York chiama Superdragon".
And then there is of course "the" Euro-cult actor Adrian Hoven. His career ran from 1947 untill 1981 the year of his death by heart attack. His filmography is a treasure trove of cult movie titles to long to mention her. So if you are interested you can look it up but his most famous title is "Mark of the Devil" and it's follow up "Mark of the Devil II".

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Selfportrait 1985

In 1984-1985, the movie career of Marisa Mell was slowly coming to an end. She was desperate for money and earning a living so she could rent a little apartment and have food on the table. Hardship was always around the corner. Her often last resort nude photography was also drying up so she had to look for other means of income! One of those means, next to singing or writing her autobiography "Coverlove", was to start painting, which she did with reasonable success.

In 1985 she made her only selfportrait. During the exhibition of her work in her home town of Graz, she told the audience there that the general public sees her only as a sex-symbol with a face, hair, lips and breasts. Therefore this painting has its focus on these four features.

The painting is an original drawn on card board with chalk, oil chalk and coal. The picture is 60 x 80 cm. She has signed the picture with her name "Marisa Mell" and the year "85" in her characteristic signature. The picture was sold last year for 2.000 euros in Austria by its original buyer who had it bought at an exhibition from Marisa Mell in 1989 held at the Grazer Hauptpost.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Elisabeth, Kaiserin von Österreich - Ich möchte eine Möwe sein!

The year 1972 was a busy one for Marisa Mell. After filming two westerns back to back "Tutti fratelli nel west... per parte di padre" and "Amico, stammi lontano almeno un palmo", a giallo "Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso", a crime movie "Alta tensión" and a documentary film "Magic Graz" about her native town Graz in Austria, she still had the time to film a German black and white made for television movie called "Elisabeth-Kaiserin von Österreich-Ich möchte eine Möwe sein!" (Elisabeth-Empress of Austria-I would like to be a seagull!) .
In this movie she plays the main part of the empress Elisabeth von Österreich-Ungarn (December 24th 1837-September 10th 1898), generally known by the public as "Sissi", made famous by Romy Schneider in three German language movies in the fifties.

The main part of the movie was filmed at different original locations in Vienna, Austria like Schloss Schönbrunn, the home of the then royal reigning family the Habsburgs. The aim of the movie was to give a historically correct view of the life at the Austrian court during the reign of Emperor Franz-Jozeph I.

The television movie was a co-production between the Austrian state television "ORF" and the second German commercial television "ZDF". The television movie premiered on "ORF" in Austria on December 20th 1972. The critics and ratings were disasterous after the broadcast. So the co-producer "ZDF" did not know what to do with the movie: broadcast it or not! Finally they decided to do it more than a year after the initial production in the month of june 1973. Before airing one of the most important German political magazines "Der Spiegel" dedicated an article to the production history of the movie in it's 1973 issue # 26 . It sabled the movie down in pieces.
(Free translation of the article: In the can is in the can. One of Austria's "biggest garbage ever" the bombed made for TV movie is now ready to be screened before a German audience by the ZDF. It happened to Furst von Bismarck, and also Martin Luther King and Reichpräsident Friedrich Ebert had to endure it! In its biographies made for television, the ZDF loves to portray great people from world history. This series of costumes, giant paintings and drama is now being continued by the Mainzer (= reference to the crew of the ZDF because the seat of the company is in the German town called Mainz) with another historical piece. In co-production with the ORF, they filmed the love life and sufferings of Queen Elisabeth, also known as Sissi, who was married to Emperor Franz-Joseph I. With this court drama to honor her 135th day of birth both companies were aiming to historically correct the cheesy "Sissi"-films from the fifties. In three extremly tear jerking movies Romy Schneider played very convincing "the values of the heart and humanity as a characteristic Austrian way of life" according to the Austrian secretary of eduction in a laudatio. Indeed on the screen the current production of the Empress-fairy tale looks like a joke compared to the Romy Schneider romances which can be seen as Visconti movies. When the made for television movie in april of 1972 went before the board of directors of the ORF to get their approval they declared: "the biggest garbage that has been produced since a long time". To safe this clobbered unprofessional directed drama ("This piece of crap" voiced by the show and games director of the ORF Kuno Köbl) they asked Marisa Mell and other actors back in the studio and filmed very long sequences again. Even with this beauty make over, which cost another 120.000 DM above the already 350.000 DM for the first shooting, "Sissi" could not be saved. When the movie was first shown last december on the Austrian tv, the Vienna "Kurier" called it the TV-miscarriage of 1972. The ZDF, paying 70% of the production costs of this monster, did not fight this bomb. Although the chief of documentaries Jurgen Neve-du Mont once declared to skip over the top historical drama's ("UFA in acid drenged clay trays"), this piece of crap will be put on the programm next friday at 20.15 as "Elisabeth, Empress of Austria" during 75 minutes. Hei-Wi-Tip-Top, in the can is in the can!)