Il debito coniugale [The Conjugal Debt] (1970) June 26, 2017 08:00
If the 90's American comedy Dumb & Dumber was inspired by any film The Conjugal Debt seems like a reasonable candidate. Two goofy guys striking out on their own, pulling pranks on people, meeting a hot girl with the name of a yeast infection, unable to hold their liquor against an old woman, and stuffing their faces with spaghetti and sausage until one of them almost dies. Could be the long lost Italian relatives of Harry and Lloyd!
Romolo (Orazio Orlando) is a working class stiff who tends the local gas station that he lives above with his wife Ines (Anita Ekberg). His life is pretty dull and his wife constantly nags him for attention. He's seemingly lost all interest in his mundane life and his wife. Like any other day she threatens to leave him and he doesn't care. That's when Orazio (Lando Buzzanca) shows up on a motorcycle, with a sheep in the sidecar, and changes his life. A former acquaintance from his army days, Romolo convinces Orazio to join him on his nomadic journey across the Italian countryside and experience true freedom. Orazio agrees and quickly runs upstairs to take a suitcase he's had packed for sometime, unaware that his wife had just dumped all his stuff out a replaced it with her clothes as she was planning to leave him!
Armed with a suitcase of women's clothes, no money and traveling in a motorcycle with no brakes, alongside a sheep, Orazio and Romolo begin their journey together of pure adulterated "freedom". Along the way they meet Candida (Barbara Bouchet) a beautiful fisherman's wife with a reputation of sleeping around. She's referred too throughout the film as being "sick" but no clarification is given as to whether this is referring to her implied sex addiction or if she actually has a sexually transmitted disease, but her husband is quick to sell her and a beat up truck to Romolo for 800 euros! Candida becomes a useful money maker for the guys who use her unmistakable beauty to auction off her lingerie, and take wagers on the weight of her breasts.
As a whole there's no denying the premise of the film is pretty shallow, but there is a gradual shift in the philosophies of the two main characters as Lando Buzzanca's Orazio slowly begins to show signs of some desire for stability in his life, while Romolo begins to fully embrace the wandering lifestyle. Barbara Bouchet acts as a catalyst in this transition between the two characters and also offers an amazing amount of eye candy in almost every scene. Veteran Italian film actress Anita Ekberg pops up throughout the film with multiple interactions with the local priest, complaining that her husband has left her, and plays a minor role in the film's twist at the end.
In comparison to previous Barbara Bouchet films The Conjugal Debt tops them all in terms of overall enjoyment and total amount of screen time she's given. It's a massive improvement compared to her first Italian comedy, The Golden Ass. It's jam packed with classic scenes: the skinny dipping scene which leads a guy on his bicycle to lose control and fly off a doc, the auctioning off pieces of her clothing for food money, the ice cream cone scene (which is immortalized in all the film's posters), and taking wagers from the town's male population on how much her breasts weigh using a shop scale.
Overall, as an Italian comedy The Conjugal Debt was pretty entertaining, even if you don't understand the language the premise of the film is not too hard to follow and was often very amusing, if albeit corny. There is a very rare English version of the film that was released in Greece under the title Easy Lovers. It's worth hunting for if you're a Bouchet completest, it's exactly the same cut of the film but offers the added benefit of actually being able to understand everything that's going on.