Actress Spotlight: Femi Benussi - Italy's Femme Fatale August 01, 2018 12:27
Few Italian cult film actresses of this era likely found themselves in the situation of Femi Benussi, the gorgeous Italian / Croatian born Eufemia Benussi in Rovigno, Istria, Italy March 4, 1945. What other actress had the vast number of roles and presence in almost every genre of Italian cult film yet quickly became typecast as the veritable prostitute of Italian cult cinema, effectively in the end being tossed aside like one and never gaining nearly the popularity as some of her peers who took on a lot of the similar roles.
While most attention (then and now) seems to be directed towards her peers like Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet, Rosalba Neri and Marisa Mell, if you've seen a handful of cult Italian films made between the 60's and 70's you've likely seen a film with Femi Benussi. And unlike amazing actresses like Helga Liné, who were in over one hundred films but rarely had a meaty roll, Benussi's appearances were often leading lady or fairly significant co-starring roles in a wide variety of films, many being Italian cult classics.
By her own admission it was her proclivity to do nudity that helped to skyrocket her career (ironically it would also be it's death nail). In 1965 her first film role would be in the cult classic Bloody Pit Of Horror as one of a group of models who venture to an abandoned castle for a sexy photo-shoot only to be picked off one at a time by a lunatic who believes he's a 17th century executioner. In 1968 she'd appear with Edwige Fenech in jungle adventure film Samoa, regina della giungla about around a group of people who travel to the jungle in search of a diamond mine, both Fenech and Benussi as sexy native girls. The following year she'd take on the lead role of Tarzana in the notoriously risque jungle film Tarzana, The Wild Woman.
In the 1970's she'd have a major involvement in the rise of Italian crime and thrillers (giallo) like 1972's So Sweet, So Dead with Sylva Koscina, The Italian Connection with Barbara Bouchet, Strip Nude For Your Killer with Edwige Fenech, and a slew of Italian sex comedies and spaghetti westerns too numerous to mention. But by the late 1970's Femi was no longer interested in roles that required nudity, stating in 1980 that this decision was ultimately what ended her career and dried up the many offers she used to receive. In a rare interview in 2002 she distanced herself from her large amount of "erotic" roles, stating she preferred to be remembered for the other films in her career.
It's a sad commentary on the career of Femi Benussi, an actress who was a variable staple in Italian cult films, who built her career solely on the exploitation of her looks, only for it to ultimately end her career and regrettably to her become what she is most known for. What a striking example of how one should be careful of the decisions you make as your past can end up defining you and be what most people remember you for. The question remains had Benussi been a little more picky about the roles she accepted or less enthusiastic to bear all early on in her career would she have been more regarded for her roles than her body? Would her career have lasted as long or taken off at all? And why are actresses like Edwige Fenech, who also never seemed to shy away from similar roles, so popular in the cult film circle but Benussi never seems to receive close to the same attention? Probably all questions the actress herself has pondered at points in her career.