Sergio Martino has certainly had an interesting career, one which epitomizes the term “running the gamut”. Martino got his start making mondo films before eventually finding his true calling in the giallo genre. Bava may have started it and Argento may have popularized it, but for all intensive purposes, Martino is the king of the giallo with his collaborations with Euro goddess Edwige Fenech The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971), All the Colors of the Dark (1972), Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972) along with films like The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (1971) and Torso (1973) being the standard setters for the genre. Martino’s filmography is all over the map ranging from giallo’s to Euro crime efforts like Gambling City (1975), his entry into the cannibal genre The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978), creature films such as Island of the Fishmen (1979) and The Big Alligator River (1979) and post-apocalyptic fare with 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983). During the height of the 90’s erotic thriller craze, Martino threw his hat in the ring with Craving Desire. While its probably never going to be as highly regarded as his giallo masterpieces, Craving Desire is nonetheless one of Martino’s most enjoyable films and one of the best of his post-70’s output along with being of best erotic thrillers from the genres heyday.
Luigi (Ron Nummi) is a man who’s going places with a great job and a beautiful fiancé. His life takes an unexpected turn however when his cousin Sonia (Vittotia Belvedere), whom he had recently been acquainted with after having not seen since childhood shows up at his door claiming to have nowhere else to go and Luigi agrees for her to stay with him. There is an obvious attraction between the two and although Luigi initially tries to fight it, the two begin a passionate affair with Luigi eventually calling off his engagement. At first the relationship seems to reinvigorate Luigi and brings some excitement into his life although things start to go south when Sonia’s idea of fun begins to include breaking the law, and with her behavior becoming more and more erratic, dangerously erratic in fact, Luigi discovers the hard way that getting involved with Sonia was a serious mistake.
First and foremost there’s no mistaking Craving Desire (Graffiante desiderio) for having been made in any other time period as everything about the film just screams early 90’s erotic thriller. Not that’s a bad thing, however considering the talent involved it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Craving Desire is miles beyond other films of its type. For starters there’s the films taboo subject matter and the fact that the entire cast “gets it”. There’s no pretension to be found here, everyone involved knew exactly the type of film they were making and relishing in it and there are moments of sleazy humor peppered throughout the film to further emphasize this. Speaking of the cast, normally with these kinds of films the cast is chosen based solely on their looks and nothing more although that cannot be said in the case of Craving Desire. Ron Nummi was perfect for the role of Luigi as he has a presence about him that suited all of Luigi’s characteristics to a T, from being the ambitious business man as well as being the innocent, naïve boyish type that could be easily duped. Good as Nummi is, this is Vittoria Belvedere’s show to steal. Not only is Belvedere unbelievably gorgeous, she can actually act and like Nummi is convincing in portraying every aspect of Sonia’s personality particularly during the films third act where her psychotic side takes over, and while nowhere near as visually excessive as Martino’s giallo’s, the finished product is still rather slick in presentation.
Craving Desire was released on DVD in 2009 by Mya Communication, a company who has put out a lot of Martino’s films and one that catches a lot of negative criticism. Most of the criticism seems to be with the picture quality on the DVD’s but they also have a habit of re-titling films and/or releasing films under alternate titles instead of the original ones which can lead to some confusion especially if one films alternate title is another films original. In the case of Martino, they’ve released The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh under one of its alternate titles Blade of the Ripper and their release of The Big Alligator River is simply titled Alligator, not to be confused with the 1980 film of the same name. Mya also put out Martino’s The Smile of the Fox (1992), another erotic thriller as Naked Obsession which happens to be the name of another 1990 erotic thriller. As for their DVD of Craving Desire, no complaints. It looks as good as a film like this is probably ever going to look and although the disc is bare bones at least its English friendly. So while Craving Desire probably isn’t going to be celebrated by many as much as Martino’s 70’s films it is a highlight of Martino’s later career and as far as sleazy erotic thrillers go, they don’t get much better than this.