One of Cinema’s most amazing beauty, in my view, remains Rosalba Neri. Now don’t get me started on her cheekbones, masterful works of art and absolutely stunning in their perfection. She played a multitude of roles in many genres, sometimes going from bad girl to pure heroine with equal skill, in a career that came close to 100 films. She remains a top obsession amongst Euro film fantatics, as she appeared in many top cult movies of the 60s and 70s, mainly in highly-charged sexual roles. It’s the right time that a worthy homage must be paid in these pages to such a personality. Here we go:
She was born on June 19, 1939 in Furli, Emilia Romagna, Italy. As a teen, Rosalba won a beauty pageant and decided to pursue the study of acting at the Center for Experimental Cinematography. In the mid fifties, she decided not to move to America to learn about Method Acting, even if such an opportunity arose. She already had a first film experience, The Penguins Watch Us in 1955. Small roles soon followed in local Italian productions. In 1960, she got noticed for participating in a couple of historical epics, namely Cleopatra’s Daughter and Esther and the King. The later was mostly directed by Mario Bava but credited to Raoul Walsh. The main star was sultry Joan Collins, so you can still enjoy two gorgeous dark-haired actresses sharing the screen and acting all sexy and mysterious.
This led to a phase where Rosalba began some work in peplum films, taking parts in Hercules Against Moloch, Hercules of the Desert, The Lion of Thebes and Hercules and the Black Pirates, among some others. She was ideal in playing a damsel in distress or a selfish princess when rubbing shoulders with such muscle-bound mythical heroes wearing short skirts themselves. Many fans began falling in love with Rosalba just be enjoying these sometimes juvenile productions.
Soon after, she took part in a couple of Angélique adventures,
this series dedicated to the tribulations of the title character, a fiery
heroine played by future Cult Siren and stunning redhead Michèle
Mercier. These European co-productions were a big hit around the world
and led to Rosalba getting her name more and more at the top of any cast
list. Her career continued following the popular trends of the times,
as she was now seen in spaghetti westerns such as Days
of Violence and
Johnny Yuma. Of course, how could anyone in the industry at the time
could not take part in the Bond craze? So some spy flicks were also au
menu du jour, with titles like OSS 117 - Double
Agent and Lucky,
The later film was directed by prolific Jess Franco, with whom Rosalba reunited for 99 Women, a still surprisingly effective Women in Prison film. This maybe marked a point when Rosalba’s sexiness began to take a turn to the more erotic for her future parts. Working besides goddess Edwige Fenech in Top Sensation of course helped a lot. Still for Franco, she was in Marquis de Sade: Justine and The Castle of Fu Manchu. Admiring her more frequent topless scenes became a new obsession for many male fans around the world… if those precious scenes were not cut for local viewings. She began using the pseudonyms Sara Bay or Sara Bey for the international market.
Oddly, the ultimate Rosalba Neri film could very well be an over-the-top horror production mainly known as Lady Frankenstein, where our actress plays probably the sexisest Doctor Frankenstein ever filmed! Even with a ludicrous script, Ms. Neri gives an amazing performance, full of perverse sensuality and wicked evil. A truly amazing movie, mixing clumsy dubbing, some erratic special effects but still impressive in its willingness to shock. She also has the distinction of playing Countess Dracula in The Devil’s Wedding Night!
What was left? Well, the giallo thriller trend was in full swing so the next step was logical. Rosalba’s stunning beauty was displayed in Slaughter Hotel, Amuck, The Girl in 2A and French Sex Murders. Her list of death scenes throughout her career is quite impressive: decapitated, hacked to death, strangled, shot, drowned, stabbed, crushed to death… all is not pink marshmallow and pastel butterflies in Neri-land! During all this, Rosalba had a daughter in 1964, Francesca Neri, still working today as an actresse and who also has quite an intriguing list of film credits… and her mom’s good looks.
In 1974, Rosalba could be seen in The Arena, an amazing tale of female gladiators starring Pam Grier. Rosalba shot her last film in 1976, Il pomicione. She appeared in a TV mini-series in Italy in 1985, and that was it for the movie career. In 2002, a German documentary with the title Rosalba Neri: The Italian Sphinx became available.
Rosalba Neri, Edwige Fenech and Barbara Bouchet are sometimes perceived as the ultimate sexy female triumvirate in Euro B-productions, as they are still amongst the most alluring film actresses of all time. Let’s never forget their timeless and invaluable contributions to moviegoers around the world.