You know how it is… you have worshiped in silence your favorite Siren for all these past years, waiting in vain for the time to come when the guy at the Cult Sirens website could find some space for her… but nothing. For weeks, even for months, you hoped that her precious name would appear on the main listing, but… still nothing. (Are you reading this, you Xena fans?)
You know, my principal frustration in writing for Cult Sirens is still the fact that some noteworthy actresses are absent from these pages for the only reason that I can’t find any valuable information about them. More often than not, it’s the trouble in coming upon valid details about the artist or simply having no luck in sharing worthy visual material, that stops me. But this time, with a minimum of biographical data but interesting (to say the least) images, I can now share with you info on a person that entirely represents the spirit of this website and its guests.
Marisa Mell… what is there to say? Among my oldest cinema memories is a short scene in Danger: Diabolik, where she plays her most famous character, the immortal Eva Kant (mysterious sidekick to Diabolik himself, a criminal mastermind finding great pleasure in leading the authorities in various wild goose chases). At some point, Eva becomes hostage to some bad guys, and finds herself tied up on some stinky bed, wearing torn clothing, and being tortured with a lit cigarette tip. Ugh. I was barely 10 years old… how can one forget his or her first bizarre erotic moments before entering into teen years? Frankly, this site won’t turn me into a younger man, but the reminiscences herewith remain priceless.
Marisa Mell was born on February 24, 1939, in Graz, Austria, under the name Marlies Theres Moitzi. She began her acting career in 1954, but it really took off in the early sixties, as she became a regular in many European productions. After a string of minor roles (like one in the 1962 Edgar Wallace adaptation Puzzle of the Red Orchid), she got the female starring role in French Dressing, the 1963 first full length feature of Britain’s bad boy Ken Russell. She easily plays the role of a movie star.
The same year, Marisa was involved in a nasty car accident in France. As a result, she had to endure many surgical operations (!), which resulted in a slightly curled-up upper lip, adding even more charm to her already attractive features.
In 1965, Marisa shot her first Italian picture, Casanova ’70, directed by Mario Monicelli, alongside Michèle Mercier and Virna Lisi, mamma mia! Italy won her the most notoriety, considering her stardom following Danger: Diabolik in 1967, directed by Mario Bava. The latter even preferred her over Catherine Deneuve, no less, as he was searching for a “comic book” style of beauty. Danger: Diabolik remains a successful adaptation of a comic on the big screen (and maybe the ultimate role for stolid star John Philip Law) and the various super hero costumes could’ve been an inspiration for Tim Burton’s Batman.
Marisa would then start the best and more productive years of her career (still in Italy, with occasional stops in France and Spain), soon following in 1969 with what may remain her most challenging and best role in One on Top of the Other, directed by Lucio Fulci. Worth mentioning is 1971’s Seven Blood-Stained Orchids by Umberto Lenzi (starring Antonio Sabato Jr.’s dad… Antonio Sabato Sr., who else?), and 1975’s Diary of an Erotic Murderess and Mahogany starring Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Perkins.
A movie that played a lot on TV twenty years ago is Casanova & Co. with Tony Curtis. In it, Marisa is joined by another Marisa, Berenson this one. Also along for the ride are Sylva Koscina, Britt Ekland and Jeannie Bell, all potential Cult Sirens. Marisa would find the time to pose for the Italian version of Playboy in the November 1976 issue. There’s still a rumor that she played Mata Hari on Broadway under the direction of Vincente Minelli… huh?
At the start of the eighties, Marisa was finding work in more and more obscure movies for her North American fans, as they weren’t distributed outside Europe, the majority being lightly erotic comedies. In 1990, she found the time to be in Ator III: The Hobgoblin by Joe D’Amato, co-starring the astonishing Laura Gemser. 1991’s I Love Vienna was to be her last movie appearance. Marisa would suddenly pass away on May 16, 1992 (ironically in Vienna itself), from throat cancer, to the devastation of her many world-wide fans, as she was only 53.
Well, looks like I did myself proud for a guy who thought that he had nothing to say about one of the most captivating euro-starlet of the sixties and seventies. Marisa Mell’s ravishing beauty and considerable talent are still being enjoyed from generation to generation. Eva Kant, where are you?