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8/1/02

“Aside from placing it in the context of a Barbara Steele retrospective, we need say very little about Fellini's 8-1/2. It is a masterwork of world cinema; it is a consistent favorite of critics and audiences; it is Fellini's towering achievement. This much is clear.

“Steele had already done Black Sunday, Pit And The Pendulum and Dr. Hitchcock when Fellini cast her in 8-1/2. She plays Gloria Morrison, the young mistress of one of Guido/Fellini's friends, and Michel Caen described her characterization (in Midi-Minuit Fantastique) as ‘a marvelous object-woman, hypnotic, greedy and a thousand times desirable.' It was a role of critical significance to Steele herself, and she speaks with love of working with Fellini. ‘You just feel so adored and so comfortable.... He comes up and whispers all these seductive things in your ear. “When you going to come give me some mint juleps?” or, “I'm going to come at three in the morning and we take a walk in the rain,” or, “Tonight we have a very voluptuous night.” At first I was very British and I thought he was serious. Finally, after five weeks, I realized that he was doing it with everyone.'

“She has two lines in 8-1/2 that reverberate. ‘I love the whip,' she says in the harem sequence. And, ‘I love monsters.' If her cult reputation rests on the Italian horror films, her ‘in' status in Europe surely rests on 8-1/2.”

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