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The 1987 Casanova starring Richard Chamberlain has been on my watch list ever since I discovered some excellent photos from the production, but it’s been impossible to find a decent quality copy of the film. I recently found a watchable version on Rarefilm.net, although it’s clearly digitized from a VHS copy, but good enough for Snark Week!
This TV movie mostly lived up to my expectations, although sadly we did not get all the 1980s hair promised in this still:
The film starts with Casanova being arrested in Venice and then gets told in flashback, from him as a teenager helping his actress mom in the theater, to trying to become a monk, to starting his womanizing ways, to falling in love and getting his heart broken, and then his later adventures. I’m not going to recap it all, just show you the highlights.
I still find Richard Chamberlain inherently cheesy. Has he had a facelift or were his eyebrows always this arched?
Before things get into flashback, we see Casanova have a ménage à quatre with Faye Dunaway aka Madame d’Urfe AND her two teenage daughters, which, I strongly question the parenting skills of anyone willing to participate in group sex with their children.
Casanova’s hair is SO FUCKING FEATHERED it’s insane:
I spent most of the film mesmerized by this hair, which also LISTED LEFT in not-quite-a-side part:
Entering flashback land…
We never see this costume on screen, but I think this is the actress who plays his mother, played by Hanna Schygulla (That Night in Varennes, Peter the Great):
She’s got the same giant curly platinum blonde wig worn by most of the women in the film, making them all very interchangeable.
Casanova gets going because his father (a snobby aristocrat who’s shagging Casanova’s actress mother on the side, making him a bastard) first sends him to learn the law, but he’s waylaid by the hot to trot daughters of his teacher:
He’s then sent to the monastery, where he tries to talk “Maddalena” (Sylvia Kristel of the Emmanuelle softcore films but was also in The Fifth Musketeer, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Mata Hari) into marrying an old guy:
Here’s where I pause to tell you that the costume designer was Yvonne Blake (Nicholas and Alexandra, The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, Goya’s Ghosts), hence why minus some specific elements and a whooooole lotta questionable hair choices, they’re actually quite good!
Attempting to counsel Maddalena doesn’t go well, starting him off on his career as a lover:
He then joins the Spanish army…
…but is waylaid by his One True Love, Henriette (Ornella Muti of Flash Gordon but also Swann in Love and The Count of Monte Cristo). She’s hanging with an Austrian general in men’s military dress and generally being hot because of it, minus the afro wig:
The two fall IN LOVE, and Henriette suddenly has long brown hair, implying that her white afro was a wig which is wrong on multiple levels.
While hanging out at a gambling den peopled with crusty makeup’d characters like this:
Casanova proposes to Henriette. She accepts, but cautions him to be true to her and also not to lie to her.
Literally minutes later, Henriette manages to get into an entirely different outfit AND WIG and, anonymized by a mask, seduces Casanova with little to no effort.
She removes her mask and confronts him with his betrayal:
Leading to THIS level of pathos:
Casanova then gets jailed in miserable circumstances, but I’m not going to tell you about it because it’s a lot of this:
He escapes and heads to Paris, where he suddenly has figured out 18th-c. hairstyling:
He re-meets Madame d’Urfe and her two daughters; some rando tips him off that Urfe is into the occult, so Casanova pretends he is too as he’s in grifter mode. Urfe is rocking the white and gold, but I’m confused what kind of costume this is supposed to be, especially with the giant nylon lace ruffled bib:
Casanova also meets King Louis XV, to whom he suggests the idea of a royal lottery, thus making the king loads of money.
Casanova shags Urfe and discovers that she’s looking for eternal youth.
At a party, he meets ULTRA Irish “Heidi” (Traci Lind of Bugsy and The Road to Wellville) who is standing in for real-life Marie-Louise O’Murphy of the Blonde Odalisque painting:
Which we know because she’s posing next to the finished portrait, then wandering around in a sheet. She is VERY “top o’ the mornin’ to ya!”
Casanova has been skimming money from the lottery, but decides Madame d’Urfe is a better income source, so tells her he knows the secret to eternal youth and will conduct a ritual.
At some point, Casanova and Urfe wear these, but I don’t remember seeing them on screen:
I mention it because that dressing gown was sold online at some point:
The actual occult ritual is very much played for laughs, with Heidi helping Casanova steal Madame d’Urfe’s jewels while she thinks she’s getting her eternal youth (which is of course ridiculous because Dunaway still looks AMAZING). Casanova wears a silver hooded dressing gown:
Urfe’s gown is covered with silver alchemical motifs, and her headdress is gorge even if somewhat triceratops-y:
Mid-ritual, they’re interrupted by soldiers trying to arrest Casanova for skimming from the lottery, but he escapes and ends up in a gambling den/brothel hitting up these chicks:
Casanova then finally starts aging and wandering Europe. He runs into this down-on-her-luck demoiselle in Germany and takes a paternal interest in her, only to discover that she’s literally his daughter, Jacqueline (Sophie Ward of Young Sherlock Holmes, Little Dorrit, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Land Girls, The Moonstone, and A Very British Scandal), by Henriette.
Casanova reconnects with Henriette, who is married, but it’s too boring to screencap. He then works as a librarian somewhere in Germany, where some kitchen maid reads his memoirs, but again too boring other than to show you this hair:
And, checked that one off my list!
Have you seen Casanova (1987)? What did you think?