Blu-ray, DVD Release: What?

Blu-ray & DVD Release Date: April 26, 2016
Price: DVD $19.99, Blu-ray $22.99
Studio: Severin

Roman Polanski’s (Venus in FurCarnage, Rosemary’s Baby) relatively obscure 1973 erotic comedy What?—the film he made in between Macbeth and Chinatown—is  one of more curious entries in the great filmmaker’s canon.

The film (which is also known as Diary of Forbidden Dreams) is based on a screenplay written by Polanski and his frequent collaborator Gerard Brach, which the filmmaker describes as “a ribald, Rabelaisian account of the adventures of a fey, innocent girl, wholly unaware of the sort of company that surrounds her in a weird Riviera village inhabited by exclusively by phallocrats.”

Roman Polanski and Sydne Rome in Polanski's What?

Roman Polanski and Sydne Rome in Polanski’s What?

So, the succulent starlet Sydne Rome stars as an oft-naked American girl lost inside a Mediterranean villa inhabited by priests, pianists, perverts and, most notable, a syphilitic pimp (portrayed by a bizarre Marcello Mastroianni of La Dolce Vita fame) while indulging in madcap acts of gang rape, sodomy and ping-pong. Co-stars include Hugh Griffith (Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life), Romolo Valli (Boccaccio ’70) and Polanski himself.

Edited to bits over the years since its initial theatrical rollout, What? arrives from Severin restored to its original running time from a vault print reportedly stolen from the wine cellar of producer Carlo Ponti! The film was actually shot in one of Ponti’s villas near Naples.

In his 1984 autobiography Roman, Polanski notes that it was the only film that he brought in under budget. Apart from that, he states, “little need be said. The picture was a success in Italy, a modest success elsewhere in Europe and a flop in America.”

Bonus features on the discs include a theatrical trailer and three featurettes highlighted by interviews with star Sydne Rome, composer Claudio Gizzi and cinematographer Marcello Gatti.

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.