Stephen Boyd is hoping he has better luck with “Marta,” shooting in Spain, than he did with “Imperial Venus,” which he filmed some seasons back with that Venus Gina Lollobrigida.
In Marta, Stephen ‘s playing his first nude love scene since his “Venus” endeavor, though American audiences would never know it. Venus was never released in the U.S. The Customs Service seized and held onto the print. That must have been some nude scene! (The Ithaca Journal, January 26, 1971)
In early 1971 Stephen Boyd traveled to Madrid to begin filming a production of “Marta”, a Giallo inspired Gothic romance about madness and obsession. The movie was based on a play “Estado Civil” written in 1969. The film involved love scenes with co-star and Austrian beauty Marisa Mell which required both stars take off their clothes, a situation all too familiar to Boyd! The first time Stephen encountered this was with French icon Brigitte Bardot in “The Night Heaven Fell (1958)” early on in his movie career. Miss Bardot, however, did most of the stripping down. “The Night Heaven Fell” was only shown in the USA as an “Adults Only” screening. Four years later Stephen was cast in a somewhat haphazard Italian production of “Imperial Venus (1962)” with Gina Lollobrigida. During this film it was Boyd who had to strip down to nothing under a bedroom sheet. Stephen was not pleased. Despite the sheet, “Imperial Venus” was still censored and banned from release in America. By the time “Marta” was released, the 1960’s had taken its toll on what was considered allowable on the movie screen. Nudity and rough language were no longer just exclusive to European audiences. Films had drastically changed. Still, the international version of “Marta” was initially censored, this time in Europe, in countries like Spain! “Marta” was eventually released both in Europe and in America after some extensive cuts.
“There were very serious problems…We had to make a lot of cuts. There was a specific scene that cost us a good deal. We did not realize during the … mixes because many of the scenes were positive in black and white, but the final copy in color, once finished, which the censors saw, contained a scene after all the cuts… in which Mell revealed everything under a thin nightgown. The worst thing is that we could not cut that, because it was an important scene, it was not one of those that we had more or less planned for the international version, and it was necessary to follow the story.” (José Antonio Nieves Conde (director)interview from Die Feuerblume (Marisa Mell Biography) by André Schneider, Page 335)
Below are some tactfully edited snippets from the unedited production and some very nice cast shots of Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell on the set of “Marta” in and around Viñuelas Castle in Spain. Mell is sporting both a blonde wig and her own long dark tresses, as she played a dual role in the film. This was the beginning of a very special relationship Stephen Boyd had with actress Marisa Mell. You can certainly see the chemistry they had together both on and off the screen!
“I would prefer that the story of my love for Stephen Boyd not be told. It inspires me today, and it hurts me today. It was so difficult, strange, beautiful and sad that I can hardly bear to think of it.” (Marisa Mell from “Cover Love”, 1990)
Stephen Boyd’s whirlwind romance and marriage with actress Marisa Mell had elements of the truly bizarre and mystical in it, including exorcisms, a gypsy ritual blood exchange and reincarnation.
Where to begin? This story begins in 1971, an era steeped in all sorts of social occult phenomena. “There has always been a current of magic and mysticism under the mainstream of Western culture…for a few years in the 1960’s and early seventies this exploded into a fully fledged ‘occult revival’, involving some of the most famous people in the world, like the Beatles.” (“Turn off Your Mind; the Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius” by Gary Valentine Lachman) The sixties saw it all, from drugs to rock n roll to magicians to Charles Manson. In Lachman’s preface he explains that by the late 1960’s, magical ideas and the occult had reached an unprecedented audience through all forms of media.
“Marta”, a lush, Giallo film which starred Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell, was filmed in Spain in late 1970. Marisa Mell recalls first seeing Boyd when they met to begin the filming of the picture, and she felt immediately attracted to him, as if she had known him from before. Boyd was reluctant to engage Mell during this time. As she was desperately trying to begin an affair with him, he was cold and dodged her attempts. The hooks were already set, but Boyd was not willing to acquiesce to Mell’s more than obvious attempts to seduce him. He was friendly and professional above all. Amidst all of this underlying tension, Mell and Boyd were called upon to act out a few very intense, graphic love scenes for the film. According to Mell, it was torture. She longed for Boyd, but yet he would not succumb to her charms off-screen.
After the movie was over, Mell and Boyd were apart for about 6 months. When they were reunited for their next film, “The Great Swindle”, Boyd was now interested in pursuing Mell, who was still hurt from his previous rejections. Boyd was gentle and persistent, according to Mell’s account, wooing her with flowers and dinner dates. Eventually on one of these dinner dates, Boyd invited her back to his apartment, and then the love affair began in true earnest. Mell was a stunning beauty and Boyd had always seemed to fall for exotic brunettes. But this relationship was far beyond a whim. After years of enjoying bachelorhood, Stephen Boyd suddenly proposed to Marisa Mell after the first night they spent together. Mell describes a whirlwind marriage in a gypsy camp, including horse carriages, a bonfire, singing, dancing and a blood exchange between her and Boyd as their wrists were cut and pressed together to seal their bond as husband and wife. She also describes how they both became obsessive about each other afterwards, spirituality intertwined to the point of being inseparable. It is a heart wrenching account to read. After the “Great Swindle” was a wrap, the two actors didn’t even stick around to complete the English overdubs. They immediately left for Rome. Once there we can assume they stayed in Mell’s Rome apartment for several weeks.
At some point, concerned that their obsessive passion was somehow ‘evil’, Mell and Boyd took a trip up to a small Italian town called Sarsina. It was here they tried to expel the ‘evil’ from their relationship by partaking in the local cult exorcism ritual of St. Vicinius. This involved wearing a mystical metal collar around their necks and receiving a blessing from the priest. This type of blessing is used to free people from ‘evil spirits’.
“Perhaps you smile today over such hocus-pocus. At that time I felt is was not ridiculous, although I see myself as a clear-headed woman. But my connection to Stephen just had something very mystical, inscrutable in itself, and he felt the same way. Sometimes love is like a deadly disease, sometimes it makes you feel that you are damned for all eternity.” (Marisa Mell, “Cover Love”, 1990)
To explain the Sarsina visit and the ‘collar blessing’ which Boyd and Mell partook in, you can read more about the cult of St. Vicinius here.
Pilgrims visit a church in Italy where a priest puts the relic on them and says a prayer. ‘You feel protected from the forces of evil,’ one says. ….In rural, Roman Catholic Italy, many people remain very religious, and very superstitious. The two belief systems coexist, tightly intertwined and surprisingly complementary.The cult that has emerged here in Sarsina, a town in the hills between Tuscany and the northern Adriatic Sea, centers on the metal collar. Legend has it that St. Vicinus, bishop in Sarsina around AD 300, used it first as a form of self-castigation when he prayed. It resembles a shackle that might be used on a slave. He would put it around his neck attached to a heavy stone to focus his mind in penitence. Eventually he began to use it to ward off evil spirits. St. Vicinus became one of the church’s early exorcists, and the fame of the collar and its purported powers have endured. (The one used now is not said to be St. Vicinus’ original but is believed to date to the 8th or 9th century, roughly the same time the church was built.)
Stephen Boyd was into his share of mystical religions and peripheral interests, including Scientology and astrology. From even as far back as 1957 he used to consult a clairvoyant in London concerning his film choices and life decisions. “I am superstitious, though, even to the point of having a clairvoyant in London to whom I turn for suggestions. This man usually contacts me every week…He’s an amazing person who is incredibly right most of the time.” (Stardom Magazine Stephen Boyd Interview, 1960)
Stephen was also attuned to astrology, which attracted his interest in in the mid-1960’s. “I’m Cancer, and Leo rising, and if you want to get a clue to my character you must read up on Cancer and Leo and combine the two…I take it quite seriously. We Cancers tend to attract strong people. We open our arms to them, and then strangle and crush them. They can’t breathe….The Water is Cancer, see. It embraces the key, but the key can’t breathe.” (1967 El Paso Herald Post Stephen Boyd interview)
Marisa Mell herself was a Pisces (a water sign like Cancer), and also very in touch with astrology. “I believe in astrology but I don’t need it…It ruins your nerves if you take it daily.” (Marisa Mell Daily Press Interview, Oct 8, 1967) Mirko di Wallenberg, a blogger who has intensely studied Marisa Mell’s life, shared this: “Marisa was very religious by upbringing, less during her career, but picked it up again when she came back to Austria after her career ended in Rome. She was very into spiritual things like hand reading, parapsychology, fortune telling, talking to the deceased… and even at the end of her life she became a follower of Sai Baba; she hoped that this would turn her life around and when she became sick with throat cancer hoped to be healed by him.”
Marisa Mell getting her palm read. Above photos courtesy Mirko di Wallenberg. Visit Mirko’s amazing Marisa Mell blog
Apparently the exorcism did not work as Boyd and Mell had hoped. In fact, Stephen Boyd became physically ill and feverish because of the intensity of their ‘passion’, as Mell explained it. He literally picked up his bags one day and walked out the door in order to extricate himself from the relationship. Mell begged him to stay, but to no avail. Boyd hopped on a plane to Belfast and she never saw him again.
Marisa Mell, in early 1972, after Boyd’s departure, had this to say about the break-up of their relationship. It was not your usual explanation. “We both believe in reincarnation, and we realized we’ve already been lovers in three different lifetimes, and in each one I made him suffer terribly.” (The Akron Beacon Journal, June 16, 1972)
Marisa Mell was so overpowered by her brief relationship with Boyd that she dedicated an entire chapter about it in her autobiography, “Cover Love”. I am indebted to Mirko di Wallenberg who runs a fabulous Marisa Mell blog for sending me this chapter. You can read the full account here.
To compound the mysticism of this relationship, Marisa Mell would end her chapter about Boyd in the 1990 autobiography “Cover Love” by saying that after Boyd’s death in 1977, she could feel his spirit speaking to her from another place. Considering the bizarre and occult nature of this love affair, you have to consider the possibility of this. It seems Marisa Mell and Stephen Boyd were destined for each other, but tragically could only find a very brief interlude together in this lifetime.
During the time that Stephen Boyd was in Spain in 1975 filming “Casa Manchada” with director José Antonio Nieves Conde, he took time for another Italian movie production which was also filmed in Spain called “L’uomo che sfidò l’organizzazione”, or “One Man Against the Organization”. This was a typical violent Italian-dubbed crime thriller from the era, but this film is particularly well edited and entertaining. The best part about this film are the actors. Stephen Boyd plays the Drug Enforcement Agent Stephen McCormick, who acts as a guardian angel to our hero, Howard Ross. Stephen looks very handsome and polished in this movie wearing jackets, turtlenecks and neck-ties, and he also gets to sport some very sexy glasses. Howard Ross, an Italian actor, co-starred in no less than five movies with Stephen! (“Marta”, “The Great Swindle”, “A Man Called Noon”, & “Those Dirty Dogs”). Howard Ross was great at playing muscle strong men (he started out is career in minor roles in several Italian ‘sword and sandal’ Hercules films and Spaghetti Westerns), and in this movie he actually gets to be the hero. Karin Schubert is a stunning German actress who makes an eye-catching, tough heroine (in a Tarantino style way). The soundtrack by Luis Bacalov is especially catchy and vibrant, and is officially available as a soundtrack CD.
Marta, also known as Mata al Macho Y Lo Devora in Spanish, or Dopo di che Uccide Maschio E Lo Divora in Italian (translated as more or less to mean ‘To Kill and Devour the Male’), is one of Stephen Boyd’s most interesting roles and one of my top favorite Stephen Boyd movies. It was directed by José Antonio Nieves Conde, a Spanish director who would continue to work well with Boyd in the 1970’s on for two more films, The Great Swindle and Casa Manchada. It is based on a play by Juan Jose Alonso Millan called Estado Civil: Martafrom 1969. I absolutely love the ‘Giallo’ atmosphere in this film – the Gothic setting, the Edgar Allen Poe darkness, the music, the air of madness, and the luscious erotic overtones. This movie had a small USA release in the early 1973, and went on to become a frequently played after-dark television movie in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Although this film came after Boyd’s heyday in Hollywood, he absolutely commands the screen in this picture. Luckily he is on camera for most of the film – and when he’s missing, you can feel the momentum sag. He plays the part of Miguel, a lonely man who lives in this huge castle by himself and two servants. When Marta (played by the lovely Austrian actress Marisa Mell) shows up unexpectedly on his massive estate looking for her missing sister, he basically imprisons her in his mansion. Mell has the challenge of playing a dual role- one of Marta and also Pilar, Miguel’s wife, in flashback. Boyd shows some amazing range of acting in this movie. He is kind of a Norman Bates like character with some sort of incestuous hidden past with his dead mother, but he acts fairly normal on the outside. Naturally, he is attracted to Marta, and the love scenes played out between the two became great magazine content for the Italian and Spanish risque movie magazines. They are some of the most beautifully filmed love scenes Boyd ever did. By the end of the movie, Boyd’s character begins to unravel as he struggles with impotence and horrifying memories of incest coming back to life as his love for Marta grows.Then he reveals the true depth of his insanity – he has killed and ‘buried’ his wife and mother in some old suits of armor that stand in a huge heraldry room in his mansion. The best part of this movie is the obvious sexual tension that’s going on between Mell and Boyd – both on camera and off. (See https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/stephen-boyd-and-marisa-mell/) for more about the real life love affair between Boyd and Mell). Stephen and Mell both look stunning and sexy in this movie, and the scenery, which was actually filmed at the Castle of Viñuelas outside of Madrid, adds to the Gothic, seductive atmosphere. The soundtrack by Italian composer Piero Piccioni has a perfectly dreamy quality to it as well, including the Euro-pop theme song “Right or Wrong.”. There are two versions of this movie out there and fortunately both are in English featuring the actual voices of Boyd and Mell. There is the edited USA version, and the unedited European version with the extended sex scenes and nudity (www.trashpalace.com has both versions available for purchase), but neither have been officially released. Hopefully someday a restored Blu-ray will be coming out!
Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell during a break in the filming of the movie ‘Marta’, directed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde, 1970, Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images).
Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell during a break in the filming of the movie ‘Marta’, directed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde, 1970, Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images).
Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell during the filming of the movie ‘Marta’, Directed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde, 1970, Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images).
Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell during a break in the filming of the movie ‘Marta’, Directed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde, 1970, Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images).
Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell during the a break in the filming of the movie ‘Marta”, Directed by Jose Antonio Nieves Conde, 1970, Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images).
“The Great Swindle” or “Historia de una traición” was Stephen’s second movie with both director Jose Antonio Nieves Conde and actress Marisa Mell. They had all collaborated a few months earlier on the gothic Giallo thriller “Marta” in 1970. The spectacular seaside exteriors were filmed in Asturias, on the north coast of Spain.
“The Great Swindle” has a few Giallo elements as well, but also a mix of deception and a crazy love triangle with a lesbian twist. Stephen’s screen time is more limited than either “Marta” or “Casa Manchada”, but it is a pivotal role and an interesting character. Stephen plays a con artist Arturo who preys on women to gain their trust and eventually blackmail them. Marisa Mell plays a complex character Carla who leads a seemingly double life. She initially falls for Arturo, until she discovers his scheme to blackmail her. Her wish to gain the love of another woman Nora, played by the lovely Sylva Koscina, teams her up with Stephen’s character in a double con and eventually leads to a murder. The movie definitely has the feel of high quality, Euro-trash-exploitation flick. I think it’s gorgeously filmed. There are so many different versions of this film floating around out there of varying quality. There is a Spanish version, an Italian version, and an English version with Greek subtitles. I have found a decent English version, but be-warned–it is not Stephen’s voice, nor Marisa’s voice. Apparently when it came time to dub this movie, Stephen and Marisa had left town and they had to get two other actors to fill in the dialogue, which is disappointing, since hearing them both on screen again would certainly enhance the pleasure of watching this movie. During the production of this film, Stephen and Marisa were beginning what was to be a very passionate albeit short lived love affair which would be emotionally and spiritually challenging for both of them. You can certainly tell in this film, when Stephen and Marisa are on screen together, that there is a very highly charged, underlying element of passion between them. There is a glow about the two of them that makes you realize they are both very much in love with each other at this time. For more about Marisa and Stephen, see https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/stephen-boyd-and-marisa-mell/
Stephen Boyd worked with only one director multiple times- and it happened to be Spanish director José Antonio Nieves during the 1970’s. Of all directors, I think José Antonio Nieves had a real sense of Stephen on screen (along with William Wyler,of course), and when filming Stephen he allowed him to be both quier, brooding and emotional in a way Stephen could never be in his early work. Because of being so attuned to Boyd, I think José Antonio Nieves directed Stephen in some of his best work – particularly “Marta” and “Casa Manchada”. Unfortunately many of Stephen’s movies with José Antonio Nieves are very hard to find, but they are out there. I particularly encourage people to get “Casa Manchada” on Amazon Spain! This is one of Stephen’s best roles- ever. Now, the movie is completely dubbed in Spanish, but this does not detract from Stephen’s performance. It was most likely filmed in 1974 or 1975. Stephen has shed the shaggy hair and western mustache for a very sophisticated look. He looks younger than he had in years and very handsome in the 1930’s outfits. The story revolves around Stephen, who plays Alvaro, and his male ancestors (also portrayed by Stephen in flashbacks) who all meet violent deaths at the hands of Spanish revolutionaries. The story is based on a novel by Emilio Romero. Alvaro is married, but falls in love with a girl Laura, played by Sara Lezana, who he finds mysteriously abandoned on his vast estate, Casa Manchada. (This plot line is similar to “Marta”). After carrying on this affair, his wife soon finds out, and banishes the girl, claiming back her husband. Alvaro is not pleased, but after his wife dies, he falls into a deep gloom. Only a distant relative, Rosa, played by the gorgeous Paula Senatore, can break his mood and he soon falls in love with her and they marry. But shortly thereafter, Alvaro meets his destiny – just like his ancestors – and dies at the hands of new revolutionaries. It is beautifully filmed, and the score is heart-wrenching. The wintry, dry Spanish scenery is equally impressive. According to IMDB ths movie was filmed in Cebreros, Ávila, Castilla y León, Balaeric Islands Spain . It is a very romantic movie, and maybe one of Stephen’s best romantic roles as his character tries to juggle three different relationships with women and confront his own dark destiny. His acting covers the gamut from pained, happy, brooding, in lust and in love, and once again, José Antonio Nieves does a beautiful job of filming all the actors with perfect lighting and angles. This film is a very quiet masterpiece.