Eleven Days, Eleven Nights (1987)
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Starring Jessica Moore, Joshua McDonald, Mary Sellers
Release Date: March 27, 1987
Michael is an architect who seems to have it all. He’s got good looks, a career designing buildings in New Orleans, and an engagement to the lovely Helen who idolizes him. It’s not until he meets Sarah that he realizes something is missing. What he thinks will be a one-and-done last fling with a mysterious stranger quickly spirals into a torrid game of cat-and-mouse, sending Michael deeper and deeper into depravity.
ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS remains, 35 years later, one of Joe D’Amato’s most successful features. It is also one of the least typical of his style. Though beginning his career in Spaghetti Westerns, D’Amato was best known for some of the most depraved sexploitation potboilers of the 70s, including the legendary Black Emanuelle series. But, smutty travelogues and globe-trotting shenanigans were out of fashion by the 1980s, and D’Amato had to adapt. ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS is pitched at capturing both the couples market and the Skinemax set. It dances around the edges of the sordid rather than diving in the deep end, expanding the potential audience. The film is safe for the novice who wants 90 minutes of vicarious transgression, and provides a level of mystery and imagination for those more used to the seamier side of the D’Amato filmography.
The story plays out like a gender-reversed 91/2 WEEKS. After Michael and Sarah’s first tryst, we discover that Sarah is an author working on a tawdry memoir about her first 100 conquests. She chooses Michael for no other reason than he’s there, and because she’s only got 99 lovers in her back pocket and needs to complete the set to complete her book. Where Black Emanuelle was a libertine, Sarah is an opportunist. The cynical way she seduces Michael, and the increasingly-sordid sex games she leads him into, fit right into the Yuppie “me first” outlook of the era. Is Sarah as cold as we are meant to believe? The nuanced performance of our lead actress says otherwise, but we’ll swing back around to the excellent cast in a moment.
ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS is glorious to look at. D’Amato makes excellent use of his New Orleans locations, with the city practically becoming its own character. The interiors also don’t appear to be film sets but real apartments and offices, and they pop with gaudy 1980s glory. While the film can sometimes appear a bit like the cast of Dynasty has wandered into a glossy Massengill commercial, there is no denying the 80s glamour of it all.
The sexual scenes are likely to be divisive among genre fans. While the setups promise sleaze, the execution is mostly tease. Still, the love scenes are arousing even if they don’t push the boat out as far as they might have done.
Just like the Hollywood hit ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS is emulating, there is a memorable “honey scene.” In a bit of vanilla-flavored S&M, Sarah ties Michael to a post and rubs honey over his body (something that looks sexier than it probably feels, frankly). She then abandons him there – alone and helpless. The scene is interesting as it turns the conventions of sex cinema upside down. Sarah is clearly the one in control, and once Michael has given in it is seen as a liberating experience rather than an emasculating one.
This thread is picked up, though not always followed through on, at various points in the film. There is a cross-dressing scene that I had really hoped would be moment that the film stopped tap dancing around the edge and took the leap. After a promising start it progresses to a pretty standard love scene. More successfully, there is a very subtle moment with a dab of Vaseline that is played exceedingly well. It’s a “did that just happen?” moment that is one of the film’s delicious little intrigues. The moment depends solely on the actors’ non-verbal cues, planting the seed without overstatement.
Geared towards a suburbanite cable audience, the film’s not-quite-in-your-face approach could be something that gets viewers thinking about trying something new in the bedroom. In an early scene, Michael arrives at Sarah’s pad for a roll in the hay, only to find that she isn’t there. Instead, she has left him a sexy video of herself. Michael is not amused, tossing the remote control aside and declaring that simply watching doesn’t do it for him. Perhaps this is D’Amato’s wink to the viewer, reminding them that sex film theory is all very well, but no substitute for real-world practice?
D’Amato lucked out with a cast who add a lot of meat to the bones of the narrative. Character motivation and development doesn’t seem to have concerned the scriptwriters (genre regulars Rosella Drudi and Claudio Fragasso) much. It’s not that there wasn’t time for it, the film has a very languid pace, it simply isn’t there in the script. Fortunately, ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS is elevated by the actors bringing it to life, far beyond the barren scripting.
Jessica Moore (born Luciana Ottaviani in 1967) had a brief but memorable career in European sex and horror pictures. Just 19 while filming ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS, she has a worldliness far beyond her years. She’s never just a voluptuous mannequin, she inhabits this role, giving us a lot more than the script gives her. The same can be said of our male lead, Joshua McDonald. He is given little motivation in the text, but has expressive eyes that display Michael’s increasing addiction to Sarah and dissatisfaction with his workaday life quite well.
Supporting the pair is the very talented Mary Sellers, star of dozens of films and television programs. Her role as Michael’s fiancée is written as a lovelorn doormat, but Sellers succeeds in gaining our sympathy with a strong performance. She really sells Helen’s sadness and desperation as she realizes that Michael is slipping away from her. The cherry on top is D’Amato’s frequent star Laura Gemser, Black Emanuelle herself, who is on hand as Sarah’s publisher and confidante. She remains draped, but is as lovely as ever in this unbilled appearance.
The film’s pace picks up a bit of steam as it moves into its final stretch. Sarah begins to realize that her games have evolved into an addiction, which will have disastrous consequences for all of the players. The only way out is to devise one final, cold-hearted game. The last few minutes of ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS are its best, though the screenwriters did take a bit too long in getting there, leaving it all a bit rushed. The ending is more than a little pat, but it’s a fitting one. With the film being aimed at an audience likely less exposed to sex films, it needs a safe and sane ending to place them back into their own sphere after their nibble at the forbidden. This isn’t a criticism, it’s a wise move on the part of D’Amato. This new couples-centered direction ensured commercial success.
ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS is best judged by what it is trying to be, rather than what it could have been. It does the job it came here to do, to arouse the viewer with a neat-and-tidy package of forbidden lust, and looks incredible doing it. A sequel was filmed the same year, being known alternatively as both ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS 2 (not to be confused with the 1991 film of the same title…it’s a long story) and the more common title TOP MODEL. The sequel matched the first film for style. However, it lacked some of the emotional touches of the original, which stands up to repeated viewings. For a trip back in time to a youth spent sneaking into the living room to catch skin flicks on cable, you can’t do much better than ELEVEN DAYS, ELEVEN NIGHTS. Highly Recommended.
Below you’ll find a re-edited (to make it safe for our YouTube channel) trailer, a photo gallery, and a selection of tracks from the film’s soundtrack.
Selections from the Soundtrack
Music by Piero Montanari
Lyrics by Leonie Gane
Click any image to see it in full.