It’s Nothing Mama, Just a Game Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: November 9, 2021
Audio: English and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Run Time: 88:51
Director: José María Forqué
Juan (David Hemmings) is a young hacienda-owner who abuses women, due to his traumatic upbringing. His late father was a sadistic tyrant who treated the women who worked on his estates as his personal property. After his father's death, Juan begins to act out his own twisted fantasies. The locals are powerless to stop his violence as their livelihood depends on work from the estate. Juan's mother, Louise (Alida Valli), tries to cover his crimes, but Juan has his eyes set on the beautiful daughter of one of the workers (Andrea Rau). (From Mondo Macabro’s official synopsis)
Following a categorical Spanish giallo called In the Eye of the Hurricane (Spanish: El ojo del huracán; aka: The Fox with a Velvet Tail, 1971) and the giallo-adjacent Game of Murder (Spanish: Tarot, 1973), José María Forqué made his most controversial thriller It's Nothing Mama, Just a Game (Spanish: No es nada, mamá, sólo un juego; aka: Beyond Erotica and Lola, 1974), a Most Dangerous Game riff (so-named for Richard Connell’s 1924 short story about a bored big game hunter who stalks human beings on an isolated island) steeped in post-’60s sexual politics. Unlike most human-hunting movies, it’s not, strictly speaking, a horror movie or an action film, but a psychodrama-cum-sexploitation movie with a dash of rape/revenge. Like so many psychodramas of the preceding decade, this particular psychotic protagonist has a very unhealthy relationship with his parents.
As a Spanish-flavored combination of Most Dangerous Game and Psycho starring inescapable English, Italian, and German actors with obvious Hitchcockian and giallo influences, It’s Nothing Mama is a thoroughly European, high-brow exploitation picture. Its extensively subversive nature is especially of note, as well, considering it was released only a year after General Franco’s fascist regime had ended and filmed on-location in Venezuela, where it frequently acknowledges Spain’s history of colonization. Most Dangerous Game movies are, by design, about class warfare. They are hyperbolic expressions of how rich people exploit the downtrodden. The intricacies of politics, sociology, and economics are boiled down to one simple idea: the wealthy kill the poor for sport. Thanks to its location, the power dynamics of its characters, and its script-flipping denouement, It’s Nothing Mama is more prudent about its social messages than, say, the bug-eyed extremes of Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Turkey Shoot (aka: Escape 2000 and Blood Camp Thatcher, 1982), in which affluent grotesques get their pick of dystopian prison camp victims to hunt (by the way, an uncredited David Hemmings acted as Trenchard-Smith’s second unit director on that film).
But, just because the idea of an aristocratic psychopath preying upon his family’s workforce is a prudent metaphor doesn’t mean that Forqué isn’t also prodding the limits of good taste. In fact, the credibility of the situation ends up magnifying the sleaziness of the proceedings, making It’s Nothing Mama feel more exploitative than the far bloodier, but also sillier Turkey Shoot. The film’s focus on Juan’s cruelty over gore (the majority of his “games” are about humility and his on-screen bodycount is minimal) magnifies the issue and the portrayals of violence tend to feel more objectionable due to their coldness, their less intense frequency, and uncomfortable ways that Forqué conflates violence with sex, as well as the estate’s rabbit slaughtering industry. For the record, there are a lot of dead rabbits in this movie (though none are killed on screen) and brief footage of a cockfight, so beware if you’re sensitive to that type of thing, you might want to stay away.
It’s Nothing Mama, Just a Game was first released on North American VHS via Prism Entertainment under the title Beyond Erotica. It was otherwise unseen on digital home video until Mondo Macabro got ahold of it and created a brand new transfer from a 4K scan of the original film negative. This 1.85:1, 1080p transfer was first released via limited edition Blu-ray this summer and is now available on standard edition Blu-ray. Visually/quality-wise, it is similar to the studio’s other recent Spanish genre releases. There are slight posterization effects and the grain levels are occasionally inconsistent, but you really have to look close to see any problems. The scan is tidy, staying true to the stylishly raw qualities of cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa’s photography. Edges are a little soft, but element separation is impressive, even when neutral hues and shadows are overlapping, and the sparingly used brighter colors pop against the sunbaked locations and interiors.
It’s Nothing Mama, Just a Game is presented with English and Spanish dub options, each in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. In terms of overall sound quality, the two tracks are practically identical. Effects are more evenly layered than the average Spanish genre film from the period and neither mix overwhelms the subtlety of either dialogue or music. I assume both tracks are dubbed, though there are moments where Hemmings, who performs all of his own English language dialogue, appears to be recorded live, based on the echoey quality of his dialogue not matching the quality of other actors within a handful of scenes. Either way, I’d recommend the English track over the Spanish one, because much of the lead cast is speaking English on set, even if they aren’t dubbing themselves. Composer Adolfo Waitzman’s catchy, jazzy score helps establish the film’s off-kilter tone, pairing bleak cruelty with whimsical music. The score is clean on either track and includes some surprisingly strong bass.
Commentary with Kat Ellinger – The author of Devil’s Advocate: Daughters of Darkness (Auteur Publishing/Liverpool University Press, 2018) and co-host of the Daughters of Darkness podcast (with Samm Deighan) offers up some much needed history and context in this commentary track. There simply isn’t a lot of behind-the-scenes information out there, so Ellinger’s hard work is appreciated. Discussion includes the film’s production, Forqué’s other work, possible inspirations, the awkward international release (some countries sold it as a serious thriller, others as a sexploitation film), and the socio-political environment the film was released into (post-Franco Spain, as well as the rest of Europe).
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely (18:23, HD) – Critic Chris O'Neill covers David Hemmings’ career in film from early British B-movies through big budget appearances and later “globe-trotting,” unique genre work, production, and direction. It includes pertinent clips and trailers from his movies and delves slightly deeper into his experience on It’s Nothing Mama.
Alternate Spanish title sequence (6:44, HD)
Beyond Erotica video trailer and Lola US theatrical trailer
Mondo Macabro trailer reel
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.