Their most famous collaboration comes courtesy of La Dolce Vita, but Federico Fellini and Anita Ekberg were reunited for The Temptation of Doctor Antonio, the second segment of Boccaccio ’70. The story revolves around the prudish Dr. Antonio Mazzuolo (played by Peppino De Filippo), who is scandalised by a life size billboard of Anita, whose provocative milk selling techniques offend common decency. Trying to force the removal of this offensive advert, Antonio appeals to politicians, schoolteachers and even the Church, to little avail. After all, the wholesome Anita is simply encouraging locals to drink more milk. She invades his dreams and upsets his psyche, her oversized face changing expression and attitude. Playing on Fellini’s imaginative fantasy, Anita comes to life, roaming the streets she revels in her newfound freedom. Dr. Antonio vows to rid the town of this fiendish, towering beauty, but, in an almost inevitable turn of events, becomes intoxicated by her charms.
Costume director Piero Zuffi made the most of Ekberg’s more than ample assets with a low-cut, rhinestone encrusted evening dress, complete with a daring split and a low back, accessorized with over the elbow opera gloves and statement chandelier earrings. A curvaceous blonde bombshell, Ekberg was an ideal choice for Fellini’s fantasy figure. As the poster girl, Anita embodies the essence of feminine allure, and the film provides a satirical commentary on those who loose their sense of proportion…and the dangers that await them. Antonio’s single-handed fight against sexual liberation is truly a one-man battle, and Fellini’s sense of absurd comedy is perfectly pitched as the series of increasingly ridiculous events unfold. Ekberg, both in statue and performance, quite literally steals the show.