La Celestina (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is the second time in a week I have run into DVD censorship. In the case of The Intended, chunks of Janet McTeer nudity had been snipped from the film. In the case of La Celestina, the frames are all there, but all the pubic hair has been blurred out!! (See an example to the right.)

As was the case with The Intended, the censorship of La Celestina is a tragedy for celebrity nudity buffs, since the sexiest Spanish señorita of them all, Maribel Verdu, performed one of the sexiest scenes ever recorded on camera. She asks an old witch-lady for advice with her "woman's problems," whereupon she is subjected to an impromptu gyno exam, which turns into an admiration session. A young man, watching in the wings as part of the old woman's plot, is so inflamed by the sight that he jumps upon Verdu. She is perfectly happy with the situation, and they engage in an incredibly hot sex scene, one of the fifty best of all time.

La Celestina is an interpretation of one of the first novels ever written, the Spanish-language "Libro de Calisto y Melibea y de la puta vieja Celestina" (pub. 1499). Although almost nothing is known about its author, this work alone makes him an important literary figure who predated the works of Cervantes by a century. "La Celestina" is generally considered to have ended the medieval period in Spain and thus to have jump-started the Spanish Renaissance. The Celestina character has subsequently become a literary archetype. As Wikipedia points out, "The name Celestina has become synonymous with procuress — especially an old woman."

Typical of the period, the story is a melodrama. A nobleman is in love with a chaste maiden. To assist in the matchmaking, his two man-servants enlist the aid of a scheming old witch/madam called La Celestina. Her conniving produces the desired results: the maiden falls in love with the nobleman. Their joy is short-lived, however. Trouble soon begins when the nobleman rewards Celestina for her efforts but slights the servants. When the two men demand a share of the spoils from Celestina, she refuses and they kill her. Celestina's friends blame the nobleman for her death, and ... well ... tragedy ensues. The whole mess ends with the now-defiled maiden, having lost her beloved, throwing herself from the battlements of a castle, but not before making a long, dramatic speech to her mother below. Not content with ending the story with one long monologue, the author has the maiden's father, after having nearly made it to the top of the castle in time to save the girl, shout his own post-climactic monologue from the rafters downward to his dead daughter and aloft to heaven.

What can I tell you? It was a different age. The people of the time thought this was some major league entertainment, and it was widely enjoyed by the six people in Spain who were literate in 1499, five of whom were monks, the other presumably being the author, Fernando de Rojas ...

 ... unless he was dictating to one of the monks.

The filmed 1996 version features some of Spain's top performers, and was nominated for seven Goyas. Tellingly, it did not win any Goyas, and was not nominated for Best Picture, nor for the screenplay, nor direction. Four of the nominations were for visual presentation (costume, set design, make-up, cinematography) and three for performances. Think costume melodrama.

The DVD presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen rendering, with the audio in flowery old Spanish and the subtitles in flowery old English. The DVD transfer is not especially good, and there is a significant problem with motion blur and interlacing.  The only saving grace of the DVD is that the special features include a promotional short which includes some of the Maribel Verdu nudity (but not the best frames) without the pesky censorship.

Although this interpretation of the story probably lacks the subtlety which the original author might have preferred, I would have enjoyed the experience if the disk had been uncensored with a better transfer. The film is OK: it's visually rich, it has some charismatic performers, it contains some welcome comic relief, and the sex is very sexy. I can't recommend this particular DVD, but I probably would recommend the film itself if somebody would issue a solid transfer without the blurring.

Pictured to the right:

For reasons not quite clear to me, Maribel Verdu seems to be in a 1996 Spanish movie discussing matters with Justin Timberlake



  • The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced, but is not especially good.
  • There is a promotional film and a trailer
  • NOT recommended.



  • Maribel Verdu - breasts and pubes.

  • Candela Peña - breasts and bum

  • Penelope Cruz - cleavage and a hint of areola

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews on file

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.4/10, a pretty low score for a film with seven Goya nominations.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C, an overwrought melodrama based on a 15th century story, but also a multiple Goya nominee of interest to fans of Spanish cinema, literary adaptations, or cinema nudity. There's no mainstream crossover if you are not in any of those groups, and this censored DVD is NOT recommended.

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