In the quiet Thames-side village where she lived with her diplomat husband, Darrell (RICHARD TODD), and her two school-age children, Michael (MARTIN STEPHENS) and Debby (ELIZABETH DEAR), the last person who might have been suspected of plunging into a passionate love affair is Moira Clavering (MAUREEN O'HARA). Yet when a Festival of Arts is held in the community, and famed and gifted Italian composer Lorenzo Tassara (ROSSANO BRAZZI) attends to receive a gold medal to honor him, Moira senses him to be the one man on earth who can make her forget everything that has been important in her life. And Lorenzo sets out to confirm this feeling, for since the death of his young wife many years before, he has concentrated solely on his career and has not opened his heart to another woman.
After her first surrender in a dawn tryst, Moira now must face the need to tell her husband. Confronted with a situation beyond his control, Darrell decides that the sole way to handle the matrimonial crisis is to have Moira go to Italy with her lover.
At the Villa Fiorita, Lorenzo's luxurious and sun-drenched home on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda, the lovers' dream-like pre-honeymoon begins. Basking in Lorenzo's adoration and generosity Moira is transformed from a quietly attractive village woman into a creature of elegance and beauty, one who is radiantly and unashamedly in love for the first time in her life.
In England, however, the children have been given a severely edited report of their mother's disappearance. When their father leaves on a diplomatic mission, Michael and Debby discuss the situation, decide it is not to their liking and resolve to travel to Italy to bring Moira home. To raise money for the expedition, they sell Debby's pony and Michael's coin collection. They make their way to Dover, Calais, Paris and the Alps and burst into the Villa Fiorita like a couple of starving vagrants who are also determined to regain their mother. Thus "the battle of the Villa Fiorita" is joined.
Which side will win - lovers or children? For Moira's two youngsters now find an ally in Lorenzo's disapproving daughter, Donna (OLIVIA HUSSEY). The last portion of the conflict involves humor, pathos and near-tragedy as the children become fiercer in their resolve to destroy the lovers' relationship, and Moira and Lorenzo struggle to preserve their happiness. The tide of the battle flows and ebbs, and then a night of terror for all concerned brings a solution."
"I love the movie and was surprised by Maureen O'Hara, who usually plays a feisty, stubborn character In this she is soft and vulnerable, more malleable in accepting advice from her male counterpart. The children, on whom the plot depends a great deal, are quite wonderful. Martin Stephens (who you may recall was Rossano's son in "Count Your Blessings") as O'Hara's son struck just the right note between obnoxious adolescent and wise older brother. The daughters of the pair were sweet, adorable and obstinate and willful, all the things most twelve year olds are. What a multi-faceted actor Rossano is! First so deliciously happy with his new-found love. Later he is wise and firm in his theories about children and how to deal with their demands. At the end he loses control, becomes totally frustrated and goes out to "get royally drunk". One hopes for a happy ending, but as in so many of Rossano's movies, it is impossible." Connie Liss, New Jersey
"Martin Stephens, a veteren actor, recently completed his 14th motion picture role ... and promptly announced he was ready to retire from the acting profession -- at the age of fifteen... now, Martin plans a new career, as an architect. He must first pass his examinations for Advanced Level School, essential for university entrance in England. Thus ... Martin plans to retire from acting to emphasize schooling."
Naturally, we're certain that your next question will be: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MARTIN STEPHENS? Did he pass his examinations? Did he make it to University? Were his dreams of being an architect fulfilled??? Or did he follow in the footsteps of so many other child actors and sink into a cesspool of depression, juvenile delinquency, drug-addled mindlessness and emotional despair ...???
Hardly. Paul Parla, a journalist for Euromovie, conducted an interview with the now 47-year old Martin for their August-September 1996 issue:
"Today, Martin is a very successful European architect and also teaches Vipassena Meditation around the world. When Martin was asked to reflect on his life in the movies, he was all too obliging ...
"... Soon after I returned to England, I was given the part of Sigismon in Count Your Blessings (1959) which was filmed in Paris and Hollywood. It was a pleasure to work with Deborah Kerr, Maurice Chevalier (to whom I gave a 70th birthday present of a tie) and Mono Washbourne I, but despite other well known names such as Rossano Brazzi and Ronald Squires, he film was poor and not a patch on Nancy Mitford's book, "The Blessing". I still loved the traveling despite suffering from exhaustion in Paris and my father joined us for a little while during the Paris shoot. It was good to see him while I was working there, but this was to be the last film he would join us on. He died of cancer two years later."
As the interview specifically focused on Martin's more famous role, from Village of the Damned, his memories of working with Rossano again on "Battle of the Villa Fiorita", which came later in his career, were not discussed. So, Martin WAS a graduate (and a successful one at that) ...Some Quotes From the Pressbook
It may have been that a good number of quotes (most of them in Italian, none of them quotable, or even printable) went through Rossano's mind at this point ... but it may also have been that Rossano was the most charming, gregarious actor on the set that day. But even if he was, you'd never know it from the Pressbook!About Delmar Daves Flying Camera Crane