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Salvatore Samperi dead, age 64

ENTERTAINMENT/SEX - Italian director Salvatore Samperi, best known for erotic comedies that challenged the morals of Italy's middle class, has died at age 64, his family announced Thursday. Samperi died Wednesday in his house on Lake Bracciano (50 km north of Rome), the family has declined to give the cause of the death.

Samperi's movies were a social critique of the Italian bourgeoisie, often through the lens of forbidden passions and relationships within middle-class families as a way to show what he saw as their decadence and hypocrisy.

Many critics consider "Grazie, Zia" ("Thank You, Aunt") to be his best film. In it Samperi tells the story of a rich young man who engages in a sexually charged relationship with his aunt. The movie, released in 1968, marked Samperi's directorial debut at age 24.

Samperi's biggest success came with "Malizia" ("Malice") in 1973, which turned Italian actress Laura Antonelli into an erotic icon, thanks to her role as a sexy, socially climbing maid. The movie was seen as scandalous but was also a commercial hit and became a cultural sensation.

Born in the city of Padua, Samperi briefly studied literature and philosophy before turning to erotic cinema. His career included a few flops, including a sequel to "Malizia," made about 20 years after the original.

In recent years he had worked primarily for TV. Samperi is survived by his wife and a son. A funeral is scheduled for Friday.

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