From Pumping Gas to Pasolini

Sicily, 1973, a hot day. Sixteen year old Franco Merli is pumping gas. A car pulls up, Pier Paolo Pasolini is inside. He’s looking for a young man; Mediterranean, strong, virile, but innocent seeming, to star in his next film, Arabian NightsHe offers Franco the roll of Nur Ed Din.

Nur Ed Din is a kind hearted, absent minded young man who is chosen (to his amazement) by a beautiful slave girl, Zumurrud, (played by Ines Pellegrini, who also hadn’t acted before) to be her master. She teaches him about sex, he falls in love, she is abducted by an evil blue eyed man. Nur Ed Din sobs, roaming the country in search of her. Zumurrud escapes her blue eyed captor and poses as a man and becomes a prince in a faraway kingdom. Nur Ed Din finds himself at the castle and Prince Zumurrud makes him “his” concubine. Nur Ed Din of course doesn’t recognize the Prince at all and… well, see what happens next in this video:


Above, Nur Ed Din full of remorse for not having taken his love’s warning of the blue eyed man seriously.

Franco Merli went on to act in several other films, among them Salò or The 120 Days of Sodom, which is still banned in several countries to this day.


A famous scene in the film where they cut out Franco’s tongue (all the actors used their own names).

After Pasolini was murdered, Franco was without his mentor which made it difficult for him to get work. It also didn’t help his career that the most highly publicized images of Salò featured Franco naked on all fours, wearing a dog collar. By the ’80s he was off the radar completely. But not forgotten!