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Born in Forlì, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, Neri was regarded for her beauty even in youth, winning a beauty pageant when she was still young. Eventually pursuing an acting career, she attended il Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (The Center for Experimental Cinematography). She also received an offer to attend the Actors Studio in the United States, but did not accept.
Early film career
She gave her film debut in 1958 in the film Mogli pericolose. She is uncredited in this comedy which was directory by Luigi Comencini. Her second part was in Roberto Rosselini's prize winning drama Era notte a Roma in 1960. Many sources list some earlier films for her, but this is a confusion with an other Italian actress, Rosalina Neri.
In 1960, she appeared in two sword and sandal films set in the Ancient world. The first was Il Sepolcro dei Re (The Tomb of the King). This film tells the story of Nemorat, an Egyptian pharaoh who was instrumental in the creation of the pyramids of Giza due to the intrigues surrounding his death and entombment.
The second was Raoul Walsh's Esther and the King, starring Joan Collins as the Biblical Jewish Queen. Rosalba played Keresh and was assassinated by someone who mistook her for the Queen. Because of her dark, sultry beauty, Rosalba was often a natural fit to play certain legendary characters. She was Ramses’ intended bride in the Hercules Adventure, Il leone di Tebe (The Lion of Thebes) in 1966. She played Delilah, the Biblical beauty who was the downfall of the Old Testament hero, Samson, in I Grandi Condottieri (The Great Guides).
Although starring roles were few and far between for Rosalba, she worked steadily throughout the 60s and 70s in supporting and sometimes, nondescript roles, such as her turn as a harem girl in (1961’s) El Cid.
Rosalba also had quite a few roles in Eurospy intrigue films, often playing a less than saintly character. She was Faddja in 1965’s Il Superseven Chiama Cairo (Superseven Calls on Cairo), one of the dangerous ‘women’ that the spy, a James Bond-like character, comes into contact with. Also in 1965, she appeared in Due Mafiosi contro Goldfinger (Two Mafiosi Against Goldfinger). Here she was credited as Sara Bay and played a character called “The Secretary.”
In 1967, she was Amalia in Password: Uccidete Agente Gordon (Password: Kill Agent Gordon). The same year she played her first part for Spanish director Jess Franco in a spy film send-up done in comic book style Lucky, el intrépido (Lucky the Inscrutable) starring Ray Danton.
She had roles in several 19 spaghetti westerns over the years. In 1965’s, Dinamite Jim, she played Margaret; and, in ’67 she was Rosita in Emimmo Salvi’s Wanted: Johnny Texas. That year she also appeared in Johnny Yuma, which was directed by Romolo Guerrieri followed by Long Days of Hate.
Rosalba, the bombshell, was also much in demand for erotic Giallo thrillers, horror, and sexploitation films. She was in Jess Franco’s box office hit 99 Women (1969), one of the first women in prison films, and Top Sensation (The Seducers) (1969) opposite Edwige Fenech. In 1972 she played Farley Granger’s wife in Alla Ricerca del piacere (Amuck, aka Leather & Whips). Granger plays a wealthy author who hires a beautiful secretary (Barbara Bouchet) and engages in kinky sex games with her and his wife. Also in 1972 she played the lead role in the erotic horror flick Lucifera Demon Lover.
Bouchet and Neri would team up in another movie combining sex with horror, Casa d’appuntamento (French Sex Murders, 1972). A jewel thief is accused of murdering a prostitute but is decapitated in a motorcycle accident prior to the trial. When those involved in the trial start dying, everyone wonders if the dead man has come back to exact a little revenge.
Perhaps Rosalba’s best-known films are from the horror genre. This is also where she is often credited as Sara Bay (or Bey), much to her fans’ chagrin. She played Tania Frankenstein, the daughter of the monster’s creator, in 1972’s Lady Frankenstein. Tania was willing to take her father’s work to new – and frightening – levels. It’s considered a “B” movie classic. She also played Lady Dracula, a vampire who uses the ring of Dracula to lure young virgins to her home so she can murder them and bathe in their blood (à la the medieval Countess Elizabeth of Báthory). The film, which was directed by Luigi Batzella, is often referred to as The Devil's Wedding Night. The Italian name is Il Plenilunio dell Vergini (the Full Moon of the Virgins).
Neri would appear in a few more films with English titles such as: No Way Out (1973), Loving Cousins (1974) and Blood River (1977), which is her last credited film. In 1985 she did appear in the Italian miniseries Olga e I suoi figli (Olga and her children).