The Frightened Woman (1969)
(Aka, Femina Ridens)
Director: Piero Schivazappa
Cast: Dagmar Lassander, Phillip Leroy
Eager to have a newspaper article finished over the weekend, a journalist, Maria (Dagmar Lassander) goes to the office of a sadistic, misogynist, serial killer doctor, where he drugs her, kidnaps, and takes her off to his secluded mansion.
Maria is forced to make love to a rubber doppelganger of her captor, and forced to be his slave, obeying his every command. He relishes in the suffering of his prisoner, watching the fear on her face as he shows her photographs of his previous victims at the moment of their demise.
She tries to talk him into letting her help him, help him to be a normal, to try and have a normal relationship with a lover. But he fails to fall for this life saving stratagem of hers. So he continues to torture her mentally and physically until, after one of his mind torture sessions, this culminates in her taking an overdose of pills. He revives her from this and from here everything changes and the truth comes out.
He breaks down and succumbs to Maria’s enchantment and here the balance of power changes. They continue from here in what progresses as a normal relationship between two lovers. A drive in the country, photographs under a blue sky, a nice drive in the lake (did I mention their car floats?) and consensual passionate togetherness.
Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! What you think is just a kidnap, torture, and eventual love story, turns around and give you a wonderful kick in the ass.
A serial killer that kills his lovers at the moment of their orgasm, is a character straight out of a Marquis de Sade Novel, this character would have fitted perfectly in 120 days of Sodom, Justine, or several other of De Sade’s novels. Whisking his captive away to a secluded mansion (a Sadean chateau!) as in 120 Days of Sodom, and torturing her to satiate his own desires. Maria is like a used and abused Justine or one of the many prisoners/slaves in 120 Days.
When Dagmar is dancing half naked, the Goblinesque soundtrack is funky as hell and straight out of Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (1975). Which has totally confused me as this film preceded it by 6 years! Argento must have known of this film, and been fond of it, for the soundtrack in Profondo Rosso to mirror the piece of music in this one so exactly!
I am sorry that I cannot tell you the ending, and any reviewer who does, should NOT be getting paid for his job! There have to be some surprises left in cinema, and this is certainly one that has to be found out by the viewer through watching the film not reading about it. Just take my word that you’d hate me for it if I spoilt it for you, and that whatever price you pay to see this movie, it’s worth twice as much!
It is so rare to get a twist in the tail that you are not expecting, and this film certainly gives you one. Most films with a big twist in the tail/tale, I almost always work it out way before the end of the movie, but this one caught me totally by surprise. And even when I watched again recently, even though I knew basically what happened at the end, I had forgotten just how it did happen, and it still got me good this time too.
Piero Schivazappa also directed Serena Grandi in Lady of the Night (1986)
Released in the UK by Redemption/Salvation Films.
Review by Giovanni Pistachio, Giovanni can be contacted at: –
© Owned Giovanni Pistachio.