Written by: Melissa Kusia on July 20th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1969
Director: Piero Schivazappa
Writers: Paolo Levi, Piero Schivazappa,Giuseppe Zaccariello
Cast: Philippe Leroy, Dagmar Lassander
DVD Released: July 18th, 2000
Approximate Running Time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: First Run Features
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
With a style that is reminiscent of erotica guru, Radley Metzger, it is hard to believe that he did not direct The Frightened Woman. However, one can see why Metzger chose to release the film under his company Audubon Films. Imagine sets that are similar to Camille 2000, a sensual score by Stelvio Cipriani, and the perversity (though not nearly as extreme) of the Marquis de Sade combined in one film.
The plot, though explored many times in more explicit films, concerns the complex that men and women have to be the “stronger” sex. Maria is a young reporter that plans to cover a story about the sterilization of men in other countries; however, she needs to visit the home of wealthy Dr. Sayer to gather the information that she needs. Once at his home, they carry on a conversation (one that leads into an argument) about the concept of male sterilization. Naturally, Maria supports the idea and Sayer deems her “mad.” Through the course of their conversation, Maria has no idea that her cocktail has been drugged. Upon passing out, she becomes the subject of Sayer’s perverse and sadistic physical and mental games.
I will say that the film is not explicit in its exploration of warped sexuality. It is what isn’t scene that is actually more effective. There is some nudity, but nothing over the top. However, it isn’t the use of nudity but the sexual games that make this film truly satisfying and worth repeat viewings. I am almost inclined to say that at first The Frightened Woman appears to take the psychological horror turn. In a sense, I suppose that it does temporarily take that path. The true clincher is the curve ball ending. Though some viewers may see it coming, I certainly didn’t. There are some very memorable images conceived, however, that somewhat compensate for the lack of luster. The images that immediately pop to mind are a rubber doll of Sayer that he makes Maria “make love” to, a slide show of women that have been tortured and killed in various ways, a mannequin that is suspended from the ceiling in a very painful looking S&M costume, Maria dancing to a very catchy tune in a gauze costume, and a large metal vagina with a Venus Fly Trap mouth. Images such as these are what really give this film style and originality.
The Frightened Woman is in its original aspect ratio unfortunately it hasn’t been anamorphic enhancement since the transfer would have greatly benefited from this. The picture is soft at times as colors are muted and flesh tones look unnatural. The English dubbed audio shows some wear and tear, still it never takes away from ones enjoyment while watching this movie. Outside of the films original trailer this DVD is a barebones affair. Though the plot isn’t the most original, it does have a very pop art feel to it that makes it one of the best erotic film of the 1960s. Unfortunately, the vivid colors that were originally intended to be highly saturated in the film have been washed out by age. Thus, a really pristine and uncut copy of the film has yet to surface. The 1960s was quiet a decade for erotic European cinema, however, only handful truly stand out as the “gems” of the genre. For me, The Frightened Woman will always be one of Italy’s finest sensual films. It isn’t a film to be turned on by; however, it offers a mental orgasm with its images of perversity. My only complaints are that a clearer print of the film has yet to be released and that the soundtrack is out of print. Though I was lucky enough to get a copy, this is one of Stelvio Cipriani’s finest scores and it deserves to be experienced.