Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 25th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1970
Director: Damiano Damiani
Writers: Damiano Damiani, Enrico Ribulsi, Sofia Scandurra
Cast: Ornella Muti, Alessio Orano, Tano Cimarosa, Pierluigi Aprà, Joe Sentieri, Enzo Andronico
DVD released: October 31st, 2006
Approximate running time: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Italian, Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: A young peasant girl Francesca (Ornella Muti) is kidnapped and raped by the Mafia Don’s nephew Vito who has become infatuated with her. Francesca has no other options but to report her violation to the police when everyone in town including her own family turn their back on her out of fear towards the mafia. The police are unable to pursue any charges without any other witnesses to back up Francesca version of what went down. When given an opportunity by one of Vito’s enemies to get her revenge will Francesca take the men up on her offer or will her conflicting feelings for Vito save him from an almost certain death?
The Most Beautiful Wife is a movie about power and one man’s struggle to obtain control over the one thing he can’t control. Early on in the film we are introduced to Vito the nephew of the Don and Vito is quickly thrown into a position of power when Don and the rest of the bosses are carted off to jail. The last words the Don tells him before leaving set up the main plot point that drives the rest of the film. He tells Vito “Marry a good woman with high moral values, if she is poor even better.” From that moment on Vito makes his main goal finding such a woman and one day he finds a fourteen year old peasant girl who fits the type of woman he is looking for to be his wife.
Francesca is played with youthful exuberance by actress Ornella Muti who had no prior acting experience before accepting this role. Looking back years later on the film the casting of Ornella Muti in the lead role of Francesca would appear to a no brainier since her beauty even at this early stage of her career was crippling and one look into her eyes would lead any man to his doom. Actor Alessio Orano does a wonderful job showing off the cruel side of Vito and he is equally impressive when showing that even someone as bold and vulgar as Vito has weaknesses. It is Vito’s pursuing of Francesca that really drives the whole story. Vito starts out as the stronger of the two and by the end of them film Francesca has clearly become the more dominate of the two.
Director Damiano Damiani has always been a director who chooses interesting and at times daring subject matter. The Most Beautiful Wife fall sin line with his other great films like How to Kill a Judge, A Bullet for the General, Confessions of a Police Captain and The Devil Is a Woman. Franco Di Giacomo’s cinematography is picturesque as he perfectly frames faces and the action in such a way to gain the fullest impact. Ennio Morricone has supplied so many great score over the years one would be hard pressed to find a film he worked whose score was anything less then spectacular. Morricone’s score for The Most Beautiful Wife especially the theme motif is one of his most underrated works. Ultimately The Most Beautiful Wife despite its dark subject matter is a beautiful film to look at and absorb.
No Shame presents The Most beautiful Wife in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Once again No Shame has done a phenomenal job as colors are nicely saturated and details look razor sharp. There are no problems with artifacts, compression or edge enhancement. Overall outside of a few minor instances of print damage No Shame delivers another stunning transfer.
This release comes with two audio options Italian and English. Both are presented in a Dolby Digital mono for this release. Both audio mixes have some noticeable hiss with the Italian mix sounding better of the two as the English mix the hiss and other audio defects are more pronounced. Dialog is easy enough to understand and Morricone’s score blends in perfectly with the rest of the mix. Removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and understand have been included.
Extras for this release include the films original trailer in Italian with English subtitles and a introduction to the film with director Damiano Damiani. The main extra is a forty six minute documentary titled “Sicily, Ornella, The Mafia and Beyond” which includes interviews with director Damiano Damiani, assistant director Mino Giarda, Editor Antonio Siciliano, actor Alessio Orano and director of photography Franco Di Giacomo. They discuss the difficulties and controversy that surround the project including how lead actress Ornella Muti whose real name is Francesca Rivelli got her stage name. The bulk of the conversation is spent with everyone talking about their various working experiences on the film and working with Ornella Muti. This is one of the better documentaries No Shame has put together to date with my only complaint being that two important people to this production Ennio Morricone and Ornella Muti are absent. No Shame have also included with this release a collectable booklet which includes bios for Damiano Damiani and Ornella Muti and liner notes about The Most Beautiful Wife. It is rare when a filmmaker is able to balance art and entertainment in the way in which director Damiano Damiani has with The Most Beautiful Wife. Now thanks to No Shame Damiano Damiani’s masterpiece The Most Beautiful Wife can be seen by a wider audience via their extraordinary DVD release.