Still grieving over their father’s death, two sisters – the outgoing Dagmar (Stefania D’Amario) and the neurotic, antisocial Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi) – check into an out-of-season hotel. They are almost immediately immersed in a tangled web of relationships and betrayals involving the hotel manager, his estranged wife, a lounge singer and a drug-addicted patron. At the same time, a series of gruesome sex slayings gets underway.
Writer/director Enzo Milioni’s first film is a clumsy giallo. The elements are all there – psychosexual delerium, black-gloved killer, beautiful cast. So too is the aura of misogyny that haunts so much of the genre – the killings here all involve lethal penetration, and while the murders are generally dealt with relative restraint (a hilarious shadow of a looming erection followed by fade to black), there are, late in the film, a number of particularly tasteless shots of naked victims with bloody crotches. Charming. The ineptness of the filmmaking, however, robs these moments of much of their power: the sex scenes are dull and saddled with the same irritating score every time; the editing is rife with nonsensical cutaways (one of which unintentionally suggests that a dog has been masterminding a drug deal); and the story is so choppily told that characterization varies between the risible and the nonexistent. Add to this a resolution that even the most casual viewer of gialli will see coming a mile away, and you have a pretty weak entry. And yet, for all that, there is that delicious ineffable whiff of 70’s Italian exploitation that makes even the weakest entries plenty of fun.
The Italian mono is pretty obviously post-synched (which was, of course, standard practice in the industry). Nowhere is this more apparent than when the singer does her number, and frequently doesn’t even bother to move her lips, let alone match up with the very cheesy song. But all of this is inherent to the movie itself, not the transfer. What we have, in a nutshell, is a perfectly serviceable, but obviously older, mono track.
The opening credits are rather grainy with faded colours, but the print improves markedly thereafter. Some exteriors are still a bit faded, and there is the occasional dark shot that is murky to the point of impenetrability, but most of the time the contrasts are strong, and there are times when the colours approach the beauty one would expect in an Argento film, which this would so very much like to be.
“The Father of Ursula” is a half-hour subtitled interview with Milioni, and is a perfectly acceptable substitute for a commentary track, covering as it does everything from how the movie came to be to Milioni’s relationships with the actors. Very informative. The theatrical trailer is also on hand.
This is certainly no lost classic. Even the title makes no sense, since the film is much more about Ursula herself than her sister, who barely figures in the story for much of the film. But it is still representative of its era, and deserving of the respectful treatment it is given here.