The Frightened Woman (Femina Ridens)

THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN will be shown on November 17th, 2012 as part of a SFCult 35mm double-bill with VIVA at San Francisco’s historic Victoria Theater. Tickets on sale now!

The year is 1969. The place is Italy. The drink is J&B. The style is pop-art. The film is THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN (FEMINA RIDENS). Imagine an alternate universe where Stanley Kubrick was relegated to doing low-budget giallo films for Italian producers looking to cash in on the sexploitation craze that was sweeping America. The result would end up something like this: impeccably framed, beautifully designed, with cunning performances and a sly sense of humor.

In THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, noted philanthropist Dr. Sayer has a dark secret – he lures prostitutes to his ultra-mod bachelor pad for evenings of torture or worse. Tired of his beatings, the call girl Sayer had scheduled phones in sick, but Sayer finds a new target when intern Maria asks to come by his house to pick up some papers. Maria soon finds herself a prisoner to his sick games, and learns that the only way out… is through seduction.

Not at all your typical giallo, THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN is a funhouse of a movie that subverts expectations at every turn. It’s an art lover’s film without being an arthouse film, with sets designed by Niki de Saint Phalle, wallpaper that evokes Giuseppe Capogrossi, and an art design that oozes the best in mod style. The early Stelvio Cipriani soundtrack – which goes for hundreds of dollars on vinyl – is a revelation, reflexively veering from slinky mod dance numbers to creepy organ-infused backgrounds to classical fugues. Dagmar Lassander and Philippe Leroy shine here, bringing us performances that infuse mystery and a sort of dark sense of playfulness into what might otherwise be cartoonish.

THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN is perhaps the great lost pop-art film, and certainly one of the most beautiful films in the world of sexploitation. While a still frame of Dagmar Lassander in the film appears in The Psychotronic Video Guide, it is misattributed to the film’s American distributor Radley Metzger, and only recently have film buffs worldwide have begun to be captivated by the film’s unique seductiveness.

THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN will be presented from a 35mm print provided by the American Genre Film Archive ( http://www.americangenrefilm.com ). Please note that due to the age of this rare print, the originally saturated colors of the film are faded. It’s still worth it.

Still not convinced? Read more about THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN in Mubi’s Forgotten Gialli blog, or at A Dream, Terrible and Wonderful.

Categories: Movies

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