Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Ms Stiletto (1969)

You take a basic adventure tale set in the 17th century, with a noble family despoiled of its lands and brutally murdered by a powerful neighbour, a cruel and rapacious baron. You have the sole survivor of the murdered family, a master swordsman, devote his life to gaining revenge and regaining the family lands. But you make this sole survivor a beautiful young woman who happens to be a master swordswoman, and you add lots of sex and nudity. You can’t really lose with a formula like that, can you? And in fact Ms Stiletto really is a good deal of fun.

The original title of this 1969 Italian-German co-production was Isabella, duchessa dei diavoli, literally Isabella, Duchess of the Devils. As a child Isabella Frissac witnesses the murder of her family by the wicked Baron von Nutter. She is saved by a faithful servant, grows up among gypsies, and learns to use a sword as well as any man. She never forgets that her sacred duty is to destroy the wicked baron.

She insinuates her way into the chateau (the chateau that used to belong to her own family) in the guise of a prostitute. She enlists the aid of the baron’s dissipated and jealous younger brother. There are various double-crosses, lots of sword fights, some romance, lots of opportunities for our heroine to take her clothes off, the obligatory dungeon torture scene, the obligatory lesbian sex scene when our heroine gets seduced by one of the baron’s ladies, and there’s even a topless sword-fighting scene. More or less everything you could ask for in a eurosleaze movie of this era.

Plus there are really nice 17th century costumes, and a very gothic chateau (with the obligatory secret passage-ways of course).

Brigitte Skay makes a gorgeous heroine as Isabella, she handles a sword fairly convincingly, and she looks very fetching in 17th century male attire (although she also gets to wear some pretty nice dresses as well and a rather sexy harem girl outfit which is probably totally out of period but hey she looks good in it). She’s not the world’s greatest actress but her performance is lively and works well enough. Mimmo Palmara makes a suitably wicked and depraved wicked baron.

There’s plenty of action, some reasonably executed stunts, and no-one is silly enough to allow logic to slow down the plot. And there’s lots of nudity. It was apparently based on one of those 1960s Italian erotic/action comic books (or fumetti) and the movie captures the comic-book feel quite well. Director Bruno Corbucci (brother of the more famous Sergio) does a very competent job.

This is a remarkably obscure movie that I hadn’t even heard of until very recently, and it’s yet another interesting European cult movie that is fairly difficult to track down.

It’s silly and fun in a campy tongue-in-cheek way, it’s fast-paced and it looks good. Enjoyable undemanding entertainment.

7 comments:

Samuel Wilson said...

Wow. I think you've just inspired a new year's resolution: I have to see this film. Female swashbucklers have been cool from the days of Maureen O'Hara to more recent stuff like Revenge of the Musketeers. With this one the Euro sleaze looks like a bonus.

ElroyTLanphear said...

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Nigel M said...

I just want to echo Samuel Wilson's words above- this has inspired me too, I am always on the look out for more Italian fare

dfordoom said...

It's only available as a DVD-R, but it's actually a very nice print. And it's a movie that is probably unlikely ever to get an official DVD release.

Alex Bakshaev said...

Just something I noticed - that poster with a bare-assed woman was recycled as book cover for an early 90's russian edition "Collected stories of H.P.Lovecraft"

James Bickert said...

Great review. Now I can get off my ass and transfer the VHS to DVD. Thanks for inspiring me to do so.

Stephen Grimes said...

Can anyone help me out with a decent English language copy of this?
I've got the Italian fotonovel from a 1970 issue of BigFilm and would love to see how they both compare.
Lots of rare Italian titles to trade for the right copy though I'm only interested in a dvdr from the vhs tape,NO avi's from torrent sites.
Many thanks.
stg1972@hotmail.com