Tuesday, 17 May 2022

The Sister of Ursula (1978)

The Sister of Ursula (La sorella di Ursula) is a 1978 giallo which has all necessary ingredients (including a black-gloved killer) but of course having the right ingredients isn’t always enough. It was written and directed by Enzo Milioni.

The movie establishes its exploitation credentials pretty quickly, with entirely gratuitous female frontal nudity within the first few minutes. There’ll be lots more of that as the movie progresses. The fact that the murder weapon is a dildo tells you that this is essentially a sleazefest.

Ursula and Dagmar Beyne are two Austrian sisters who have travelled to Italy to look for their mother. It’s something to do with their late father’s inheritance. They’re staying at a nice luxury hotel but Ursula just wants to leave and she wants to leave now.

Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi) is a highly strung girl who has nightmares and she thinks her nightmares might be visions (possibly of the past or possibly of the future). Perhaps she has paranormal abilities. Dagmar (Stefania D'Amario) just thinks that Ursula hasn’t recovered from their father’s death.

The last thing Ursula needs is to find herself in the middle of a brutal murder case but that’s what happens when a hooker is murdered in a rather grisly manner which suggests that this is some kind of sex crime.

Maybe visiting the really creepy old tower near the hotel isn’t a good idea but the two girls visit it anyway. Ursula gets rather freaked out. Visiting the tower turns out to be an even worse idea for a couple of teenage runaways. They were turned way from the hotel and were desperately looking for somewhere to make love.

There are a number of people at the hotel would could be plausible suspects. The choice of murder weapon might suggest that the killer is a man but in a giallo it pays to keep an open mind about that sort of thing. The hotel manager Roberto and his wife Vanessa (who actually owns the hotel) have an open marriage that seems to be heading for the rocks. Open marriages require a bit of discretion if they’re going to work. Vanessa has a lesbian lover, Jenny, and that’s causing some tensions with Roberto.

Filippo is a good-looking young man who has loser written all over him and his obsession with the hotel’s star attraction, singer Stella Shining (Yvonne Harlow), is not exactly being encouraged by the lady.

The discovery of the naked bodies of the young couple doesn’t do much for Ursula’s mental stability.

The final resolution is satisfying in the sense that it’s plausible and it’s definitely been sign-posted. This is a mystery movie that plays fair with the viewer. The problem is that you probably won’t be overly surprised by the reveal at the end. It’s pretty much the only logical explanation for the preceding events.

Apart from the fact that the killer’s identity isn’t quite enough of a surprise the film has a few weaknesses. This is, it has to be admitted, a second-tier giallo from a first-time director who enjoyed more success as a writer. It doesn’t have the spectacular set-pieces and visual extravagance that top-rank giallos offer. There are some good visual touches (the scene with the eyeless statue in the crypt is very creepy) but overall it’s not a movie that is overflowing with style.

On the plus side the locations are used very effectively. And there’s an astonishing amount of female frontal nudity (with some remarkably attractive young ladies) and there are a couple of pretty strong sex scenes. As far as sex and nudity are concerned this movie is fairly strong stuff.

Enzo Milioni’s career as a director was very brief. It’s not that he does a spectacularly terrible job here but in Italy in the 70s there were just so many directors who did this sort of thing with more style and energy.

Shameless in the UK released this movie on DVD and it’s still in print (and it’s very inexpensive). The anamorphic transfer is very good. The only significant extra is an extended interview with the director who comes across as a pretty charming guy.

Summing up, The Sister of Ursula is a competent and reasonably entertaining second-rank giallo with wall-to-wall naked ladies. It’s worth a look if you don’t set your expectations too high.

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