Saturday, 26 May 2007

La Sorella di Ursula / The Curse of Ursula

This 1978 entry from Enzo Milioni occupies a position at the trash end of giallo spectrum with the likes of contemporaries such as Play Motel and Giallo a Venezia, with the same pervasive sense of being the work of no-talent filmmakers aiming squarely at the lowest common denominators of sex and violence.

Duck, you sucker!

It's odd, then, that in a rare lapse of tastelessness the filmmakers chose not to exploit their otherwise traditionally depicted killer's weapon of choice, a dildo, for shock value or as reductio ad absurdium of psychoanalytic style phallus-as-weapon logic, preferring instead to keep it in suggestive silhouette and focus on the victims' reactions and the bloody aftermath.

Tellingly – some shots prominently displaying the dildo serve to narrow down the list of suspects and shortcircuit the murder-mystery angle somewhat, even as the inclusion of a some more traditional black-gloved hand clutching a knife retrospectively shows at least an inkling of how to work with a Delirium-style multiple maniac dynamic – the first murder neatly coincides with the arrival of sisters Ursula and Dagmar Beyne on the scene, an out of season Mediterranean coastal resort, the former looking for fun and the latter seemingly determined to do her neurotic best to disapprove of and complain about everyone and everything...

More classic giallo imagery

We soon learn that the hotel and the accompanying nightclub, with star attraction Stella Shining – cue atrocious music and worse lip-synching and performance – are doing less than stellar business, a fact that makes it hard to explain why manager Roberto should seem so keen to turn away potential guests.

Maybe it's that his soon-to-be-ex wife, Vanessa, who arrives at the place with new female lover in tow, is unwilling to let him have the place as part of their divorce settlement.

Maybe it's also something to do with the drugs trafficking operation that forms a subplot, in turn explaining why some may not want the police looking too closely even if on initial inspection it cannot account for the paucity of official investigations as the body count rises...

Franco-esque artistry

As a number of commentators have remarked, La Sorella di Ursula / The Curse of Ursula has an aesthetic frequently reminiscent of a Jess Franco film, whether it be the general languidness of the mise en scène; random shots of the sea and other non-signifying details; overuse of an ill-matched selection of sleazy listening cues; obligatory nightclub routine, or simply the endless succession of singularly unerotic sex scenes that could probably be recut to be harder or softer as individual markets demanded.

Got wood?!

Unlike a Franco or Polselli film, however, there is little sense of a more consciously experimental or subversive aesthetic at work, of a knowing camp / kitsch / trash sensibility in which, for instance, Star's act would be made as deliberately outre as possible and the audience would be let in on the joke. As it is, however, Curse of Ursula takes itself too seriously and as a result isn't nearly as fun as its the dildo killer summation might make it sound.

In an ironic piece of life imitating art / art imitating life casting the tragic Marc Porel plays a junkie

Some comments on the film at IMDB:

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