Cult Move Flashback: The Frightened Woman (1969, Dir. Piero Schivazappa)

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The Frightened Woman was a film I didn’t think I was going to find remotely interesting, and how wrong I was. The Frightened Woman is about a quiet woman named Maria who works in publicity and her strict employer Dr Sayer, a man who has serious issues concerning feminism and women’s rights.

When she asks her moody, good-looking employer for some research material he tells her he has it at home.  Nowadays she would just use the internet, but hey, this is 1969.  Instead she goes to her boss’s house.  It’s easy for the audience to pick up on what a bad idea this is.  Once she arrives there, it is not long before she is drugged and waking up to listen to her boss tell how he hates women and enjoys torturing and murdering them – as a sort of weekend hobby.

Maria tries hard to convince him that she is different, but he doesn’t listen and enjoys torturing her even more.  Now when I say torture, this isn’t Saw or Hostel.  This film is as camp as Christmas; the methods of torture are somewhat laughable as Dr Sayer swans around like some sort of Bond villain.

I was wondering where this movie was going until eventually the lovely Maria suffers a sort of Stockholm syndrome and Dr Sayer lets his guard down. Suddenly we have a happy couple running through fields, during moments of so much campness you’d be forgiven for thinking it was an early Carry On film.

There is something so charming and endearing about this film.  It’s not a grisly giallo and it is unlike most of the other Shameless titles.  I just found myself enjoying the ride.  I actually wanted things to work out for the couple.

A lot of work has clearly gone into the theme and look of Dr Sayer’s home and it wouldn’t be the sixties without psychedelic imagery.  In one wonderful scene where Sayer is enjoying Maria’s company in a car, we see a train go by filled with ribbons of colour and standing on top a group of brass band players, serenading Sayer as he reaches climax.

The film is never disturbing and there is a lot of comedy in it, some unintentional.  There are two twists in the film, which I won’t spoil.  But, when the first one was revealed I found myself rewinding the DVD to listen to it again.  At that point, I was gripped.  It’s a shame little movies like this one don’t get made today.  Shameless have done a superb job on restoring it.  If you want something that deserves cult status then this is a wonderful lost gem.

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