Frightened Woman, The / Femina ridens (1969)

4.0 out of 5

Also occasionally titled as The Laughing Woman, which indicates an entirely different emphasis on aspects of the plot, Piero Schivazappa's Femina ridens is in part a radical feminist manifesto and part surreal slice of psychedelic sexploitation.

Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy) believes that women have an agenda to dominate the world which is contrary to what he believes to be the natural patriarchal order. To emphasise the male power he kidnaps his new researcher Maria, as portrayed by the ever wonderful Dagmar Lassander, with the aim of destroying her will, sexually dominating and ultimately killing her. However in a moment of weakness he confesses that his plan is based on pure fantasy.

Sensing an opportunity Maria convinces Sayer that seduction and love are far more powerful tools than the force of one will over another. In the manner of the black widow Maria consumes Sawyer but achieves this by using his own arrogance against him as he preens and poses his way to his own demise.

With oodles of style and a vibe akin to that of Jess Franco films of the period viewing Femina ridens is a unique experience that is unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics