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The Laughing Woman (1969)

Femina ridens (original title)
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A rich and sadistic man, who enjoys degrading women as part of elaborate S&M games, abducts a female journalist. She is subjected to his unpleasant games but soon begins subverting him.


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Complete credited cast:
Philippe Leroy ...
Dr. Sayer
Dagmar Lassander ...
Lorenza Guerrieri ...
Varo Soleri ...
Maria Cumani Quasimodo ...
Sayer's Secretary
Mirella Pamphili ...


A rich and sadistic man, who enjoys degrading women as part of elaborate S&M games, abducts a female journalist. She is subjected to his unpleasant games but soon begins subverting him.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

4 December 1969 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

The Laughing Woman  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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References Death Laid an Egg (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN (Piero Schivazappa, 1969) ***
5 June 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

As with FOOTPRINTS (1975), I became aware of this one purely by accident: it was mentioned in a review of THE LIBERTINE (1969), which I researched when that film turned up on late-night Italian TV, as being in a similar vein; incidentally, I missed out on that screening of THE LIBERTINE (though I acquired it via the same channel later on) but did manage to watch the film by way of a rental of the English-dubbed R1 DVD during my sojourn in Hollywood in late 2005/early 2006. Actually, in view of the enthusiastic reviews for it, I was let down by THE LIBERTINE – being too light-hearted in nature for what was essentially a serious theme (the sado-masochistic relationship between a young couple)!; to be honest, for much of the time, I was afraid that THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN would go the exact same route…but was subsequently amply redeemed by a wicked (if not exactly unpredictable) final twist.

The film concerns the freethinking social attitudes and dazzling creative arts prevalent in this era: an eminent philanthropist (Philippe Leroy) invites a female journalist (Dagmar Lassander) at his fashionable home for the week-end; however, it transpires that he’s a misogynist who distrusts all members of the opposite sex and would rather dominate (or even kill) them! Therefore, for the first half of the narrative, we see the heroine enduring pain and humiliation at Leroy’s hands (including being forced to make love to a dummy in his own image!)…until the tables are subtly, but unsurprisingly, turned: she not only emancipates herself from his control, but teaches him that Man and Woman can co-exist harmoniously – except that Lassander’s following her own personal agenda as well!!

The leads are perfectly cast, and the film itself often darkly comic for those in the mood; furthermore, it’s greatly abetted by a typically effervescent “Euro-Cult” score (from the ever-reliable Stelvio Cipriani) and the imaginative – even outré – look (the giant structure depicting the lower section of the female form, with a steel-trap where its sexual organ should be, seems to emanate from Freud: incidentally, this prop figured prominently in stills I’d seen previously from THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN…but it barely registers in the film proper!). Other bizarre touches include the preposterous radio program “Sexual Aberrations And The Stars”, and an idyll at a castle belonging to Leroy’s family complete with secret passage through the wardrobe and a dwarfish manservant. One of the highlights, then, is easily Lassander’s erotic dance virtually in the nude – an episode which actually spearheads the ‘humanization’ of Leroy; eventually, the two characters have a ‘showdown’ in the latter’s pool – amusingly set to a Spaghetti Western-type theme!

In the long run, for all its stylishness, the film emerges as inferior to the similar but much more extreme contemporaneous Japanese masterpiece by Yasuzo Masumura BLIND BEAST (1969). Finally, it’s worth noting that THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN was distributed in the U.S. by film-maker Radley Metzger’s company Audubon Films; he would even employ its production designer (Enrico Sabbatini) for his own CAMILLE 2000 (1969)! To get to the edition I watched: apart from the usual shortcomings in the English-dubbing department, the presentation here was further marred by a rather washed-out appearance and brief instances of distracting extraneous noise on the soundtrack! By the way, there seems to be some confusion with respect to the film’s running-time: its length given on various sources ranges anywhere from 84 to 108 minutes – all I can say, however, is that the copy I own ran for 87 minutes!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Anyone have the PAL vhs with better color? cymboline
Final song on credits danakate2502
Really deserves the Criterion treatment cymboline
is this supposed to be a comedy? LJ27
DVD available in US format? HauntedGirl
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