Synopsis: In the wake of their father’s death, two beautiful sisters – sensitive Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi of Suspiria) and promiscuous Dagmar (Stefania D’Amario of Zombie) – come to a seaside resort for a relaxing vacation. But their idyllic getaway will soon become a depraved nightmare of kinky exhibitionists, dope-sick lotharios, lust-crazed lesbians and a psychotic killer who tears women to pieces with – no kidding – a phallus of massive proportion. Marc Porel (The Psychic) co-stars in this eye-popping combination of delectable sexploitation and vicious giallo.
eyelights: the sexy stuff.
eyesores: the soundtrack.
I picked up ‘La sorella di Ursula’ in a local art house video rental store that also sells a few titles. The owner said that he had quite enjoyed it, but also admitted that he tends to like this type of sleazy Euro Shock cinema. Having had interesting discussions about Argento’s gialli with him, I thought that this would not be too much of a gamble.
Plus which I had seen a few of these films in the past, so I knew what to expect: 1) scant story, 2) scantily-clad women, and 3) gratuitous bloodletting – but not necessarily brutal violence.
Indeed, there wasn’t much of a story: Two sisters go hang around a hotel, looking for their estranged mother so that they may share with her the money that they inherited from their father. While they sojourn there, a series a gruesome murders take place, felling guests, staff or just about anyone – but mostly scantily-clad women.
The murders, while nasty in their execution, were largely kept off-screen – which was surprisingly tasteful, relatively-speaking. I had absolutely not expected a subtle hand, given the genre’s predilection for upping the gore to satiate its audience’s bloodlust. And, given that it certainly didn’t balk at the sexy stuff, I would have expected them to try to balance the sex and violence.
Strangely… it doesn’t even come close.
Instead, ‘La sorella di Ursula’ is very much like a late-night blue movie but with a grisly murder backstory. It has a predilection for showing us some skin, what with the characters lounging around, largely inactive, discussing personal details in various stages of undress for no real reason. Plus there’s all the sex. Lots of it.
What’s amusing is that the killer watches the couples together (or, in one instance, a woman masturbating with a gold chain) first, before going for the kill. It’s obvious that it’s for the audience’s gratification, but I wonder how the filmmakers justified this in their heads: what would the killer’s motive be in watching the whole thing first?
What’s a riot is that we only ever see the killer’s eyes, lit in such a way that it looks as though he/she is wearing a ski mask. It’s such a stylistic way of doing things to start off with, but, adding to the hilarity is the fact that the eyes absolutely don’t belong to the person eventually revealed as the killer – there’s literally no way that they are one and the same!
Another thing that made me giggle is just how outrageously melodramatic the film is (hold your breath!):
The two sisters are looking for their long-lost mom. One of the two suffers from paranoid delusions and visions, and has a mean streak, while the other is longing for romance. The latter hooks up with one of the film’s most dubious characters, a heroin junkie who is madly in love with the hotel’s singer, Stella Shining. The hotel’s singer wants nothing to do with him, meanwhile allowing the hotel manager to pay her for sexual favours. For his part, the hotel manager has an arrangement with his spouse, who owns the hotel, wherein they can see other people so long as they keep it quiet. There is tension between them: he doesn’t approve of her lover, Jenny, and she is considering taking the hotel back from him.
Phew! What a mouthful. And that’s not even taking into account the murders!
One the sad things about ‘La sorella di Ursula’ is that the ending is wholly unsatisfying. For a murder mystery, it leaves a lot to be desired, delivering a weak motive and an unconvincing culprit. Then there was the murder weapon, to say the least of the resulting murders, which was unnecessary sleazy, ridiculous and revolting. What were they thinking?
Still, the film was interesting because it was a slow-cooker. It went for cheap thrills and blood spills, but it took its sweet time, allowing the audience to simply simmer with the characters for lengths of time. Some would hate that it drags on like that, but I enjoyed its casualness. Plus which it allowed us to savour the beautiful locations, such as the Italian coastline and architecture.
The film’s biggest weakness was a technical one: The dubbing was extremely poor, and the soundtrack was worse, abruptly drowning out everything for moments at a time. If only the music had been pleasant, then it wouldn’t matter as much, but it was low-grade compositions recorded in a low-grade quality. And Stella Shining’s song was f-ing horrible. Risible, even!
In the end, I’m guessing that fans of Euro Shock films would likely be satisfied with ‘La sorella di Ursula’. It’s by no means great cinema, but it delivers on its promise. But it leaves me with one question: Why is it called ‘The sister of Ursula’? Ursula’s sister is hardly the central figure of the piece, so what gives? What’s the deal?
Date of viewing: April 10, 2013