Sister of Ursula, The (1978)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-06-04 07:56

Written and Directed by: Enzo Milioni
Produced by: Armando Bertuccioli

Reviewed by: Brett H.

ďHow could you go out with the man that will kill your sister?Ē

The armament of a horror villain says just about as much about the killer as the motive itself. Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th fame frequently used the machete, a large weapon with some weight, which combined with the tenacity and brute strength of the force behind it spelled sure doom for the poor girl in his path. Michael Myers from the immortal Halloween franchise prefers the butcher knife, an interesting choice. It doesnít stand out as much as the machete and given his general choice of victims, it doesnít have to. One has to feel that Michael Myers wants his stalk to be as terrifying as the deed that inevitably will come at the end of it. Freddy Krueger is a different bird all together, his dream empowerments spell certain death to anyone he chooses, but he likes to torment the minds of his victims and he gives them a chance to survive. Behind the big dogs, the genreís had its share of chainsaws, corkscrews, boomsticks and even electric toothbrushes. In the giallo subgenre, the onyx glove usually wields a razor or a knife, but such is not case with Enzo Milioniís introductory giallo, The Sister of Ursula. Phallic and dull, the weapon of choice for the gloved maniac is quite possibly the most shocking weapon in gialli history!

Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi) and her sister, Dagmar (Stefania DíAmario) are on vacation at a luxurious hotel on the ocean, but theyíre not out to have fun. Instead of swimming and partying in the local nightclub, theyíre searching for their long-lost mother to share their deceased fatherís inheritance with. Well, thatís not entirely the case. Dagmar is more than willing to take a gander at the sexy Filippo (Marc Porel) and spend time with him and chill down at the club. Everyone else at the hotel is downright obsessed with sex and deceit, from the owners to the tenants to the prostitutes that use it to turn tricks. Must be expensive whores, because the place is very fancy. The only one seemingly not interested in wanton lust is Ursula, who is very dark, bitchy and mysterious. Not to mention psychic... or mentally disturbed.

Pyschic visions begin tormenting Ursula, who hasnít been the same since she lost her beloved father. Sheís convinced that Filippo is going to kill her, and Dagmar is disgracing her by continuing to see him. The visions begin to turn into truth as women begin turning up dead on the grounds of the hotel, and in particularly gruesome fashion. The killer has ditched the sharp and pointy object, for the women at least. In its place is a large, wooden gift that had been given to Ursula. And, itís not a jewellery box. The weapon is very similar to a part of the body of particular interest to everyone at the hotel. Promiscuous women around the hotel begin turning up dead, all of which having been stabbed in the vagina with an unknown object that bears a striking resemblance to a sex toy. ButÖ who could be doing this, and why?

The Sister of Ursula oozes with sleaze, and if women being stabbed in the vagina with a phallic object wasnít sleazy enough, the underlying grime subjects of the film round out an exploration into trash panache. Lucio Fulciís, The New York Ripper dabbled in such practices, but it actually came out much after this film, and in turn, this film actually came out after What Have You Done to Solange?, which was another film to feature this type of kill, surely the most offensive in horror history. But, itís The Sisters of Ursula that uses the phallic weapon throughout its entirety and with the most intention. Like the aforementioned Fulci crassterpiece, thereís a lot of sex. To coin a quote from one of my most enjoyable movies of all time, Porkyís, "I've never seen so much wool, you could knit a sweater!"

But, itís not only the bloody aftermath or two kills in particular that make this film so greasy, itís the actions of nearly every character in the movie. Sure, nudity is used by many as something to throw hate at in films like this, but behind the kills, mystery and paranormal situations, itís all about the negativity of sex. In the entire movie, itís always lust instead of love, and thatís something Ursula doesnít believe in. Although, in her disturbed state, sheís not at all the cutesy way, and itís hard to picture her searching for a lover at all. Sheís very bitter, which caps off the movieís negative portrayal of sex to a particularly depressing level. Although Ursula has the right idea, sheís still in no better frame of mind as the people being used, stood up or blackmailed. Misogyny cries out, not only because of the kills, but because the women are shown as prostitutes, too sexually active or even the fact that Dagmar and Ursulaís mom left their father because he was impotent and she had found another lover. If thatís not enough, the women are beat across the face with the phallus before theyíre stabbed. Although the men are as promiscuous as the women, only the women suffer deaths in a sexually derived manner. The men die by the blade, and itís not their willies that are sliced.

No sleaze flick would be complete without the use of drugs, and heroin is present in the film. No love-drugs for this sick little flick, itís all about injecting and the momentary bliss that comes with it, but is sure to pass the user by and leave him in a mess (much like all sexual relations in the flick). As a giallo, though, the film lacks a bit of substance. The typical Italian style is there with wonderful cinematography and there is a splendid amount of essential nudity. When regarding a film of a softcore nature such as this, itís easy to dismiss the sex scenes as the reason the film doesnít come and go with a bang. That isnít the case in this instance; the story is just a bit too bland and weak. The killerís identity is always up in the air and youíll never quite be able to put your finger on whodunit, which is essential in the viewing of a giallo. At the same time, the contrived psychic premonitions work in small doses and provide the killer a better motive than the typical slasher motive. But, the movieís heart is truly in sexploitation sleaze, and at that it succeeds to the max. It has that type of vibe to it that only can be found in movies that has a sister masturbating without thinking twice, even though her sister is in the same bed!

Severin presents this little seen obscurity uncut in widescreen, treating viewers to every inch of the lush countryside and magnificent ocean that we are supposed to see. Although thereís a small blemish of a black line on the screen, the transfer mostly goes off without a hitch and the film is presented in Italian with English subtitles with fine audio. A typical all too spoilery trailer is present on the disc (itís a wonder Italians even paid to see these movies after seeing all the nudity and kills featured in these trailers!), along with the documentary, The Father of Ursula, which is a half hour interview with director Enzo Milioni. Unlike Shriek Show releases where the people seemingly donít remember that they were in the movie half the time, Enzo treats the viewer with a comprehensive evolution of the movie, actors and himself. Itís a true joy to watch and really makes you feel cozy with the film, as sick as it is. The Sister of Ursula will be featured on few top 10 lists, but the fan base it has gained is definitely warranted. If youíre interested in tackling one of the sicklier giallos of all time, Severin undoubtedly brings the sleaze! But the hit or miss nature of the film suggests you should first, Rent it!

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