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Case Number 13557: Small Claims Court

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The Sister Of Ursula

Severin Films // 1978 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // May 2nd, 2008

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All Rise...

Great, Appellate Judge Tom Becker finds yet another reason to put off that long-awaited European vacation.

The Charge

"I'll give you enough sex to kill you with!"
—Succinct, if badly translated, theme of The Sister of Ursula

The Case

Dagmar (Stefania D'Amario, Zombie) and her sister, Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi, Suspiria), check into a seaside resort for a vacation. The owner, Roberto (Vanni Materassi, The Leopard), offers to show them around, and while Dagmar accepts, Ursula prefers to stay in their room and have psychic visions of their dead father. They meet the beautiful, improbably named singer Stella Shining (played by the improbably named Yvonne Harlow) and her drug-addicted boy toy, Filippo (Marc Porel, The Psychic).

Like all idyllic vacation spots, this one has a slight flaw: there's a nut case running about who enjoys watching women have sex and then eviscerating them with a giant phallus. Yes, the beaches are pretty and the nightlife is hot (that Stella Shining's a pistol), but these killings are definitely bad for business.

And since trou-dropping seems to be the major sport at this lovely Mediterranean hideaway, our killer seems to have an endless array of potential victims.

Good gravy, is this a ridiculous film. Part murder mystery, part crime meller, part soap opera, part supernatural tale, part soft-core porn (though a few scenes threaten to go over the edge of "soft"), The Sister of Ursula is as consistently entertaining as it is idiotic.

There's enough plot here for a good two dozen movies but apparently not enough for one good movie. Every character has some alternate identity or purpose or strange secret. Sometimes, these people do things in service of their alternate IDs—"If I do this, they'll think that"—which would be fine, only they do these things when no one is looking. This keeps us off-kilter, but when everything is (clumsily) revealed, you might find yourself scratching your head.

Of course, with the acres of naked flesh on display here, the convoluted plot might not be what you take away from this one. How do you know if an actor is going to get naked in The Sister of Ursula? If their name's in the credits! Seriously, there is only one person in the cast who doesn't strip down, and it's not the one you'd think. Dagmar sets the tone in the opening scene, when she and Ursula go their room, and she decides to get "comfortable." Now, I'm not an expert here, but when a woman decides to undress for comfort's sake, are spiked heels really the last thing to go?

Once you've gone to the trouble of getting your cast naked, there's no point in wasting it just having them sit around (with or without spiked heels), so everybody couples. Some ladies couple with men, some ladies couple with other ladies, and Dagmar "couples" herself with a gold chain. Hopefully, it was real gold. Those unsightly green streaks would be mortifying if she actually did get a date.

The sex scenes are sometimes uncomfortably graphic. There would definitely be some trimming to be done to get this one an R. But it's those post-coital moments when our voyeuristic killer shows up that are the worst. While we don't know the killer's identity, the victims often do ("Oh, it's you! You scared me"), and occasionally the sex partner was brought in, unknowingly, at the killer's request and then kicked out when the act is over so the lady can have a little face time with the maniac ("What did you think? Did that turn you on?"). Of course, when Il Lunatica pulls out old hickory, the whole tenor of the conversation changes ("What is that? What are you doing? No! Stop! "AAAAARRRRGGGHHH!!").

The Sister of Ursula was made in 1978, near the end of the stylish Italian giallo wave that brought international recognition to directors like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Lucio Fulci. Ursula director Enzo Milioni is not in the same auteur league as Bava, Argento, and Fulci, and his film lacks the visual flair generally associated with giallo. His primary color is blue, and while the plot spins wildly, the general look of the film is straightforward and subdued. The cinematography is good, with pretty shots of the Italian seaside and a funky, unfinished hotel that was used as the set. The soundtrack gives us a familiar, loungy, Euro-pop score, with lots of sax and female voices either murmuring seductively or happily wailing "La La La…La!" Except during the killings, when the music sounds like something Bernard Herrmann might have written after a bad experience with "all you can eat night" at the Macaroni Grill.

Severin gives us a nice little package. The film's not in pristine shape, and there are some noticeable problems in the opening and closing moments, but overall, the transfer is decent. The mono audio track is fine and consistently clear. For extras we get an interesting 30-minute interview with Milioni, in which he talks pretty candidly about the making of the film and his relationships with the actors, and a three-and-a-half-minute trailer that late-night Cinemax would reject for being too smutty.

The Sister of Ursula is not a great movie or a particularly good giallo, but it's agreeably lurid and unwholesomely fun. If you're a sex-gore-shocker-Eurotrash fan, it's worth checking out.

If I had to make a list of all the guilt here, I'd go mad, mad, I tell you. Court is adjourned. This judge needs a shower.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Severin Films
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Italian)
• English
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Crime
• Erotic
• Exploitation
• Foreign
• Horror
• Suspense
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Interview with Director Enzo Milioni
• Trailer


• IMDb

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