aka Al calar della sera
Produced by Paolo Lucidi for P.C. Coletti Productions
Director: Alessandro Lucidi
Story & screenplay: Alessandro Lucidi
Cinematography: Beppe Maccari
Music: Claudio Rovagna
Editor: Maria Donolis
Art director: Simonetta Vitelli
Cast: Daniela Poggi (Luisa), Gianluca Favilla (Giorgio), Paolo Lorimer (the psychopath), Cecilia Luci (the child), Andrea Ward, Anna Orso
This is a (very) late period Italian thriller from 1992 and directed by Alessandro Lucidi, son of the better known Maurizio. The early 90s was a pretty dismal period for Italian popular cinema: although films were being produced, they tended to have low budgets and were made with broadcasting on television rather than cinema in mind. They also tended to suffer from poor scriptwriting and acting, recycling old formulas with very little in the way of innovation or style. So, although Submission of a Woman isn’t a particularly good film, it’s certainly not the worst of its type and time and stands comparison with the kinds of works that directors such as Lamberto Bava or Umberto Lenzi were producing under similar circumstances.
Luisa (Daniela Poggi), an actress, is getting weary of the sexpot roles she’s customarily offered, especially now that she’s in her thirties, married to Giorgio (Gianluca Favilla) and has a kid. She’s also sick and tired of receiving phone calls from a crank caller, who insists on ringing whenever she’s alone and hanging on the line without saying anything. And her problems are about to get much worse: the caller is actually a psychopath who has already murdered at least one unfortunate girl, and he’s settled on her as being his next victim.
One weekend, just before Luisa and Giorgio are supposed to go away on a romantic holiday, he attacks. Giorgio doesn’t last long, but Luisa manages to lock herself in the house. Unfortunately the phones have been cut off, so there’s no way of calling for help, and making a break for it is made impossible by the fact that she still has her baby to protect.
More of a slasher movie than a giallo – there’s no mystery element to the plot at all – much of the second half of the film is made up of a protracted cat and mouse game between Luisa and her crackpot attacker. Some of it’s simply ludicrous – it’s one of those films where someone who knows where they’re going and is running seems to move more slowly than a pursuer who’s both on unfamiliar territory and walking – and the dialogue leaves a little to be desired; ‘I swear that if you leave I won’t sue you…’, for instance, is a novel line to say when you’re being held at knife-point by a psychopath.
There’s little in the way of violence, but it becomes increasingly sleazy as the running time progresses. Nothing like the home invasion films of the 1970s, productions like La settima donna and Late Night Trains which had a much more gritty, raw feel; but there’s a lengthy rape sequence which goes on a little too long and in which the camera lingers a little too longingly over Ms Poggi’s naked flesh. Bizarrely, given this – not to mention a weird flashback that implies she actually enjoyed the experience – it does a complete double take at the end and comes out as a wannabe treatise on small town prejudice and rebuttal of the opinion that, to paraphrase, just because a woman is wearing tight trousers she’s inviting every slime-ball in the vicinity to have sex with her.
Lucidi does his best, using the claustrophobic setting pretty well and generating a fair amount of tension. A respected editor, he also directed two other films, a pair of sexy comedies from the early eighties called La maestra di sci and Il marito vacanza (both 81). Stylistically, his work very much resembles that of Lamberto Bava, and if he’d have started his directorial career twenty years earlier he might have had a chance of achieving something more substantial. Unfortunately, as it is Submission of a Woman has the dull, flat look and dismal music (seemingly inspired by Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack for Twin Peaks) that so characterised Italian productions of its time, and it comes across much like a less respectable version of those dull TV slasher movies that were made in the wake of Halloween.
As for the cast, it’s really a two hander between Daniele Poggi and Paolo Lorimer, who are both actually rather good. Poggi, a familiar performer since her debut in The Gestapo’s Last Orgy, looks a bit like a more mumsy Jamie Lee Curtis, and she manages to bring some character to her part. Lorimer was a new face to me, and a pasty, goggle eyed face at that, but he’s actually been in a few films over the years, including The Sin eater (2003) and Fade to Black (2006). A couple of other interesting names also crop up in the crew: assistant director was Edoardo Margheriti, Antonio’s son, and Diego Spataro is credited as ‘capo macchinista’; whether this is the same Diego Spataro who also produced films by Joe D’Amato and Demofilo Fidani is unknown.