Saturday, January 7, 2012

In short: Diabolicamente…Letizia (1975)

aka Sex, Demons and Death (two out of three are even in the movie)

Because they can't have any children of their own, rich couple Marcello (Gabriele Tinti) and Michaela (Magda Konopka) take Michaela's teenaged niece Letizia (Franca Gonella) from the boarding school she's on to live with them from now on.

Little does the couple expect Letizia to be a witch who uses her psychic powers to ruin their lives by the usual exploitation movie ways of seduction and encouragement of lesbianism and depression (and yeah, the film really seems to think same sex love is a mental illness) until the whole household, including the two servants, is a zoo where everyone has at least groped everyone else once and people scream melodramatically at each other a lot. And if Letizia didn't have a partner who walks around in the skeleton mask of the killer from Im Banne des Unheimlichen and kills people, that would be all that would ever happen. All the sex and melodrama takes place because Letizia wants to take revenge on Marcello and Michaela for something to do with the death of her mother. I'd love to tell you more about Letizia's motivation, but this, as you will be no doubt unsurprised to read, is not a film bothering with actually explaining stuff like it to its audience.

Salvatore Bugnatelli's Letizia is one among many Italian exploitation movies about a more or less sexy teenager (or, often, as is the case here, "teenager") destroying some nasty rich people with sex and/or magic and/or violence before dying herself in an ironic twist of fate. The plot in these films is usually an excuse to show off as much nudity as possible and excite or annoy an audience with suggestions of incest and underage sex, which makes these films probably not the ideal family movies - depending on one's family, of course.

Letizia is one of the less interesting entries in this sub-genre, for it is a film surrounded by an air of apathy. Sure, there are the mandatory scenes of people rubbing against each other and Letizia making googly eyes that are supposed to suggest hypnotism but rather look like the effect constipation to me. However, none of these scenes ever leave much of an impression beyond that of a director and movie going through the motions of exploitation without actually having a feel for it.

The problem - apart from Bugnatelli's extremely bland direction - Letizia can't (and possibly doesn't want to) solve is that I (and therefore its prospective audience) have seen everything it has to offer in other movies made by directors with more of a sense of visual style who were much more enthusiastic about being kinky, cynical, and exploitative. Letizia's just too square to boldly go where other films had already gone.


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