Ms. Stiletto (1969)

Rating: C

Dir: Bruno Corbucci
Star: Brigitte Skay, Mimmo Palmara, Fred Williams, Elina De Witt
a.k.a. Isabella, duchessa dei diavoli

As a young child, noble heiress Isabella Frissac (Skay, who was also in Zeta One the same year) sees her family murdered by a rival, with designs on their lands and power, who rejoices in the name of Baron Von Nutter (Palmara), I kid you not. Fortunately, she is spirited out of the castle by an ally, and she grows up as part of a gypsy clan. As an adult, her identity is revealed by an unfortunate encounter with a former family pet that she had adored as a puppy, and Von Nutter decides he has a sudden need to finish off the job he started a decade or more ago. Conversely, Iaabella decides the time has come to reclaim her family fortune and take revenge on the man responsible for killing her parents.

Obviously, only one of these, at most, can succeed: on the way to finding out which, we get to see sword-fighting of varying ability, naked strangulation and the fun 17th-century party game favoured by the Baron, “Make the negro get an erection.” Why that went out of style, I’ll never know, but Skay undeniably looks the part, with flame-red hair and a willingness to shed her clothes which can only be admired. However, it’s hugely obvious that she can’t fight with a sword for toffee: her battles proceed at the pace of jello in any just about any sequence where she is not obviously being stunt-doubled (probably by a bloke in a red wig).

However, Corbucci (whose brother is, justly, more renowned for the likes of Django than Bruno is for When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding-Dong) does a decent job of bringing this comic-book to the screen, and I was left thinking it would be ripe for a remake – hey, if they can do it for Barbarella… There aren’t many surprises, though the ending did surprise me somewhat: they seem to have been hoping for the chance to do a sequel, that never materialized. To be honest, did find some difficulty staying focused on the movie, especially as it meandered its way through the early stages. Skay proved enough of a distraction that I just about coped.