Ursula and the sister of Ursula, Dagmar (no wonder she prefers to go by the titular monicker) have grown up in boarding schools, cut off from their parents. After their father dies and leaves them an inheritance, they check in to a swish/rundown (I'm not sure how it's meant to come across) hotel on the coast. It soon becomes apparent that Ursula might not be in the best of mental health, as she seems incapable of basic human interaction, and also claims to be psychic. After a while, she claims that her father is not dead, and has followed them to the hotel. The various hotel guests fuck their worries away only to be dispatched one-by-one by a disembodied pair of eyes who sports, in silhouette form, a suspiciously perpendicularly-angled erection, which seems to double as a weapon (just like mine could, but I'm gentle with it). Is the killer the cuckolded hotel manager? Is it Marc Porel's twitchy drug addict, who is intermittently interested in Dagmar? Or has the girls' father returned from the grave to kill loads of women with his cock for some reason?
This film follows the form and logic of a porno, with the first stripping-to-lounge-music sequence occurring sooner than it would in many of its contemporary x-rated features. It doesn't quite cross the line into hardcore, but the parade of flesh and fucking cums quite close on occasion, not least in a bizarre climactic (in terms of when it occurs in the film) scene in which the hotel's middle-aged manager goes to town on the ass of his singing protégé, Stella Shining. Ms Shining performs the same shitty ballad every night in the lounge of the hotel, and is spoken of in reverential terms which would suggest she's a huge star. You'd have to ask the manager to confirm or deny this rumour though (I apologise for this excellent-but-dirty joke, butt I'm just engaging with the film on its own terms).
This isn't a good giallo, or a good film. It does deliver in the skin-and-sleaze department though, which was definitely the main focus of the filmmakers. The mystery is perfunctory at best (SPOILERS AHEAD), although one could almost view its solution as a weird double-bluff. Boiled down to basics, the plot concerns two sisters, one of whom is mental, arriving in a coastal hotel. Straight away, people start dying. Pretty standard set-up for a giallo, down to the fact that the sisters are from foreign (Austria in this case). Of course, the obvious solution-the crazy newbie is the killer-can't be the actual solution, because that's not how these films work. Except, in this case, that's exactly what's happening!
If we generously allow writer/director Enzo Milioni to claim the end revelation as a double-bluff, the title of the film could also fall into this category. Dagmar, the Sister of Ursula, is the closest thing to an audience identification figure/cipher in the film (she even has a wank halfway through). She seems to have the least to hide of all the characters, and such blandness is usually a sign-to seasoned giallo-watchers, at least-that the filmmakers are attempting to sneak the killer into centre stage right under our noses. Therefore. the way the film's title ultimately refers to Dagmar while more directly highlighting Ursula is actually a neat micro-example of this 'sneaking' in action.
So, an hour or so into the film, when your appreciation for sex scenes has reached capacity (although be prepared to raise the limit of said capacity once you get to the insane ass-eating scene), your mind might wander towards the environs of the plot. Suddenly, you might realise that you're watching a film which is named after a character who seems least likely to have anything happen to them, or to be responsible for anything bad happening. "Aha," you might think to yourself, "Nice try Enzo! But I am wise to you. I shall citizens arrest Dagmar straight away, so the denizens of this hotel can continue their soulless rutting without fear of being dildoed to death." But you'd be wrong to think that. If the title was a clever double-bluff by Milioni, designed to get us to overthink things and suspect Dagmar, bravo sir.
And yes, I did say 'dildoed to death'. Well, you did, in your mind, as you read this. That's right-the curiously-angled silhouette is not that of a real-life phallus; it's a huge wooden dildo which reposes fairly blatantly on the dresser in the sisters' bedroom. I knew about the method of killing before I watched this film for the first time, so I can't comment on whether Milioni did the smuggling trick successfully with regard to weapon. Given that one scene begins with a CU of the dildo, racking onto Dagmar as she enters the room, it's probably fair to say that most semi-attentive viewers would've noticed it (and the weird silhouette shots during the murder scenes doesn't help Enzo's cause either). However, even the shot described above seems to link the dildo to Dagmar, and could again be interpreted by on-the-ball viewers as an attempt to cleverly tell us who the killer is without us realising. Of course, Ol' Clever Viewer is too clever to fall for that, except he's not-he's fallen fair and square for Enzo's entrapment! Bravo sir, again. (I'm almost certain that these 'Bravo sirs' have not been actually earned). But anyway, even if it seems like Dagmar must exist to do more than cue us to wank and walk around frowning (Stefania D'Amario had a fucking lovely frown though; check her out in Zombie Flesh Eaters for more of the same), it turns out that she does not.
I haven't written much on Michael Mackenzie's M-giallo and F-giallo distinctions before*, but I'll briefly outline the defining characteristics of both: M-gialli have male protagonists who drive investigations into a series of murders, whereas F-gialli have passive female protagonists, who are threatened and menaced throughout, before (hopefully) surviving. That's not to say M-giallo protagonists are all about control; Argento's characters, in particular, continually strive to exert a level of control on proceedings, and are continually undercut by external (often feminine) forces. As with any retrofitted categorisation of films, there are multiple examples which straddle the dividing line of the M- and F-. Fortunately, Mackenzie doesn't attempt to brush such examples aside in order to push a reductive theory, as so often happens in film studies; he's much too smart for that, and is most interesting when discussing films which don't neatly fit into his own categories.
This film pretty much does fall neatly into the F-giallo category, with one caveat-there is a male character conducting an investigation. However, he's not the main character, and we don't actually know about the investigation until the film's climax. Still, if the film took a different approach, Marc Porel's undercover narc could've found himself at the heart of a classic M-giallo. Well, he could've if he showed any interest at all in the series of murders which is occurring right under his nose. Instead, he shows admirable focus/reckless indifference to stick to his task of breaking open a drug smuggling ring. Indeed, he seems delighted when he finds the dildoed-to-death corpse of Stella Shining, seeing it as the 'closing of the ring' (I won't make another ass-related joke here; I'm above such base carry-on, and besides, writing this has essentially made the joke for me anyway) needed to box off his case. This despite Stella being a potential key witness as well. Maybe he was actually taking some of the heroins he was pretending to consume to play the role of undercover junkie (Porel certainly was consuming heroins in real life, sadly), and wasn't thinking straight.
He certainly wasn't possessed of the supernatural powers which a doctor (!) tells Dagmar are inherent in all men "to defend themselves against natural events like hunger, fear." Or maybe he was, as he seems reasonably well fed, and doesn't get too frightened at any point. But the real supernatural prowess is displayed by Ursula, with her apparent clairvoyance leading her to predict Dagmar's dating mishaps, and her own death. (She's obviously loathe to alter the path fate has chosen for her, or else she'd surely have not stood in front of an open window at the end of the film.) The supernatural element can be seen as being influenced by the Argento films of the time, or it could merely have been a device used to help introduce the character of the girls' father as a potential killer, even though he's dead. Ursula claims to have seen him, so has he come back as a ghost? Is he not really dead at all? Or is she just a bit nuts?? The accuracy of her (fairly low-key) predictions sets her up as a potential psychic, and means that we may take her word that she's seen her father, against all available and rational evidence. **
The music, including Stella Shining's warbly song, is mostly pretty shit, with a regular heavy porno vibe. The one exception is the driving synth score which leaps into life for the murder scenes, coming across like a mix of the Halloween and Absurd scores (and written before either of those). The seaside scenery is pretty beautiful, leading to a far more visually-pleasing film than the subject matter deserves (I could argue that Milioni deliberately sets such a grittily-themed film in beautiful environs to heighten the contrast between low and high, but I've already cut him more than enough slack). There are a couple of non-sex WTF moments too: an early scene involving a glass of sedatives being passed back and forth between the sisters anticipates the bribe scene in Naked Gun, and a shot of a dog which holds long enough that you know the editor has noticed the same thing as I did-the dog has the face of a man! Mental! But thien again this is a very, very mental film.
*Check out his thesis 'Gender, Genre and Sociocultural Change in the Giallo: 1970-1975' or his excellent featurettes on most of the recent Arrow giallo releases for more.
**You could argue that the father is the killer, given that Ursula seems to be channelling him for her murderous shenanigans, but you'd pretty much be wrong. It is worth noting that the early reference to a large inheritance seems to set the scene for a potential appearance from the girls' estranged mother, giving two characters a presence in the film despite never actually appearing on-screen. It also sets up the film as taking the classic inheritance-scheme route, when it's actually one of the psycho-killer ones.