Frightened Woman (The) AKA Femina ridens AKA The Laughing Woman (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Shameless Screen Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (12th December 2023).
The Film

The director of THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN, Piero Schivazappa, praised the version released by Shameless - saying: “... this is the version which you should watch” - when Shameless initially reconstructed and released this version, revealing the film as he’d originally intended. This is the version which is now presented on Blu-ray - pristinely restored from a 4K scan - finally doing justice to the exuberant 60s pop-art images and set design.

This definitive edition is further enhanced by a unique new interview with the iconic Dagmar Lassander where she relates the groundbreaking and provocative nature of the film.

The captivating Dagmar Lassander shines as Maria, a young journalist working for Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy), the head of a philanthropic foundation with peculiar views on humanity's issues. When Maria is drugged and imprisoned by Dr. Sayer, she is subjected to increasingly sadistic acts by her captor, but she endures the horrors of her ordeal and unravels her boss's twisted beliefs and vulnerabilities. Using her intelligence and cunning, she shifts the power balance between them in a scintillatingly stylish game of cat and mouse.

This hypnotic exploration of passion and power blurs boundaries delving into gender dynamics, dominance, and submission with a provocative and playful approach. Prepare for an uninhibited journey into eroticism, where nothing is taboo, and everything is possible.


An onscreen caption precedes the film:
The Frightened Woman has a fairly typical colour palette for a late sixties, psychedelic, artsploitation film in that flesh tones are naturalistic but the use of colour, particularly reds is striking. Primaries are judiciously used in a generally modest look to create a striking effect. It's obvious writer-director Piero Schivazappa has a very specific look he's going for.

Black levels are satisfyingly deep with decent shadow detail, indeed all fine detail is well rendered despite the use of some filters to create a slightly hazy atmosphere. Contrast is strong and supportive and works in concert with the blacks to create a strong image that has been well encoded. Grain is beautifully rendered by the encode to create a very filmic image. I could see no signs of digital tinkering nor age related damage ('A').

1080p24 / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 1.85:1 / 90:11


English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Italian LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles: English (for the Italian track), English HoH (for the English track)

English Track: English seems to be the main language spoken on set and matches the lip movements. It's a solid robust track that although unsurprisingly lacks the depth and range of a modern track, certainly it'll not compare to a multi channel soundtrack, it gets the job done surprisingly well. The dub job is good despite some loose synching (pretty standard for Italian films of this era) and voice acting didn't make me cringe. There is some very mild hiss but I find that's par for the course for analogue recordings. The score and sound effects are clearly delineated and never interfere with dialogue and didn't hear any sibilance issues. There re some moments where this track drops into Italian due to those bits having never been dubbed into English.

Italian Track: This is a typically more elegant listening experience with slightly more noticeable hiss, but only ever so slightly. It doesn't match the lips much at all, so the choice is yours. In any case both are free from any audio effects, at least none that I noticed. I sampled both subtitle tracks and they're without error and faithfully translate or transcribe the dialogue. A couple of strong sonic presentations, or about as strong as a 1969-70 mono track is likely to be ('A-').


"The Female Gaze: A Conversation with Dagmar Lassander" 2021 interview (28:21)

Lassander begins by contrasting the two lead characters - a woman who wants to be free, independent and the male who feels threatened by independent women - and analyses how these two both wish to overcome each other. Other topics covered are how she feels writer-director Schivazappa was ahead of his time, his directorial style, how she got the part, and her working relationship with Phlippe Leroy. Lassander then discusses various other aspects relating to her career: anecdotes about her agent, Mario Bava and Hatchet for a Honeymoon, a meeting with Harry Saltzman about appearing in a Bond film, working with Lando Buzzanca, Alberto Sordi, Ettore Scola, Philippe Noiret etc. An excellent, wide-ranging interview. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with Italian LPCM 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 16-bit) sound with optional English subtitles.

"Marquis De Sade vs. Praying Mantis" 2021 interview with writer-director Piero Schivazappa (32:53)

Schivazappa is not a director I had come across before seeing this film, his debut. Here we get a nice career overview with topics covered being how he got his start in television, anecdotes about working with producer Giuseppe Zaccariello Cemo, the production design and how it was heavily influenced in some aspects by the sculptures of Niki Saint Phalle and plenty of other trivia. Another excellent, chunky extra that - along with Lassander piece - gives great contextual added value. Of note, occasionally the interviewer asking questions can be heard, which is unusual. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with Italian LPCM 2.0 stereo (48kHz, 16-bit) sound with optional English subtitles.

Startup Trailers (2:56):
- The Psychic
- Flavia the Heretic
- The Ape Woman

Trailers for other Shameless releases, all of which are good, interesting films well worth seeking out. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with LPCM 2.0 stereo sound (48kHz, 16-bit).


Comes in a slime, yellow BD Keepcase with an outer card slipcase featuring new artwork. The main sleeve has a choice of two different original key arts: one under the "Femina Ridens" title and the other "The Frightened Woman".


Shameless have released on Blu-ray a welcome upgrade of their 2008 DVD in a director-approved transfer. Image and sound are as good as can be expected and taken from a new 4K restoration. It most likely uses the same master used for the recent US Mondo Macabro release. The fine extras are the icing on the cake taking the the writer-director interview (and only his interview) from theIS disc. The added interview with star Dagmar Lassander is unique to this Shameless disc. Highly recommended ('A-').

The Film: B Video: A Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: A-


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