MONDO MACABRO BLU RAY RELEASE: The Laughing Woman (1968)

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for years and held off, because there’s no way that it can live up to the imagery of the sculpture of a giant woman with a teeth-like door between her thighs that opens to reveal a skeleton that falls out, its head rolling toward camera. But somehow, someway, this movie is even stranger and better than that bravura moment.

Maria (Dagmar Lassander) works in the office of Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy), who claims to be working in philanthropy but really believes in an increasingly wild series of conspiracies like how every woman in the world is against him and they’re all collecting the sperm of men so they can get rid of them after harvesting their life-giving sperm and that governments are planning on making men obsolete.

After having a drink with Sayer, Maria wakes up chained to a bed and his prisoner, being told that he can make her do anything he wants and when he’s done, like so many other women, he will just get rid of her, move on and do it all over again.

Directed and written by Piero Schivazappa, this movie takes the expected BDSM idea that an independent woman is going to enjoy pushing her boundaries and fall for her captor and instead flip it like a kink-friendly Arabian Nights, as Maria keeps talking and pushing and prodding Sayer, making him question who he is and what he’s doing.

The world that this happens inside is the kind of future that we were promised and never got, a push-button retro tomorrow that never got here, filled with starkness, strange human forms and swimming pools that are either havens for torture or passion. There’s also a strange bed that Maria soon learns allows Sayer to sleep next to her even when she thinks she’s all alone. And then he makes her make love — with his direction — to his exact mannequin duplicate.

How strange is it that there’s a major inversion before the end of this movie, between who is in charge and who controls who and the traditional top and bottom roles and wow, when Maria pulls off her short wig — Sayer had previously chopped all of her hair — to reveal her flowing locks again, it’s beyond perfect. I was ready for what would happen, but somehow still so happy that it all played out this way, because yes, it has to play out this way.

Sometimes, style and substance fight it out and argue and no one wins. And other times, they just decide to just stop fighting and start fucking and the results are glorious. This would be that time.

Mondo Macabro’s blu ray of this movie is the region-free world blu ray premiere, with a 1080p presentation from a 4k restoration of the original camera negative. It has a choice of English or Italian audio, with optional English subtitles, as well as an interview with writer/director Piero Schivazappa, commentary by Kat Ellinger, a video essay on the film’s production design by Rachael Nisbet, an animated foto-novel by Jacques Spohr and the trailers for the movie. You can get it from Mondo Macabro.

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