Director: Piero Schivazappa
Screenplay: Piero Schivazappa
Starring: Philippe Leroy and Dagmar Lassander
Country: Italy
Running Time: 90 min
Year: 1969

As a twenty six year old, a lot of my greatest discoveries in genre cinema have been thanks to the likes of boutique Blu-ray labels who put out films that I’ve never heard of, but immediately find myself sold on by either the premise or the gorgeous cover art. When I was sent an email with an opportunity to cover an Italian film I’d never heard of, with a striking premise and cover art, I absolutely had to take the chance on it. 

That film is The Frightened Woman, also known as The Laughing Woman and it’s directed by Piero Schivazappa in his feature film debut. Shameless Screen Entertainment worked with Schivazappa to craft the definitive version of his film and as proudly stated on the back cover, he stated that “this is the version you should watch.” As somebody unfamiliar with the film and director, I’m happy to report that The Frightened Woman is absolutely worth your time.

The film follows Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy), a man who on the surface seems relatively normal. He’s suave, well-respected and seems like a guy you’d probably learn a lot from. However, when journalist Maria (Dagmar Lassander) visits him at home, he ends up drugging and kidnapping her and revealing his true motives to her. 

Sayer is a sadistic man and over the course of the film, he’s determined to show Maria that he’s the one in charge as he puts her through a series of twisted, bizarre and sexual scenarios that range from disturbing to darkly comedic. An early one includes getting Maria to “make love” to a life-sized replica of Sayer, that has this strange level of humour to it that I found utterly fascinating. 

If there’s anything to take out of the film, it’s that it’s one of the most gorgeous films on a production design level I think I’ve seen from the 60s, which is saying something! There’s a dreamlike quality to the film, and although it’s not a giallo, it definitely feels like a precursor to some of the more visually dynamic films that would come from that genre. Stelvio Cipriani’s score is gorgeous too. You might know him from his work on films such as Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood, Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City or James Cameron’s Piranha II: The Spawning. 

While the narrative is consistently engaging, due to the frankly bizarre nature of the events witnessed, those looking for a film that can please your eyes and ears on an audio-visual level won’t be disappointed here, and the new 4K restoration from Shameless is marvellous. I can’t speak on behalf of prior releases, but this almost looks good enough that you could believe it’s a UHD release at times. If Shameless ever makes the transition to UHD releases, I hope this is one that they tackle! 

The Frightened Woman is a gem that I’m delighted to recommend to all of those into Italian sleaze. It’s gorgeous to look at, has a killer soundtrack and a plot that’s almost too ludicrous to put into words, but in an effort to avoid spoiling some of the best moments, I’ve kept it purposely light on the narrative front. 

There’s few films out there like The Frightened Woman and if you’re willing to take a risk on something unusual, out there and gonzo in the best possible ways, you’ll more than likely have a great time with this one.


The Frightened Woman releases on the 8th of January from Shameless Screen Entertainment on Limited Edition Blu-ray. I was sent a physical copy of the release and it looks gorgeous. It includes an individually numbered slipcover, reversible artwork and Shameless’ typical yellow case. As stated in my review, the video is sourced from a new 4K restoration and looks absolutely stunning in every way. With a healthy bitrate that consistently hovers around the 35Mbps range, there’s no issues there. There’s two audio tracks included, English 2.0 and Italian 2.0. Both come with English subtitles (including HoH for the English track). I viewed the film with the English audio track as it’s the primary one for the release and it sounds great too. The following extras are included:

Special Features:

  • Dagmar Lassander World-Exclusive Interview
  • Piero Schivazappa Interview
  • New 4K-Restored Version
  • English Language + separate original Italian
  • New Eng. Subtitles & additional SDH

Dagmar Lassander Interview – Exclusive to this Blu-ray release, this 28 minute interview with actress Dagmar Lassander is a delightful watch. She touches on how this film came out right at the beginning of the feminist movement and how she personally reads into the film, as well as a range of stories from the shoot and more. It’s a great interview that compliments the film well.

Piero Schivazappa Interview – This archival 32 minute interview, previously found on the US Mondo Macabro Blu-ray from a few years back is a solid watch. Schivazappa details his history in the Italian film industry, working in television and making documentaries, before coming up with the concept for The Frightened Woman. It’s an insightful interview that’s absolutely worth checking out.

We’re only a week into the new year and I’ve already found a contender for one of my favourite new watches already with The Frightened Woman. While a few more bonus features on this release would have made this feel a little more comprehensive, the two interviews included are solid and make this a release worth picking up. Genre fans, particularly those interested in Italian films owe it to themselves to check this one out!


The Frightened Woman - Shameless Screen Entertainment
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