“La lupa mannara” (1976)
Lycanthropy becomes the subject of pathology rather than mythology in Rino Di Silvestro’s “La lupa mannara” (“Werewolf Woman”), a film that features an unsettling performance by Annik Borel as Daniela Neseri, a victim of teen rape who enters into adulthood with deep psychological scarring indelibly reinforced by the discovery of a horrid familial legend concerning an physically identical antecedent unceremoniously burned alive for being a murderous werewolf.
If the film appears to begin as a standard, if uncommonly anatomically revealing horror film, these opening indulgences in the supernatural are merely the vehicle by which Daniela’s psychic obsessions are made manifest first as nightmares and later, as her grip on reality continues to erode, as delusional route markers on her path to total madness; in the hallucinatory form of a her ancestral doppelgänger (also played by Borel, albeit with spotty hirsute applications and dreadful Silly Putty make-up).
Sneaking a peek at her visiting sister Elena (Dagmar Lassander) and her husband carnally engaged, Daniela, inspired by delusions of lunar influence which acts to conflate her primal sexual urges and uncontrollable violent impulses, savagely murders her brother-in-law, though his wounds are improbably attributed to an accidental fall and dog bites. Unsuspected of the crime, Daniela’s psychiatric state is such that she is is placed in a mental hospital administered by the same doctor who confided to Daniels’s father, Count Neseri (Tino Carraro) with an inordinate amount of nonsensical psychobabble meant to explain the rudimentary basis for all that is occurring in Daniela’s mind, though the miasma of oral diagnostic clutter affords as much impractical scientific value as that communicated on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Daniela escapes, but not before being groped by and then killing the traditional resident nymphomaniac (consistent with the easy bake recipes of Italian horror films, mental hospitals are depicted as the most laxly managed institutions imaginable), then engaging in a bloody crime spree, critically injuring a doctor and slaying both a would-be rapist (this seems to be an alarming trend among the Italian male as depicted in this film) and an innocent farm girl who has just enjoyed a literal roll in the hay. Meanwhile, enter plodding Police Inspector Modica (Frederick Stafford, perfecting something one might identify as stolidly amused gravitas) who regularly updates the body count in an efficient but inconsequential manner which virtually guarantees he’ll always be ineffectively three steps behind the action.
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