International Horror Film Review: The Sister of Ursula (dir by Enzo Milioni)


This 1978 Italian giallo tells the story of two sisters.  Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi, who is best-known for playing Olga in Argento’s Suspiria) is high-strung and prone to nightmares.  She claims that she can see people for who they really are.  Dagmar (Stefania D’Amario) is a year or two older.  She looks after her sister and makes sure that Ursula takes her pills.  Still, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Dagmar would like to be free of having worry about Ursula.

After the death of their father, Ursula and Dagmar check into a hotel in an Italian resort town.  Ursula wants to find their mother, a prostitute who left their father shortly after Ursula was born.  Dagmar, for her part, seems to just want to take a vacation and maybe meet a few men.  Ursula gives Dagmar a hard time for being promiscuous.  Dagmar gives Ursula a hard time for being neurotic and not having any fun.  It’s a typical family vacation.

Unfortunately, there’s also a homicidal lunatic on the loose, one that kills the promiscuous.  In typical giallo fashion, he wears black gloves and, often, all we see of him is his madness-filled eyes.  Unlike a lot of other giallo killers, he does not use a knife.  Nor does he strangle his victims.  Instead, he uses a big wooden dildo to beat people to death.  Believe me, I’m probably making it sound more interesting than it actually is.  For a film that wallows in sleaze, The Sister of Ursula doesn’t focus too much on the killer’s use of a dildo as a murder weapon, beyond showing its shadow on a wall at one point.  It’s an odd piece of directorial restraint that feels at odds with the rest of the movie.

Describing The Sister of Ursula as being a sleazy film doesn’t begin to describe just how sleazy this film is.  There’s not a single character to be found in the film who is not, in some way, perverse and the frequent soft-core sex scenes seem to exclusively take place in locations that don’t appear to have been cleaned anytime recently.  (One such scene features a picture of Donald Duck hanging on the wall over the bed.  That’s one of those weird but fun decorating choices that always seems to occur in giallo films.)  There are many films that leave you feeling like you need to take a shower afterwards.  This is one of the few films that I can think of that will leave you feeling like you need to take a shower every fifteen minutes or so.  

As for the film’s mystery, it plays out at a languid pace.  The story gets bogged down with a subplot about drug dealers.  One would be tempted to say that the film cultivates an atmosphere of ennui but I think that’s giving The Sister of Ursula too much credit.  This film was not made by a subversive artist like Jean Rollin or Jess Franco.  Instead, it’s just a poorly directed and paced giallo film.  That said, the Italian scenery is often lovely to look at and Barbara Magnolfi and Stefania D’Amario are believable as sisters.  This is a minor giallo that’s not so much terrible as it’s just forgettable.  

One response to “International Horror Film Review: The Sister of Ursula (dir by Enzo Milioni)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 10/17/22 — 10/23/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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