Shirley Stoler

Shirley Stoler

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Seven Beauties Review


Extraordinary
Lina Wertmüller's most complex film is also one of her funniest and most touching. While it's a Holocaust film at heart, Seven Beauties sprawls across a decade or so in the history of Italy. The hero -- if you can call him that -- is Pasqualino Frafuso (Giancarlo Giannini), the sole boy in a family of eight kids, a fact that has clearly caused him some stress as a youth.

Pasqualino ends up killing one of his sisters' (the beauties) boyfriends, winds up in prison, transfers to the loony bin, and finally escapes by agreeing to enlist in Mussolini's rising Italian army. He's shipped off the the front and quickly captured by the Germans (yeah, they're allies, don't ask) and sentenced to a concentration camp. And yet Pasqualino survives it all, never really succumbing to the horrors that surround him at every turn. Most of the film plays out during his time in the camp, with flashbacks telling us how he got to where he is now. The effect is something like Slaughterhouse-Five.

Continue reading: Seven Beauties Review

The Honeymoon Killers Review


Excellent
A cinematic oddity seen by few, The Honeymoon Killers is a landmark entry into the shockumentary genre -- the true story of an exceptionally dysfunctional couple who went a-murdering in the 1940s. Raymond Fernandez (played here by smarmy Tony Lo Bianco) was acting alone -- killing women he met through a personals service (and absconding with their wealth) -- and the rotund Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) would have been his next victim, had she not proven herself equally sociopathic as Raymond. They started plying the killing trade together: Ray would woo the landlady and get her to marry him, Martha would pose as a relative. Eventually they would poison the woman and move on to the next victim. Maybe the next one would get it with a hammer, who knows.

The Honeymoon Killers is a fairly faithful rendition of the Fernandez-Beck affair, and rightly so: It's a story that needs little embellishment. Writer/director Leonard Kastle was a first-timer; he would never make another film, either. His amateurism shows: The sound is atrocious, and the story has odd jumps in it. Kastle's cameraman saves him more than once with inspired setups that sometimes leave the murders to the imagination, and sometimes don't.

Continue reading: The Honeymoon Killers Review

Seven Beauties Review


Extraordinary
Lina Wertmüller's most complex film is also one of her funniest and most touching. While it's a Holocaust film at heart, Seven Beauties sprawls across a decade or so in the history of Italy. The hero -- if you can call him that -- is Pasqualino Frafuso (Giancarlo Giannini), the sole boy in a family of eight kids, a fact that has clearly caused him some stress as a youth.

Pasqualino ends up killing one of his sisters' (the beauties) boyfriends, winds up in prison, transfers to the loony bin, and finally escapes by agreeing to enlist in Mussolini's rising Italian army. He's shipped off the the front and quickly captured by the Germans (yeah, they're allies, don't ask) and sentenced to a concentration camp. And yet Pasqualino survives it all, never really succumbing to the horrors that surround him at every turn. Most of the film plays out during his time in the camp, with flashbacks telling us how he got to where he is now. The effect is something like Slaughterhouse-Five.

Continue reading: Seven Beauties Review

Shirley Stoler

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