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FEMMINE CARNIVORE

Self-indulgent late 1960s spectacles are usually always fun, and that’s certainly the case with this Italian outrage about a country clinic staffed by homicidal feminists. Just don’t make the mistake of taking any of it too seriously!

The Package
     FEMMINE CARNIVORE (a.k.a. DIE WEIBCHEN, MUJERES CARNIVORAS and THE FEMALES) makes for a good fit with trippy horror-tinged Italian oddities like DEATH LAID AN EGG and A QUIET PLACE IN THE COUNTRY. FEMMINE CARIVORE, alas, was a bit late to the party, arriving as it did in 1970 (which probably explains why it isn’t as well known as those other films). It was directed by the late Zbynek Brynych, who’s best known for the Czech new wave classic …AND THE FIFTH HORSEMAN IS FEAR and the German outrage ANGELS WITH BURNT WINGS, which debuted the same year as the present film.

The Story
     The attractive Eve, a stressed-out secretary suffering from crippling anxiety, takes a lengthy train ride to the Van Marens psychiatric retreat. Upon arriving Eve finds a seeming country haven staffed entirely by women.
     Eve is given drugs, allegedly so she can sleep better. In her drugged state she wanders out of her room one night and opens a hallway door, out of which tumbles a man’s corpse with a knife in its back. Eve attempts to tell her feminist superiors of her find but is just given more drugs and told to forget about it.
     The following morning Eve is accosted by the retreat’s burly gardener--named, appropriately enough, Adam. Finding a pair of discarded shoes that apparently belonged to the dead man, Eve hops in a cab en route--she thinks--to the local police station. In fact she’s drugged once again and brought back to Van Marens, where more madness awaits.
     Eve comes to learn that man-hating is the norm at Van Marens. That fact is brought home in a major way at an outdoor protest led by the clinic’s overseers, in which women of all shapes and sizes are encouraged to show their tits and burn their bras.
     That night another man is killed, this time by being drowned in the clinic’s pool. Eve witnesses the killing and is appalled…though not all that much. If anything, she seems to be finally adapting to Van Marens, and finding she shares the none-too-refined views of its overseers…

The Direction
     That this film is a product of its time is evident in every conceivable respect, from the trippy proto-music video montages that pack the proceedings (which have no real point that I could discern) to the innumerable visual quirks (extreme fisheye lenses, etc) scattered throughout. It can be viewed as a sincere expression of male anxiety over the then-burgeoning feminist movement of the late 1960s, but that would be giving far too much credit to what is in most respects a very silly account that mixes extreme feminism--as evinced by the bra-burning sequence, easily the film’s most outrageous scene--with grade-Z horror tropes.
     Unexpectedly enough, the whole thing is quite kinetic, with frantic pacing, rapid fire dialogue and camerawork that never seems to stop moving. Similarly, the bombastic, quintessentially sixties-centric music score is a constant distraction, and could have stood to be used more judiciously. The same can be said for the lead performance of Uschi Glas, who’s undeniably gorgeous but never especially sympathetic or compelling.
     Yet for all that the film is enormously fun to watch with its jazzy visuals, being redolent of an era whose likes we won’t be seeing again.

 
Vital Statistics

FEMMINE CARNIVORE (DIE WEIBCHEN/MUJERES CARNIVORAS/THE FEMALES)
Capitole Films/Copro Films/Roxy Film

Director: Zbynek Bynych
Producer: Luigi Waldleitner
Screenplay: “Ernst Flugel” (Manfred Purzer)
Cinematography: Charly Steinberger
Editing: Sophie Mikorey
Cast: Uschi Glas, Irinia Demick, Francoise Fabian, Giorgio Adisson, Pascale Petit, Alain Noury, Anne-Marie Kuster, Judy Winter, Tanja Gruber, Ruth Eder, Gisela Fischer, Brigitte Graf, Klaus Dahlen, Kurt Zips, Hans Korte
 

     

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