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  Sewer Rats, The One Woman for Seven Bastards
Year: 1974
Director: Roberto Bianchi Montero
Stars: Richard Harrison, Dagmar Lassander, Ivano Staccioli, Antonio Casale, Luciano Bartoli, Luciano Rossi, Alessandro Parella, Gordon Mitchell, Andrea Checchi
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A nameless cripple (Richard Harrison) stumbles into a decrepit old mining town inhabited by just six men and one woman. Glowering bully Carl (Antonio Casale) and his granite-faced right hand thug, Gordon (Gordon Mitchell) regard the stranger with suspicion, although Rita (Dagmar Lassander), the former’s prick-teasing nymphomaniac wife, seems intent on seducing him. Despite Carl’s brutal efforts to keep everyone in line, it appears every man in town lusts after Rita from the harmless harmonica-playing mute (Luciano Rossi), to grubby pervert Smith (Ivano Staccioli) and his scheming partner, Dick (Luciano Bartoli). An old prospector (Andrea Checchi), the only friendly person in town, warns the stranger to keep away from Rita, but she proves the key to unlocking the town’s guilty secret.

Known in Italy as Una donna per sette bastardi (One Woman for Seven Bastards) this offbeat, spaghetti western-styled crime thriller shares some superficial similarities with the classic Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), another movie about a crippled yet resourceful hero uncovering dark secrets in an all-but-deserted town. Grimy and downbeat with a tone not far removed from the dustbowl noir of Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest or James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, the story was supposedly devised by star Richard Harrison, an American actor who found success in Italian sword and sandal pictures then worked his way through the spaghetti western and Euro crime crazes before moving to Hong Kong for roles in the Shaw Brothers kung fu epic Marco Polo (1975) and about a dozen ninja movies for schlockmeister Godfrey Ho.

It is a slow burn, less pacy than most Euro crime efforts yet richer in character detail with a sparse but still fairly nuanced plot. Not everything about the story adds up and the film dwells largely on characters stuck in horrible situation driven to abusing each other to alleviate their misery, but this serves its effective and unsettlingly bestial view of human nature. The film feeds viewers information one crumb at a time as we discover along with the hero that each character has a secret to hide building towards a broader revelation. With Rita either slutting about town or subject to repulsive rape scenes, this bears the usual uncomfortable Italian trash film misogyny, which in this instance does serve the story as does the muddy brown cinematography though it remains hard to tell whether these were an artistic choice or simply the result of a poor quality print.

Things kick up a notch towards the end as Harrison’s hero happens upon a vital clue and builds towards a gripping, suspenseful showdown. Harrison responds to the relatively higher quality of the material with one of his more committed performances while lovely Dagmar Lassander is exceptional as the provocative, hardboiled yet world-weary temptress. Although celebrated for her beauty, Lassander is underrated as an actress and between this film and her outstanding turns in Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970), The Frightened Woman (1969) and So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious (1975), a reappraisal of her talents is overdue. Prolific though unheralded Italian exploitation director Roberto Bianchi Montero had credits dating back to the early Forties. Over the course of sixty-two movies he made the Eurospy thriller Desperate Mission (1965), spaghetti westerns Two Faces of the Dollar (1967) and Durango Is Coming, Pay or Die (1971), saucy giallo So Sweet, So Dead (1972) and historical sexploitation romps Caligula Erotica (1977) and The Secret Nights of Lucrezia Borgia (1982) before bowing out with bestiality porn flick L’amore e la bestia (1986). What a career!

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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