The Belle Starr Story / Il mio corpo per un poker (Lina Wertmüller, 1968)

I have been intrigued by this film for some time as it is the only Spaghetti Western I know of directed by a woman (Lina Wertmuller working under the alias of Nathan Wich) and I finally got to see it this weekend.

The movie operates in two halves really, the first primarily involved with flash backs telling how Belle Starr (played by the gorgeous Elsa Martinelli) came to be an outlaw, the second following her gang’s robbery of a jewel shipment. Over both parts hangs her troubled and passionate relationship with rival bad guy Larry Blackie (George Eastman). This relationship verges on the sado masochistic at times and is very much a love / hate affair. All a bit troubling to be honest from a modern perspective.

Overall I found the film patchy and uncohesive. The flash backs in the first half have an irritating voice over when I would prefer the action to tell the story but it picks up in the second half during the robbery sequence and finishes well. It is interesting though to have a female lead and for the story to be told from a woman’s perspective. Certainly more bare chested men than you’d normally expect and Belle smokes, gambles and shoots better than any of them.

Lina Wertmuller, has had an interesting career spanning both arty and low brow films as writer and director and was even the first woman nominated for an Oscar as best director in 1975 for ‘Pasqualino Settebellezze’.

It’s an interesting genre piece but not a candidate for anyone’s top twenty I think.

An interesting point is that Robert Woods was supposed to play not only in the flashbacks, but Wertmüller had trouble with him, so she wrote him out of the film by dividing his character into 2 roles and casting George Eastman to replace him.

The production of the film was close to be shut down when Wertmüller took over as a favor for her friend Elsa Martinelli. She rewrote the screenplay and shot the film simultaneously, all done very quickly and very cheaply in Yugoslavia.

Not a great, but an interesting SW.

And yes, Martinelli is sexy in it.

That’s really interesting and explains why it feels so disjointed with the voice over and flashbacks. Thanks for that info. Where did you hear that?

i saw this about 10 years ago when i had the old precert techno/fletcher tape and didn’t think it was that good, i’ll have to see it again though cos i can’t remember it very well.

It was in a german book about Wertmüller, where parts of an interview from 1987 were quoted.

Up to this interview nobody even knew about Wertmüller’s involvement in a SW.

Even the author, an italian, hadn’t seen the film at the time of his contribution to this book.

Thanks again for that. It’s info sharing like this that makes this forum really valuable.

The story as Wertmüller described it:

Woods left the set, because he was angry that Elsa Martinelli got more Close Ups than himself.

Ha, ha, a real professional.

I’d rather have close ups of Elsa Martinelli than Robert Woods any day. Never did like him very much and she looks fabulous.

Watching this film for the first time right now. Excellent gunfight in the darkened saloon. I’m sure it would look a lot better in a widescreen, higher quality copy, though. So far, I agree with what most people have been saying about the film (intriguing but disjointed spag.) Martinelli and Eastman are wonderful in it, though!


Not bad at all! But sometimes it´s very slow on showing her past, don´t have enough SW style.
In my opinion just Bruno Corazzari is on top, his character is superb
Anyway, just for fans!

My vote is [4/10]


Well made, absorbing SW with a female lead delivers action, tension, passion and more.

MY VOTE For BELLE STAR 1968 is 12.8 out of 20 . :slight_smile:

A strange but nice little SW, i enjoyed it despite the crap reviews i read.

I downloaded it from Demonoid(sadly missed) last year along with about 80 or so other SW’s.

Now here’s a Wertmüller film to be remade by Madonna and her superficially SW-influenced husband Guy Ritchie - the results couldn’t be worse than SWEPT AWAY. :wink: More than a female can-do curiosity, this is a quite neat little film that actually brings some new perspectives to the genre. I find the poker table scenes slow going but the final reel saves the day with some suspenseful caper stuff and rescue from signor Corazzari’s torture chamber.

This is merely a cheesy love story that is incoherent with its abundance of flashbacks and is long on action too. I expected more of a badass title character, but the bitch is in love… Muhaha, what a load of crap. And boring as hell too.

Point taken but being in love can’t be all bad :-*… And for all its perceived cheesiness the movie manages to resist a “happily ever after” Hollywood ending. The Woods/Eastman duality was incoherent but I think the flashback parts were very linear and easy to grasp - the way I remember them :wink: All in all a minor but likeable effort if you don’t require all-out action.

saw this last night.not rubbish but in my opinon not particularly good ethier.too slow, too much emphasis on romance and on trying to be arty.the acting and production wasn’t too bad but overall film is forgettable the moment it’s over, and i have difficulty in remembering any highlights in the short time since i saw it. ??? 4/10

I watched this film this past weekend. I loved it for its oddness.
I thought it was funny/obvious in that it started with a submissive male lighting Belle’s very long cigar. You pretty much had the whole movie encapsulated right there (Belle’s got a bigger one than any of the dudes).
More than a little sadism, both physical and emotional. Definite undercurrents of gender ambiguity (Eastman wears an earring, lots of submissive men, hints at lesbianism between Belle & her female companion) that are not surprising considering the director hid behind a male pseudonym.
I loved Elsa’s various costumes and was most happy when they got her into the all-black-leather outfit. :stuck_out_tongue:
I liked the gambler look, too, in which she started the film. She looked good under that wide, flat hat. Curiously, I just watched Three Silver Dollars recently and the big, burley, bald Spaghetti character actor Pietro Ceccarelli wore the exact same fckin’ hat. I mean it may even have been the same one! How he came to choose it I have not idea. Weird.
I liked this a lot just for Elsa. I loved her in André De Toth’s The Indian Fighter from years before.
Wish I had a better copy of this though. I have a really crappy public domain version with poor sound and color. At least it was in widescreen.
Oh, Elsa, baby. :-

Harm Siepel/Bad lieutenant’s (Dutch) review of this spaghetti western - apparently the only one directed by a woman - is now accompanied by a translation too:

I have never seen it, but it looks like it is typical sixties, neo marxist stuff, with society (‘circumstances’) the cause of everything that ever went wrong with anybody

I remeber Belle starr was played by Pamela reed in The Long Riders
I suppose she looked better than the real Belle Starr too, but did she look better than Elsa Martinelli?

Glad to find a discussion thread on this one, I give it probably higher marks than it deserves by being so unique. I also love George Eastman, he’s such a big lummox and I would say that next to BEN & CHARLIE this is my favorite of his westerns.

Actually I have come to my senses and now admit that BEN & CHARLIE is my favorite George Eastman western. Nothin’ but a no-good goat herder …