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.