Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Il fiore dai petali d'acciaio (1973)

... aka: Flor de petalos de acero, La
... aka: Flower with Petals of Steel, The
... aka: Flower with the Deadly Sting, The

Directed by:
Gianfranco Piccioli

American actress Carroll Baker hit the big time after her turn in BABY DOLL (1956), which earned her an Oscar nomination and other awards and accolades. Problems quickly arose for the actress, especially in regards to her stifling studio contract with Warner Bros., who were offering her mostly trashy roles she was disinterested in and refusing to loan her out to other studios. This ended up costing her roles in such classics as CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) and THE THREE FACES OF EVE (1957). Frustrated and now viewed as an uncooperative "problem" actress, Warner severed their ties with Baker, and the actress went somewhere she could be appreciated: Italy. Baker lived and worked there for well over a decade, during which time she headlined many Italian giallo that were eager to capitalize on the actress' sexy image (and willingness to show some skin) and the ever-dwindling marquee value attached to her name. Many of these films initially received X ratings here in America, though now they're much milder than your typical R rated film.

Like its contemporaries, Flower with the Deadly Sting (aka Flower with the Petals of Steel) has the usual assortment of decadent, hedonistic types involved in a dangerous game of sex, lies, blackmail, double-crossing and death by tacky 70s home decor. Evelyne Graffi (Baker) and Daniela (Paola Senatore) are not only stepsisters, but also lovers. Daniela is getting some on the side from wealthy doctor Andrea Valenti (Gianni Garko), but he's about had it with both her and her sister. Evelyne - who was also romantically involved with Andrea in the past - encourages the relationship only because Andrea frequently gives Daniela money, but that doesn't stop her from being insanely jealous whenever the two are together. Luckily for her, Dr. Valenti is about to call the whole thing off.

Late one night, a woman fitting Daniela's physical description, who's never acknowledged and whose face is never shown, swings by Andrea's apartment. After telling her to leave, he steps out of the room briefly to compose himself and then comes back in to find the woman dead. She's either committed suicide or has been murdered by the titular "flower with petals of steel" sculpture. Instead of going to the police, Andrea opts to use his knowledge of anatomy and surgical skills to dismember her corpse. He then takes it to a mill and has it smashed into an unrecognizable pulp by grindstones. It isn't long before the police show up at the hospital Andrea works at asking about Daniela, who's now missing. They're especially suspicious since her car is still parked right outside Andrea's pad. Evelyne won't go away and starts to cause problems, not the least of which is the missing person's report she's filed. She also keeps digging up information about the good doctor's sordid past.

Andrea was once married to a woman who really liked sex. A lot. She liked it so much that he used it as an easy excuse to have her locked away in a nuthouse for treatment. Andrea had even bribed an unscrupulous doctor (Umberto Raho) with the promise of a promotion to have her falsely committed for five years. She's since been released, but Mrs. Valenti has herself disappeared and no one has the faintest clue what's happened to her. Either way, someone is out to ruin Andrea and whoever's doing it frequently leaves him packages that tell him they know what occurred in his apartment the night Daniela went missing and about what he did to his wife. Andrea has visions of the body he dismembered being bloody and reassembled and hears dolls crying. He receives phone calls from a whispering, jealous female who warns "I don't want you with anyone else." He discovers a possible rooftop entrance someone could have easily used to enter his apartment. And so on.

Flower is a case of competent mediocrity. It'll pass the time adequately on a rainy day, but is extremely forgettable. A routine, ordinary film, this is visually unimpressive and has a mediocre plotline with the obligatory final reel twist. A generous helping of female flesh (including some clothes-free scuba diving), chic cow-print bedding ensembles and a fun finale are your compensations.

Ivano Staccioli, as the obligatory police inspector who takes a liking to Baker's character, and the gorgeous and sexy Pilar Velázquez, who plays Adrian's secretary (another of his lovers), co-star.


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