History isn’t always fair to great films, often leaving smaller budget films in favour of blockbusters despite quality and caliber. This is true of Woman of Straw, a film so biting only United Artists could’ve released it.
Woman of Straw’s biggest problem is that it was released in 1964 competing with films like Dr. Strangelove, From Russia With Love, Mary Poppins, Marnie, A Hard Day’s Night and Goldfinger. Whilst Woman of Straw stars Sean Connery post From Russia With Love, pre-Marnie and Goldfinger, the film didn’t draw audiences like the other two.
The title Woman of Straw is a play on the idiom Man of Straw, referring to a person serving as a front for activities by another, which may not be legal. The film centers on the relationship of a wealthy cantankerous old man named Charles Richmond, who treated his servants like dogs and his own nephew/maybe son Tony Richmond (Connery) not much better. Richardson is so despicable he can’t seem to keep a live in maid. Connery hires the voluptuous nurse Maria played by the monumentally beautiful Gina Lollobrigida. (If you aren’t familiar with Lollobrigida’s work she is a strong actress with a face resembling Audrey Hepburn, and a body like Raquel Welsh) Maria makes it clear she will not be ill treated by the grumpy old man.
Richmond senior grows affectionate toward the disinterested Maria, and Tony, seeing an opportunity convinces Maria to marry his uncle. Tony hasn’t been included in the will, but with his uncle’s ailing health he persuaded Maria to marry him under the condition that he get a cut from her pay out. Meanwhile, he decides he wants Maria too. Only Maria isn’t the heartless gold-digger Tony was hoping for.
This is a dark film. Shot in beautiful location like Majorca and the British countryside. One could almost picture their life in an estate that dwarfs Downton Abbey for the cost of a few years with the devil. Equally beautiful is the film’s soundtrack, which comes in the form of Beethoven concertos that Richmond plays constantly. It’s remarkable how modern and suspenseful the music fills each scene.
Crime dramas like this one aren’t quite film noir, but aren’t pulp detective either, they fit into their own vague genre which may be why time has left this film to be forgotten. This film is terrific as is the fact that it is being rereleased. Simply Media has done it again, resurrecting another forgotten masterpiece and releasing it for the world to see!
Dir: Basil Dearden
Scr: Robert Muller, Stanley Mann
Starring: Gina Lollobrigida, Sean Connery, Ralph Richardson
Prd: Michael Ralph
DOP: Otto Heller
Music: Norman Percival
Run time: 122 mins
Woman of Straw is available on DVD now via Simply Media