The Slave (1969) [Blu-ray/DVD]

It’s really tough to approach “The Slave” (also known as “Check To The Queen”) on a level where you would an average film. By all respects, Pasquale Festa Campanile’s drama is a unique and surreal drama based around a sadist-masochist relationship. For a long time I’d all but been convinced that “Secretary” was as good as film of this ilk got, but “The Slave” comes close to conquering this small sub-genre well. Pasquale Festa Campanile’s film is solely based around a young girl whose own lust for pain and humiliation is rivaled by her unusual obsession with her vanity.

Though it’s never explained, director Campanile heavily implies that character Silvia is very much a lover of exhibitionism. Though not as much as she is sadism. She’s an enigmatic girl who seems to thrive on her master taking every chance to degrade and belittle her. The gorgeous Rosanna Schiaffino plays super model Margaret mevin, a truly unusual woman who lives and breathes by her wealth. She uses her riches as a means of hiring exclusively female slaves and servants that she keeps at her beckon call. There’s the exploration of perhaps a deeper homosexual urge within her, but director Campanile completely dashes any ideas about her sexuality at almost every turn. Mevin is a classic sadist who loves to torture and inflict humiliation on her female servants, and finds her match in character Silvia. Silvia is anxious for a job and is hired by her friend to become Margaret’s slave.

Silvia has to do whatever she says without question, and has to be at her command, no matter what time of day. What would normally break another person turns in to a consistent game for Margaret who looks for new ways to hurt and torment Silvia, and gains a fondness for her over the course of the narrative. We’re never really sure if Margaret is actually a heterosexual who loves to hurt her own kind, or is actually a self loathing homosexual that gains a true love for the shockingly submissive Silvia. Haydée Politoff is a polar opposite to Margaret, possessing a cherubic angelic façade, stunning unaltered beauty, and of course, the self-confidence that Margaret obviously lacks. “The Slave” is a lavish and surreal bit of hypersexual sixties drama that begins as a contest of wills and transforms in to an unlikely kinship. Much of “The Slave” is enigmatic, yet oddly hypnotic and compelling. I had a hard time turning away, even when I couldn’t quite decipher the actions and motives of the characters.

Featured on the new release from Mondo Macabro is a twenty eight minute interview with Roberto Curti, a film critic who explores the differences between Renato Ghiotti’s novel and Pasquale Festa Campanile’s film, the climate both political and social during the tilm of filming, the legacy of the film’s director, and Rosanna Schiaffino’s career. There’s the twenty minute interview with Justin Harries, from London’s Film Bar 70, who discusses Italian films from the 70’s, and the film itself. “About the Film” is a text only production history about the film. There’s a text library of Cast and Crew Profiles for Rosanna Schiaffino, Haydée Politoff, Pasquale Festa Campanile, and Piero Piccioni. Finally there’s a library of trailers accompanying the text profiles for films featuring the cast and director.