WOMAN OF STRAW

      

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 17, 2015

After his enormous success as James Bond in 1962 with “Dr. No” and the following year with “From Russia With Love,” Sean Connery capitalized on his newfound popularity by making two brooding thrillers before going into production with “Goldfinger” (which would move him up to an even higher level of stardom).

The thrillers were Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie,” and another Hitchcock-like picture that has never been on DVD or Blu-ray until now, “Woman of Straw” (1964). Now Kino-Lorber has finally released the film in both formats.

    

  Connery, left, Richardson, Lollobrigida, 'Woman of Straw'

“Woman of Straw” gives top billing to Gina Lollobrigida, an Italian actress who reigned during the 1950s and ’60s a notch below Sophia Loren on the international movie-star/sexpot market.

Lollobrigida plays a nurse hired by Connery’s character, the charismatic nephew of and secretary to a wheelchair-bound tycoon.

Ralph Richardson has the latter role, creating a cranky, mean-spirited old man who mistreats everyone around him, especially his black servants whom he belittles and humiliates with demeaning, abusive and racist demands.

Lollbrigida is appalled by Richardson’s behavior and threatens to quit on her first night with him, but after a time she begins to warm to him and Richardson begins to soften.

    

Meanwhile, Connery approaches Lollobrigida and confronts her with the shady past she’s left behind, seducing and manipulating her, and proposing a plan for her to marry Richardson and inherit his wealth, giving Connery a $1 million fee for his assistance in making it happen.

Eventually, she reluctantly agrees and finds herself developing sincere feelings for Richardson. But things, of course, go awry, secrets and lies abound, and the truth is ultimately revealed in a double-twist final act.

“Woman of Straw” is pretty good, primarily for the opportunity to see Connery and Lollobrigida in their prime. And the story is interesting, if not compelling, benefiting from filming in European locations and that unexpected ending.

The downside is that the stars demonstrate no heat in their relationship and the direction (by Basil Dearden, whose earlier work includes the excellent “The League of Gentlemen”) is sluggish and remote. (There's also a plot device with Richardson late in the film that is meant to be shocking but is instead unintentionally comical.)

A lukewarm recommendation from this corner but it's worth a look for fans of the stars lovers of mysteries.