The Belle Starr Story (1968) Raro Video Blu-ray Review
Based on a legendary figure of the West, The Belle Starr Story is a fine spaghetti western with a solid story, likable portrayals, and some gritty action too.
A lady gunslinger forms a gang and tries a daring jewel heist.
The daughter of a wealthy man is betrayed by her father in a cruel and selfish ploy; he gives her to an influential man in marriage in the hope that the union will eventually make him a respected politician. Before she can be wed off, she flees and changes her name to Belle Starr (played by Elsa Martinelli) and takes on the guise of a gunslinger that only wears black pants and jacket, with a hat to match. With only her hatred to fuel her path forward, she joins forces with a happy-go-lucky hero named Cole (Robert Woods) who is both a help and a hindrance to her. He helps her get revenge against her father, but then he turns against her and tries raping her, which puts her in a terrible position that she fortunately is able to get the better of with the help of a friend and ally she made in a squaw she rescued earlier. Now an outlaw, Belle Starr encounters a dangerous gambler and outlaw named Larry Blackie (played with glee by George Eastman), who soon becomes her lover, but this is no regular romance – she despises him and wants to kill him, but he’s always one step ahead of her in every way. When she realizes that he’s got a plan to rob millions in diamonds, she steals his idea and gathers unto herself a squad of miscreants and scumbags that form her gang. When she attempts to rob the jewels, her gang turns against her, but luckily for her, she’s got Larry to save her skin, but when he gets captured, there’s only Belle Starr to save him in return.
Based on a legendary figure of the West, The Belle Starr Story is a fine spaghetti western with a solid story, likable portrayals, and some gritty action too. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that star Martinelli could best anyone in a gunfight because her gun posture is terrible and she’s really short not imposing in any way, but that’s part of the movie’s charm. When director Piero Cristofani left the production after only a few days, Lina Wertmuller took over, making her the first and only female filmmaker to direct a spaghetti western. The film has a clear feminist stance, and for a western shot in ’68, that makes it pretty interesting.
The new Blu-ray edition of The Belle Starr Story from Raro Video has a nice filmic high definition transfer, and a new commentary by a film historian. There’s no English language dub option, only an Italian track with English subtitles.