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A cook turns to theft so she and her lover can marry.
In a small Sicilian fishing village, Marietta, the object of all the townsmen's desire, works as a servant for patrician landowner and town boss Don Cesare, who thinks of the young woman as a daughter. One day when government agricultural engineer Enrico is sent to the village to drain nearby swamps, thereby preventing the spread of malaria, Cesare, suspicious of modern advances, protests that the swamps hold antique Grecian sculpture, which he collects, but Enrico insists on continuing his work and tries to hire Marietta as his servant by offering her a substantial wage. Although Marietta's mother and sisters, who also work for Cesare, insist that she take the job, Marietta refuses to be "sold" to the newcomer. As she flees the house, Marietta bumps into Enrico and confidently claims that she will soon be his wife not his slave. That afternoon, determined to acquire a dowry to ensure a worthy mate, Marietta charms some teenage boys into stealing a police motorbike by cleverly disassembling it. As Marietta attempts to win her man chastely despite her otherwise illegal scheme, several others in town conduct illicit affairs. Disaffected Guiseppina has secret liaisons with her brother-in-law Attilio, who is also the town inspector, while young law student Francesco, son of aspiring town boss Brigante, shares true romance with Donna Lucrezia, the judge's middle-aged wife. Later, when Brigante finds Marietta with the stolen bike, he lasciviously corners her, but Marietta rebuffs him on the grounds that Brigante is unwilling to take her for his wife. That night at a dance in the town plaza, when Lucrezia catches Guiseppina in an adulterous kiss with Attilio, she blackmails Guiseppina into delivering a note to Francesco. Meanwhile, Marietta spots a Swiss tourist with a wallet full of cash and follows him to his car where he leaves the wallet with his sleeping toddler. Marietta then slips her belt through a crack in the window, releases the door lock and escapes with the money. In a village bar, several dozen townsmen gather to watch a grim game called The Law, in which the winner is given absolute control over the other players. Brigante uses his winning turn to exhibit his sadism over the townspeople by ordering Marietta's brother-in-law Tonio to drink copiously. When Tonio, who works for Cesare as his steward, retorts that Cesare is the real village law, Brigante forces him to kiss an open blade. Meanwhile, Marietta returns to Cesare's house, where her mother and sisters tie her down and whip her mercilessly for being a "slut." When Tonio returns home just in time to stop the fight, Marietta tells him she is leaving for good. The next day, Lucrezia secretly meets with Francesco at the oceanside bluffs where the couple professes their love. Back in town, Brigante, learning from the townsmen that Marietta is living in the shack above the fountain, goes there to offer her money in exchange for sex. She refuses, but when Brigante manhandles her, she placates him momentarily, then slashes his face with a knife. Marietta throws the fleeing Brigante his jacket, in which she has planted the tourist's wallet, hoping to frame Brigante for the crime. Meanwhile on the bathing beach, Guiseppina secretly leaves a note in Francesco's changing cabin, where Brigante finds it and realizes that Lucrezia plans to leave with his son the following morning on the outgoing bus. Later when Brigante pulls out money to pay for a drink at the bar, Tonio notices the tourist's wallet in his pocket. That night, as they share dinner in her shack, Enrico assures Marietta that he is in no hurry to marry, but she tells him how lonely she is and gradually convinces him to take her in his arms. The next morning, Brigante boards the outgoing bus and accuses Francesco of being Lucrezia's gigolo, thus forcing his humiliated son to leave Lucrezia. Meanwhile at the shack, Enrico wakes to find he is in love with Marietta, who makes him swear to marry her if an adequate dowry is available. When he agrees, she delightedly pours a feedsack full of money over him. Surmising that Marietta stole the money, Enrico insists that she return it. Soon after, Marietta learns that a gravely ill Cesare seeks her company and returns to the house, where she admits the robbery to Cesare. Although he is amused by Marietta's form of justice for Brigante's attempted rape, Cesare warns her that Brigante has been jailed for the theft and she must tell the truth. When Marietta refuses, Cesare offers to return the money anonymously for her and leave her his house in his will. Marietta cleverly suggests that he give her the house now and let her sell it back to him, thereby acquiring a dowry. Buoyed by her ingenuity, Cesare calls the judge, Brigante and Attilio to the house, where he invites them to play The Law and announces Marietta is the winner. When the handcuffed Brigante asks for a drink, she refuses him and Cesare reprimands him for wanting to become a king but not acting like one. In desperation, Brigante tells the judge that Francesco is having an affair with his wife Lucrezia, but Cesare orders the men to stop their childish antics, then reveals the money, which he claims was found by one of his workmen in the swamps. Suddenly, as Cesare cringes in pain, Marietta and Tonio take him back to his bedroom, where Marietta holds him to her bosom. As the town holds vigil for the dying patriarch, Brigante finds Lucrezia on the returning bus and after telling her that her husband knows of the affair, offers to let her stay with him. At his apartment, Brigante brazenly claims to be a better lover than his son and kisses Lucrezia, who allows him to undress her, but as he turns to pour a drink, she jumps from the room's balcony to her death. That night, while Cesare dies under Marietta's watchful eye, gossip spreads that Enrico will take Cesare's place because Brigante forfeited the title of the village lawmaker when he drove Lucrezia to suicide. The next day, Marietta throws out the whips and tells her family there will be no slaves in her house. Later, as Francesco leaves town on the afternoon bus despite his father's pathetic pleas, Marietta and her fiancé Enrico drive down the coast, laughing at their good fortune and new-found love.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 9 Nov 1960; New York opening: 11 Nov 1960|
|Release Date:||1960||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Loew's Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono (Westrex Recording System)||Production Co:||Cite Films, Groupe Des Quatre, Paris, Titanus-GE. S.I. Rome, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||114 or 120||Country:||France, Italy, and United States|
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Joe Cummings 2011-10-13
Lollobrigida smokes in this. Seeing Marcello and Gina together, it took me a minute to realize they weren't speaking Italian but French. Watching...