‘Seduced and Abandoned’ or — Putting the Boot In?

Colin Edwards
3 min readFeb 24, 2024

‘Seduced and Abandoned’ (1964) tells the plight of young Agnese Ascalone (Stefania Sandrelli) who is unexpectedly ravished by her sister’s fiancé, Peppino Califano (Aldo Puglisi), an act which leaves her pregnant.

When her parents discover what has happened her furious father, Don Vincenzo (Saro Urzì) locks Agnese in the attic fearing the disgrace that will befall the family if the small Sicilian town where they live gets word of her condition. This gives Don Vincenzo only a limited period of time to come up with a solution to save the family’s honour, an honour he seemingly cares more about than his own daughter.

One solution is for Peppino to marry Agnese but the selfish rake refuses because he can’t marry a woman who isn’t a virgin, a virginity HE took.

And so poor Agnese has her life, agency and future fully snatched from her control and it soon becomes apparent that she’s being neglected not just by her “lover” and family but also the legal, criminal and religious systems of the region.

If this all sounds like a heavy and serious subject matter that’s because it most certainly is with director Pietro Germi doing what he does best which is exposing the abusive and hypocritical codes and customs of male dominated Sicily. Yet what Germi also does best is his ability to make such uncomfortable material so hysterically hilarious, and this is one incredibly funny movie.

So we’re watching a film that deals with sexual assault, domestic violence, attempted suicide, unlawful imprisonment, kidnapping, physical and emotional abuse and revenge killings but we’re also laughing our asses off as it all occurs. A great example is when Don Vincenzo storms round to confront Peppino and rains down a flurry of blows upon the young defiler. It’s pretty brutal but the thing is Vincenzo has Peppino pinned-up against a piano so every punch causes a tremendous cacophony to erupt from the badly tuned instrument.

Likewise when poor Agnese is incarcerated in the attic. It’s a horrible and distressing situation but one transformed into comedy by the fact Agnese can now only communicate with her family by shouting down the piping so that her voice comes out the kitchen stove.

Another great development is when Don Vincenzo instructs his son, Antonio (Lando Buzzanca), to kill Peppino in an act of highly planned unpremeditated revenge. Needless to say the endearingly gormless Antonio (and nobody played endearingly gormless better than Buzzanca) screws it up big time which only makes the entire situation even worse and, hence, even funnier.

Germi makes his point, and it’s a strong one with razor sharp teeth, by taking these real life issues and magnifying them to exaggerated, though still realistic, proportions so by the time the film reaches its climax it becomes a dizzying nightmare (Don Vincenzo’s dream sequence is a great example of this). And even though Germi never demonises his characters, no matter how flawed they may be, he never falls into the trap of idolising the working classes or letting them off the hook and has zero compunction about revealing their failings, especially when it comes to petty pomposity.

Although the film’s most brutal gag is reserved for Sicily itself when the local policeman is gazing at a map of the Italian peninsula and whilst covering up the island of Sicily with his hand so it disappears completely nods in approval at how much better Italy now looks and declares that maybe what would be most beneficial to Sicily would be an atomic bomb.

‘Seduced and Abandoned’ is almost a sequel to Germi’s 1961 masterpiece ‘Divorce, Italian Style’ in that it deals with the impact of retrograde laws and customs on the lives of Sicilian women and it’s not far off in terms of quality either. Dark, scathing, funny, stylish (the shot of the Ascalone women walking in unison through the town whilst dressed in black is better than anything Tarantino ever attempted) and with a bite as savage as a rabid wolf ‘Seduced and Abandoned’ is another absolute blinder from Germi and legendary scriptwriters Age and Scarpelli. Sure, your heart will be breaking at poor Agnese’s plight but it certainly won’t stop you from laughing while it does so.

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Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.