Il mio corpo per un poker (The Belle Starr Story) (1968)




Director:     Piero Cristofani and Lina Wertmüller (both as Nathan Wich).

Starring:     Elsa Martinelli (Belle Starr),  Robert Woods (Cole Harvey),  George Eastman (Larry Blackie),  Francesca Righini (Jessica),  Bruno Piergentili (Pedro),  Bruno Corazzari (Pinkerton Man),  Vladimir Medar (John Shelley),  Eugene Walter (Velvet Fingers).



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Belle Starr with a face of a model wears men's clothes and plays poker with the guys in a saloon.  A poker player named Larry Blackie comes in and asks to play a round with Belle alone.  The other fellows clear out and the two sit down to play poker.  (While playing poker, Belle has a flashback to her being raped and abused as a young lady.)  Larry wins all her money, then her ring and then one night with her.  In a hotel room, Larry tells her she threw three queens away.  He looked at her cards before they left.  Belle takes some clothes off, but then pulls a gun on Larry.  He was prepared for this because he pulls a rug from under her feet knocking her down.  She tries to slug him and they struggle around.  He slaps her twice and throws her on the bed.  She still struggles and he doesn't know why because he figures she deliberately threw a winning hand away to sleep with him.  (She has another flashback.)  But all of a sudden she changes her mind.

After they have sex (off-screen) they talk.  Belle surprised herself because she says the only man who ever tried to have sex with her is dead.  She tells Larry that she could have shot him, but she didn't. He says he's pretty well-known and he has killed men from here to Dodge City, Kansas.  Belle says that she has heard of him.  In fact, she says he is famous all over the West.  He asks her what is her name and when she tells him he starts laughing.  She wants to know what he's laughing at and he says:  "You're the terrible Belle Starr?"  She tells him to stop laughing.  He gets mad and says all she is to him is just another whore he spent a night with.  Belle returns the insult:  "And that's all you are for me!"    Larry says he doesn't think so. 

Larry gets dressed saying that he controls this territory and he doesn't want any competition, especially not from a lady.  He tells her to stay out of his way.  He leaves saying thanks for the poker game.  Belle says with bitterness:  "You only won the first hand, you animal!"

Bell rides home to her small house.  Her friend Rappica shows Belle a wanted poster with her face on it.  They are going to have to get away from here.  And that man she was playing cards with was Larry Blackie and he's bound to cause trouble.  Belle says she's staying because of Blackie.  She wants to teach him a lesson.  (Larry put her ring in her coat pocket and she perceives this as an insult.)

Belle goes into a bar to ask the whereabouts of Larry Blackie.  She starts getting hassled by a drunken cowboy that may be one of Blackie's gang.  She doesn't answer him.  He calls her a coward.  She turns around and he draws on her.  She shoots the pistol from his hand and then all hell breaks loose.  Cowboys start shooting at her.  She kills the gunman's brother Johnny and when the man tries again to kill her, she shoots him dead. 

Playing a guitar at her place, Larry Blackie shows up.  Larry tells her that she finished off four of his men.  Sitting on a low hitching post rail, he says talk is cheap in saloons, but before he believes her, she will have to show him.  He starts to draw his weapon and she shoots breaking the rail in half and spilling Larry onto the ground.  Then she shoots one of the heels on his boots.  She tells him to get out of here, but he just walks toward her. She shoots his hat off, but he still keeps coming.  They kiss.  They talk in the barn laying on some hay.  Larry asks her how she got the name Belle Starr.  She says a cowboy gave it to her two years ago.  His name was Cole Harvey.  He lived in Virginia where she comes from. 

Flashback.  Now living in Missouri, Belle is out hunting.  She shoots a pheasant and it lands in the water.  She undresses and goes topless into the lake to retrieve her kill.  When she returns, her clothes are gone.  Cole has them.  He laughs and laughs.  She says she'll kill him if he doesn't give her back her clothing.  He does so and then she demands to have her gun too.  He gives her the gun and she pulls the trigger but it just goes click.  There are no bullets in the gun.  Cole laughs and laughs.  He tells Mirabelle he is Cole Harvey.  She says she doesn't believe it.  The Cole she knew back in Virginia would never have done what he did to her.  He laughs and laughs some more. She says her name is now only Belle instead of Mirabelle.  Cole says for a new lovely last name she needs a lovely last name  --  she should be called Starr  --  Belle Starr. 

She says she was not in love with Cole.  They were just friends.  They knew each other as kids.  It was he who really taught her how to shoot.  They formed a little gang of unemployed cowboys who stole horses from rich landowners.  Both her parents died when she was just five or six.  Her Uncle, a Colonel, was away fighting the Civil War and she was raised by neighbors and cousins.  When Uncle Jonathan came back from the war, he brought a fiancée back for her.  She was all enthused about meeting her future husband, but when she saw him she found out he was an old man, ugly and repulsive. 

Her uncle wanted to be governor and he obviously wanted to make a political marriage for the sake of his future in politics.  Belle greets her intended, but tells him she will not marry him.    She loses her respect for her uncle and she runs away.  She stays with Cole and becomes a real outlaw.   A bell rings and Belle asks what was that.  Cole tells her it was the prison bell.  They are hanging an Indian girl.  Belle suddenly realizes that the girl is Rappica, a servant in her household.  She was kind and happy.  But when Belle went back to explain things to her, she was in the process of being raped by Uncle Jonathan.  Rappica ran from the room with Belle's arrival.  Belle then learns the truth from Uncle that it was he killed who killed Belle's mother and father to inherit their estate.  For her impudence, Uncle then whips Belle with a bullwhip. 

Belle starts to take off to stop the hanging.  Cole says he is going with her.  She says no.  He insists so she grabs his weapon.  She rides out leaving him without any weapon.  When she arrives they already have the rope around Rappica's neck while she sits on a horse.  They slap the horse's rear end, but Belle shoots the rope into two parts and Rappica falls to the ground.  She swoops up Rappica and heads for the hills.  The sheriff and two men chase her, but she shoots the sheriff dead.  That was the first time she killed a man.  They stop in the hills and Belle helps Rappica recover.  Her uncle and his men find them.  She is about to run out of bullets when Cole and his gang arrive.  Cole kills her uncle and he and his gang massacre Uncle's men. 

As payback, this time Cole takes her rifle and pistol, leaving her without a weapon.  The men get drunk and fall asleep.  She waits for night, sneaks up on Cole and makes a grab for her weapon.  But Cole was waiting for her.  Now he is really going to teach her a lesson.  He starts to rape her, but this time it's Rappica to the rescue.  She stabs Cole in the back killing him.  From that time on Belle was known as the terrible Belle Starr who killed her Uncle and her best friend. 

Back to the present.  Blackie makes Belle an offer.  He and his gang are going after the Western Union special and they need a woman to make his plan work.  He asks her to join them on the heist.  Belle says she doesn't work for anyone.  She asks him to join her.  He refuses.  They pull their guns, but this time Blackie shoots the gun out of Belle's hand.  He tells her he better not find her around here anymore and leaves.

Belle tells Rappica that they need to hire some pistoleros.  She needs men she can trust and who are ready for anything.  She is still determined to teach Blackie a lesson. 

Rappica sees an Indian and runs to Belle.  She says he has been following them for three days.  Belle says they'll go and find out what he wants.  What he wants is to join her gang.  His name is Pedro.  His mother was Indian, but he is Mexican.  He had to leave Mexico because of some trouble there.  Belle accepts him into her gang as its first member. 

At night Pedro and Rappica are alone.  Rappica tells him to stop staring at her.  He says he feels good when he is close to her.  She tells him that all men are terrible and she will never marry. 

Belle has her gang together.  She is going to rob the Western Union special for a $million dollars in jewels.  Suddenly, Blackie and his gang seem to drop out of nowhere and have Belle and her gang surrounded.  Blackie gives her two days to get out of the area or he's coming after her.  He and his gang leave.  Some of the men are worried about Blackie, but Belle tells them not to worry.  They are pulling the job tonight.  She is not going to rob the stage coach, but go after the jewels where they are now:  in the bank in Root City.  She then introduces them to a man from Ireland they call "Velvet Fingers" because of his skill in opening bank safes.  The plan is to approach the bank from the roof in order to surprise the Pinkerton men. 

While the Pinkerton men are eating their dinner, the gang climbs up onto the roof of a building next to the saloon/bank.  The bank is on the second floor of the building.  From there they throw a rope over onto the bank's chimney.  The gang then shimmies over to the bank's roof.  The noise from the saloon drowns out a lot of the noise the gang makes.  The gang goes down the chimney into the bank. They knock out the guard and Velvet Fingers gets to work on the safe.  The safe cracker opens the safe and they get the jewels, but the gang double crosses Belle, Rappica and Velvet Fingers. They are taking the jewels for themselves.  Rappica has the jewels and refuses to turn them over.  She takes her knife and slashes Pedro's arm.  Pedro kills a man, someone throws a knife to Belle and she kills the man holding her, Rappica kills Pedro, a traitor kills Rappica, and Belle kills the traitor.  The only ones still alive are Belle and Velvet Fingers. 

When Belle climbs up the chimney she sees Blackie there.  Evidently, he had some of his men join Belle's gang.  While Blackie and Belle talk, Velvet Fingers lowers the jewels in the bag they came in to suspend from the ceiling of the saloon.  Blood drops off the bag and the Pinkerton men realize that there must be something wrong at the bank.  They all rush upstairs.  The three surviving robbers have to make a quick get-away.  Velvet Fingers falls off the roof alerting everyone to the roof.  A gun fight breaks out between Blackie and Belle on the roof and everyone else on the street.  Blackie gets hit, falls and rolls and crashes through the roof.  The Pinkertons capture him. 

The Pinkertons now torture Blackie to get information from him.  Velvet Fingers is dead having broken his neck in his fall.  Blackie won't talk.  They decide to cut out the bullet in Blackie's shoulder.  The main torturer has Frankie throw whiskey on Blackie's wounds.  The plan is to light the whiskey on fire and watch Blackie burn.  Belle interrupts the proceedings.  Frankie starts to pull his pistol and Belle kills him by throwing a knife into him.  She retrieves her knife and cuts Blackie loose from one rope.  Then she has the Pinkerton fellow cut the other rope.  She asks the agent's word of honor that he will give them a half an hour head start.  He gives his word.  Belle has the agent tell his men to unload their guns and line up outside.  The women in the back room are told to get out and they willingly leave.  She shoots the string attached to bag of jewels and it drops on the table below.  She spreads the jewels out on the table and then tells the agent that he can get them when he returns. 

The three of them go out the front door and the agent tells the men to throw down their weapons and let them pass through.  Belle and Blackie are now on horses and the agent is walking.  Belle reminds him of his word of honor.  She and Blackie ride out.  The other agents want to go after the outlaws but the main agent says that he gave his word of honor they would have a half hour's start.  He says the jewels are safe.   

Blackie is going to take off without her.  She slaps him and he kisses her.  He says:  "It will always be like this with us."  He leaves.  From afar he shoots her hat off her head and yells:  "I'll see you at the next poker game."


Pretty good movie, but it has very little to do with Belle's actual story.  The real Belle was not a murderer.  She had a bad name because she was hostess to a lot of bad men and was married to bad men.  The film has a nice love story between Belle and Blackie, even though the relationship is a very rocky one.  The star Elsa Martinelli is very pretty and does a good job as Belle.  There's a lot of action in the movie and a lot of killing, but not much history. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

See   Belle Starr (1941).



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