I am always fascinated to find instances of femdom and femmes fatale in the past…from the obvious examples of stories like those of Jezebel or Judith in the Bible, to the exploits of 19th century Wanda in Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and onto other lesser known items…
I recently saw the not-very-good 1963 Vincent Price movie Diary of a Madman, based on stories by Guy de Maupassant. Despite Price giving his usual good performance…
…the film is a kind of graceless affair; but it features lovely Nancy Kovack as the irresistible femme fatale who seduces poor upstanding Vincent (he plays a righteous judge) and I must confess I primarily watched the movie to see her (although I like Price, I’m not a huge fan).
Kovack of course is a fanboy favorite for her role as Medea in Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts. But here she is below in my lovingly snapped screencap from Diary of a Madman (I sit in front of my tv with my cellphone, lol):
Price is also an amateur sculptor in the story, and in one scene, as he models Nancy in clay, he tells her how she reminds him of a piece by the German Romantic poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). This of course sent me scurrying to Google. Price remembers the title as “The Laughing Woman” but in the translations I found, the German title is given as “Ein Weib” which is then translated into English either as “A Woman” or, at the site lyricstranslate.com, “A Broad.”
They loved each other with love so deep
She was a tramp and he was a thief
While he was plying his naughty craft
She just lay on the bed and laughed
The days went by in pleasure and joy
At night in the sheets she hugged her boy
When they dragged him off to jail at last
She just stood at the window and laughed
He wrote to her saying: ‘O come to me
I long for you, so badly, you see
I’m weeping: I’m fading fast
She shook her sweet head and laughed
At six in the morning they hung him high
At seven they buried him under the sky
But as eight o’clock went past
She drank red wine and laughed
In the original German the rhythm works better at the end, has more of a grim punch, so if you can read Deutsch, go to this page where I found the translation and check it out. Here is also another translation that works well, but likewise the final stanza just doesn’t have the same aural oomph of the German. I’m no expert in German, though I studied it in high school and college, but I do read poetry aloud a lot, and I can tell where a rhythm needs more force.
As it turns out in Diary of a Madman, Price’s laughing woman turns into both his tormentor and victim, the typical trajectory for very naughty ladies in such fictions.
For more of Heine’s femme fatalistic poetry, check out also the translation of “Ich glaub nicht an den Himmel” (“I don’t believe in Heaven”) here. The poem’s narrator believes in nothing but her eyes and…well, read it and see. The translator A.S. Kline also did the one I reproduced above, although he didn’t call it “A Broad.”
Finally, this post is dedicated to Goddess Lycia. A brief discussion I had with her the other day on Twitter about German and French and poetry finally got me off my butt to write and post after thinking about it for several weeks. 😉 Check out her site and journal at LipstickDomme too, as she is a most fascinating femme fatale herself…
I found the shot of Vincent Price here at the Doc Horror blog.
The photo of Goddess Lycia is from her Twitter and ©Goddess Lycia.
And if you’d like to read the classic novel of femdom translated from German and illustrated by the amazing British artist Sardax, his edition of Venus in Furs is readily available in a Kindle ebook here.