The Female Executioner is most notable for its lead, so let’s get this out of the way first. Having recently watched Brigade of Death and found her to be one of the best aspects of the film, I felt like giving Brigitte Lahaie’s most mainstream 80’s outing a whirl. Lahaie is best know for her adult movies of the 70’s and early 80’s and transitioned over to the mainstream where she played mostly edgier female roles.
The Female Executioner (or L’exécutrice) comes from director Michel Caputo, an adult filmmaker who made a handful of mainstream movies with sleazy or more adult content over the years, however, The Female Executioner would be the best known. Caputo wrote this epic with Rene Chateau who appears to have been the publicist for many Jean Paul Belmondo movies. In addition, Chateau wrote Jess Franco’s Faceless (1988), the Telly Savalas and Lahaie horror under the name pseudonym Fred Castle.
This doesn’t set up The Female Executioner to be handled like the tough as nails, female Dirty Harry knock off it wants to be and there is very little that it manages to live up to that. The film is consistently marred by plot holes, lacklustre action, pacing issues and poor storytelling. Lahaie suffers under the direction of Caputo and her performance is ruined as it is inconsistent between shots, let alone scenes. I have a feeling that this was filmed over a long period of time and cobbled together whenever people were free to film. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this approach when making a low budget film it feels that Caputo might have lost his enthusiasm somewhere and kept going just to get it done.
The plot follows Lahaie, a cop trying to find a kidnapped girl. This leads her into the world of underground pornography and corruption. She partners with Pierre Oudrey and the two uncover a plot that leads all the way to the top… However, unlike some of the bigger budgeted films this film is trying to catch a ride with The Female Executioner is able to make some bold choices with the fate of the characters and help motivate Lahaie to become a bit more bad-ass in the process.
Dominique Erlanger is our scar faced villain and she is relishing the part, however, Caputo drops the ball a couple of times with Erlanger focusing on her for too long. There is one scene when Erlanger and a particular cast member (to avoid spoilers,) discuss their evil plans and laugh maliciously. Caputo lingers and the scene, which was initially well played, feels like a gag from Austin Powers as the actors continue to laugh long after it should have cut.
What about the sleaze? Well, it’s not a terribly sleazy movie. Given the background of pornography and the films inclusion of it in the subject matter, there is a refreshing small amount. Lahaie bookends the film with a dip in a Jacuzzi, she has a romp with her boyfriend and Oudrey. Mid-film there is a tense yet brief attack by two thugs and an attempted rape Lahaie that features on some of the artwork. Then there is the depiction of pornography, as the cops drop by a couple of sets where the action is taking place, there is nothing you wouldn’t be seen post-watershed on ITV.
To appear like Dirty Harry you need action like Dirty Harry and this is where The Female Executioner cannot measure up. There are a number of action sequences throughout, however, they all feel like amateur hour. A fist fight with Lahair and Oudrey fending off the baddies is a kids play park is memorable as it doesn’t quite know what to do with Lahaie, instead, focusing on Oudrey kicking ass. Car chases and crashes are notably cheap, one such chase sees villains throwing teddy bears and cushions at a car instead of bricks to avoid damaging the car. Erlanger has a memorable foot-chase through the streets of Paris and this would probably be the best sequence in the film.
The Female Executioner isn’t a good film, however it’s not bad enough for a collection of friends to lampoon with beer and munchies. It’s a little inept, the story is poorly realised and the production is pretty shoddy. However, Lahaie, Oudrey and Erlanger are all making an effort and really help sell the film as better than it rightfully should be.
Most artwork uses Lahaie posing with a gun and some cleavage, however, there are a few variations worldwide. The most preposterous version would be Miss Magnum from Finland.