Director: Rino Di Silvestro
Severin Films

My best friend has an intense aversion to ocular horror, by which I mean, scenes of terror in which someone’s eye is stabbed, poked and/or gouged. He simply can’t stand to watch somebody's eyeballs get messed with. I of course have made it my mission to seek out every known film in which an eye is slashed or otherwise tortured, so that I might be better equipped to torment him because, well that's what friends are for. I bought him Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE for his birthday one year, made him sit through Gary Sherman’s DEAD & BURIED, and I regret to this day not being present when he watched Luis Buñuel’s UN CHIEN ANDALOU, which is of course infamous for featuring the grand daddy of eye torture imagery. I admit I find more than a little bit of sadistic pleasure in watching his reactions to said films and now thanks to Severin, I have one more title in which to torment him with and it shouldn’t be too hard peaking his interest in the film either. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a film about under age, drug-addicted prostitutes from the director of WEREWOLF WOMAN? It practically sells itself. Of course I’ll neglect to mention the part where the lead actress willingly lets someone plunge a hypodermic needle under her eyelid. I wouldn't want to spoil it for him.

When she’s not fighting with her delusional mother, Pearl (Karin Schubert, BLACK VENUS), Hanna (Ann-Gisel Glass), a fresh faced, Dutch school girl, walks the streets of Amsterdam looking for anyone willing to pay for a night’s pleasure or provide her with her next fix. Strolling through the back allies and abandoned warehouses of North Holland, Hanna witnesses a myriad of desperate and depressing behavior including junkies who commit suicide rather than face another day of pain, prostitutes fighting for position, fearful of anyone encroaching on their territory and pushers generally preying on the weak and defenseless. It’s certainly no place for a naïve 16 year old. Despite the filth and sleaze that surrounds hers, Hanna manages to stay alive and find steady work, in fact, to say that Hanna gets around would be an understatement. Jumping from one sexual encounter to another, Hanna falls into a series of bad choices that lead her deeper into trouble and eventually, in jail. Somehow however love manages to rears its head in the form of Alex (Sebastiano Somma), an upstanding suitor who wants only the best for the underage beauty. Unfortunately, pulling the strung-out teen away from her addiction and away from her pimp prove to be something of a daunting task - one that love alone may not be strong enough to overcome.

Essentially a remake of CHRISTIANE F., HANNA D. (Hanna D.: La ragazza del Vondel Park) provides for a level sleaze that is damn impressive. A good portion of this is in no doubt due to the casting of Ann-Gisel Glass as the titular lead. Glass supplies a believable performance as a teen aware of the power of her sexuality but naïve of the consequences of her actions. Showing more than just her acting chops in HANNA, Glass appears fully nude on numerous occasions and engages in several sexual encounters. It is however her teasing of the men around her, seen particularly in the film's first act, that prove to be the most erotic. Glass would continue to work in both television and film but save for her turn in RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (directed by Bruno Mattei, who coincidentally served as editor on HANNA D.) has done little else to grab the attention of exploitation fans. Ann-Gisel isn't the only female actor of note in HANNA D as the opening credits encourage viewers to pay note to the "special guest appearance" of Donatella Damiani. Don't get your hopes up too soon however as the buxom beauty sadly remains mostly clothed for the duration, in no way displaying the same talents she did in Federico Fellini’s CITY OF WOMEN (La città delle donne) filmed five years prior.

While HANNA D features several disturbing scenes of drug use and abuse, such as the aforementioned needle to the eye bit, it is what I can best describe as the “smack in the crack” scene that stands out as the most brain blistering. By Rino’s own admission, most of the more outlandish drugs scenarios are completely of his own design. Shooting dope under the tongue and underneath an eye lid so that needle marks are not easily visible was included as a means to sensationalize the horrendous tragedy of such behavior. Likewise was the idea to have one of the female inmates hide her stash up her ass. The scene, in which a silver vial of dope is fished out of a young gal’s colon, is shown in graphic detail and is made all the more disturbing by the immediate injection of said illegal contents into Hanna’s mouth! Sharing dirty needles is one thing but injecting drugs that just came out of another girls butt into your mouth is a whole other level of unhygienic.

Directing under the pseudonym Axel Berg, but maintaining writing credit, Rino Di Silvestro sadly past away last month (10/03/2009) at the age of 77. Severin Films has however provided a quality package in their release of the director's second to last film. Fully restored from original vault elements, touted as having been rescued from a bankruptcy action in Rome, HANNA D. is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer that preserves the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Flesh tones and coloring in general look accurate and grain is kept to a minimum making for an all together pleasant presentation. There is a small vertical line of discoloration that runs just right of the middle of the frame that appears intermittently during the feature's first half. It is however very light and in no way takes away from the film's impact. Audio is on hand in a Dolby Digital Mono English Dub track that is free of hiss and distortion. Dialogue is easy to follow and as whole the films looks and sounds quite nice.

Extras include the film's original theatrical trailer and a 42-minute interview with Rino titled “The Confessions of Rino D”. Shot shortly before his untimely death, Rino holds nothing back in discussing his intentions behind the film, his directing method, his decision in hiring Ann-Gisel Glass as well as several of his other features including WOMEN IN CELL BLOCK 7, which was recently released by Shock-o-Rama and WEREWOLF WOMAN, which is currently available on DVD through Media Blasters' Shriek Show label. The interview, which is presented with burned in English subtitles, is a fitting tribute and provides an insightful look into the mind of a director whose films continue to entertain and hit you straight in the gut. (Jason McElreath)