This morning’s Google alert oddities included the mention of a 1965 Spanish film titled La dama de Beirut. I must confess first of all that I didn’t realize that “Beirut” is spelled the same in Spanish as in English – I had assumed that, as with French, the city’s spelling varies. And yes, as a bad Spanish speaker, my guess would have been: “Beruto”, just like Lebanon becomes “Libano”.
I’m not in the market for old Spanish films, but I couldn’t resist googling to find out a bit more. After all, what was the Spanish market for films about Lebanon in the mid-1960s?
After a bit of online research, and a bit of blushing, I have concluded that whatever Spaniards’ interest was in terms of numbers, La dama de Beirut appears not to have been intended for an auteur crowd.
This is what IMDb has to say about the plot:
Isabel is a beautiful aspiring singer with great aspirations but persistent bad luck, [who is] convicted of a crime she did not commit. Serving time in prison she is released under parole and lands a singing gig at a dive in Barcelona where she meets Sandro “The Greek” and his partner [and lover] lover Gloria.
The couple is posing as entertainment promoters but they are really running a prostitution ring based in Beirut. They offer Isabel a two-year contract to perform in “night clubs” in the Near and Mideast even after they learn that she cannot travel abroad due to her legal status.
Upon arrival in Beirut, Isabel and the other girls are sped away to a luxurious villa where they discover the real intentions of the pseudo-promoters. They are expected to sing and dance but also to engage in sexual activities with the rich clients that patronize the place. Isabel pretends to go along with the situation but she has a plan to get away.
So much to marvel over here. The wrongly imprisoned singer sounds like enough for a full movie narrative, and yet in this film, it is merely the start. A Greek procurer, a high-end Beirut brothel – which the New York Times described as a “sheik’s harem”, and a daring plan for escape – sounds like an action-packed film, full of stereotypes and titillation.
[Photo courtesy of an Ebay seller.]
(For the full “plot spoiler” synopsis, which features all kinds of juicy melodrama, you can go here.)
I don’t think that this is my type of movie, but I’m sure it was a big “B” hit :).