Dangerous Beauty (1998) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

Dangerous Beauty stars Catherine McCormack as a bright and attractive young woman in 16th century Venice. She is in love with a man so far above her in station that she has no chance of marrying him, even though he also loves her.

Her mother comes up with the perfect solution. Since mother was once a famous courtesan, and learned the trade from her own mother, McCormack is trained in the family profession. At that time, this was a position with definite advantages, and not solely financial ones. Wives were treated as chattel, were kept uneducated, and were expected to stay home, do needle point, and have lots of children. Courtesans, on the other hand, were educated so thoroughly that they were capable of holding their own in almost any circle of powerful men.

McCormack turned out to be very good at her trade and was the darling of Venice, but she still loved Marco, which was nearly her undoing. He made the expected political marriage, but turned to McCormack for love and lust. Subsequently, she nearly lost her life from small things like a war with the Turks, and a plague which brought the inquisition to Venice to root out the sin that had made God angry enough to send a plague.

IMDB readers have this at 7.1 of 10. Ebert says 3 1/2 stars, Berardinelli says 3, and Rotten Tomatoes shows 68% positive, with 75% from the top critics. This is the sort of film I would normally not like. It is a long costumer, and is basically a woman's story, showing the status of women in the 16th century, and how one woman rose above it. IN fact, it is based on a true story. To my surprise, I enjoyed it very much. The beautiful cinematography and the nudity didn't hurt, and the fine acting was a plus, but what held my interest was a lively story and clever dialogue.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

I'm in the same boat as Tuna. This is a chick-flick, basically a glossy romance novel, and I was prepared to dislike it, but I did not at all. It's an entertaining movie. It's based on a true story of a Venetian courtesan with a roller coaster of a life whose zenith was a hero's reputation as the savior of Venice, and whose nadir was imprisonment by the inquisition.


Catherine McCormack shows breasts and buns in several scenes, and several unknown courtesans also showed breasts.

There were, in my opinion, three things that kept it from being a truly great movie

1) A syrupy, clichéd musical score which rose on cue every time romantic activity involved the leads.

2) Some truly strange unfaithfulness to history in the presentation and casting, especially Fred Ward, who is a competent actor, but whose gruff urban-American accent in Elizabethan era Venice was reminiscent of Tony Curtis' famous "yonda lies da castle of my brudda". The period detail is done Hollywood-romantic-style rather than with authenticity in mind. The entire film is much too glamorous and feels much too modern to be representative of life in Elizabethan Venice.

3) A bit of intellectual dishonesty. The movie is supposed to be focused on the unfair plight of women in that society. Unfortunately, events in its own script belie the point. Oliver Platt's character is established as the perfect male counterpart of McCormack's, yet she ends up rich and beloved, while he ends up embittered. The only difference between them? McCormack's life options included getting rich and powerful by being beautiful and loose. Platt's did not. Although they were born into the same social class, with similar talents, the woman actually had more opportunity, not less.  

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Full-screen and widescreen anamorphic formats

  • no major features

Once upon a time, actors could be both attractive and talented. Olivier and Francesca Annis come to mind. In this era of the specialist, beautiful people all seem to have the acting depth of Matt Le Blanc and Courteney Cox. Don't get me wrong. I like Courteney and Le Blanc a lot, but I don't want to see them as Lear and Cordelia. McCormack, on the other hand, seems to combine beauty and depth in equal measure. She always seemed to me to be a woman whose résumé should be even more impressive than it is.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: three stars or more. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • It did very little at the box office. Less than $5 million.


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is a B (Tuna) or B- (Scoop).

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