Monday, February 9, 2009
Many of my friends know that I'm a big giallo fan. Giallo is the Italian word for yellow. It's used in the context of entertainment to refer to Italian suspense thrillers (loaded with blood/gore and sex/nudity) that were all the rage especially during the 1970's. My favorite actress in giallo films is Edwige Fenech. The Maltese-Sicilian actress is arguably considered the Queen of the Giallo. She's both beautiful and talented. Edwige played in some of the most well known and popular giallo films of this era. I wanted to cover one of those films The Case of the Bloody Iris in this post.
The Case of the Bloody Iris was released in 1972. It's also been called Erotic Blue and What Are Those Strange Drops Of Blood Doing On Jennifer's Body? (that's quite a mouthful of a title). It's a pretty standard film of the genre. It doesn't break any new ground. It really isn't innovative in any form or fashion. The cast of the film are a who's who of giallo regulars. If a person didn't know any better, they would think the film was directed by Sergio Martino. It reminds the viewer so much of the style and atmosphere that Martino brought to the giallo films he made. Plus Edwige Fenech starred in some films for Martino, such as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) and All the Colors of the Dark (1972). His brother, Luciano, was the producer of those films and the lover of Edwige. Luciano Martino was actually one of the producers of The Case of the Bloody Iris as well. Edwige's co-star in those films for Sergio Martino was usually George Hilton. He's her co-star in this film as well. They made a great looking couple and had wonderful chemistry together. I consider them the super couple of the giallo.
This film was directed by Anthony Ascott, the pseudonym of Giuliano Carnimeo. This is his only time directing a giallo. He's mostly known for making spaghetti westerns. George Hilton was a frequent star in his films, including Fistful of Lead (1970) and They Call Me Hallelujah (1971). Carnimeo also directed Edwige Fenech in other films like Secrets of a Call Girl and Holy God, Here Comes the Passatore! (starring George Hilton), both released in 1973. While Carnimeo might have been new to the genre, his stars and the producer weren't. The writer of the screenplay, Ernesto Gastaldi, also penned The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Case of the Scorpion's Tail (released in 1971 and starring George Hilton), All the Colors of the Dark, etc. Gastaldi had also written the screenplays for some of the westerns Carnimeo had helmed, including Sartana the Gravedigger (1969) and Run, Man, Run... Sartana's in Town (1971). Basically all of these people had worked with each other on many different films.
The film opens with the murder of a high class prostitute being slashed to death in the elevator of an exclusive apartment building. Her killer is dressed in black (hat, mask & long coat) and wearing tan gloves. Her body is found by three people, which are Mrs. Moss (Maria Tedeschi, who had played in 1970's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), Professor Isaacs (George Riguad - his credits include 1971's A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and 1972's All the Colors of the Dark) & Mizar Harrington (Carla Brait, who would play in 1973's Torso). They all act very casual about the grisly murder and go about their business like it's no big deal.
Edwige Fenech plays Jennifer Lansbury, a British model working in Italy. While doing a photo shoot for photographer Arthur (played by Oreste Lionello, who reminds me of a gay Woody Allen here), Jennifer thinks she has spotted her ex-husband. It is there that Jennifer first meets Andrea Barto (George Hilton). Andrea has come by to discuss with his childhood friend Arthur the possibiltiy of using Mizar in an ad campaign for his apartment building. He's an architect who owns the apartment building that the murder has happened in. Andrea plans to meet Mizar at the nightclub where she performs as an exotic dancer/wrestler. When Jennifer leaves the shoot, she finds an iris on the pavement. This is the symbol of the sex cult that she had been a part of with her then-husband Adam (Ben Carra). We see a trippy flashback sequence of the sex cult in action. Jennifer then finds herself face to face with Adam, who tries to force her into coming back into the fold with him.
Coming home from the nightclub she works as an exotic dancer/wrestler, Mizar finds herself the next victim of the masked killer. She is drowned in her own bath. The police investigation is led by Inspector Erici (Giampiero Albertini) and his associate Redi (Franco Agostini). To say these two are inept is putting it lightly. Erici is more interested in adding stamps to his stamp collection than anything else. He is more excited by finding a rare stamp on a letter belonging to one of the victims, than what was in the letter itself. His sidekick Redi is never able to go undercover because he's easily marked by everybody as a cop. The police investigation in and of itself in pretty weak in this film. It's almost more for comic relief than anything else.
Andrea offers a discount on an apartment to Jennifer and her model friend Marilyn Ricci (Paola Quattrini), a bimbo who makes quite a few inappropriate jokes in the film. Jennifer and Marilyn think they've scored the lucky break. It's not long before Jennifer discovers this is the apartment that belonged to the slain Mizar. She's deeply troubled by this fact and that another girl had also been murdered in the building. Marilyn seems to take it all lightly. Jennifer is frightened when she's awakened on the first night by the presence of a masked man in her bedroom. Marilyn tries to calm her down, telling her it was just a bad dream.
Jennifer soons find herself falling in love with Andrea. She continues to be stalked by Adam, who is angered when he discovers her with Andrea. He vows that no other man will possess her. She belongs only to him. He even confronts her and Andrea. Jennifer finds herself a major target of the masked killer. Is it her ex-husband Adam or someone else? The list of suspects is endless. Mrs Moss has been buying horror and crime comics. She's been hiding a secret from her neighbors. She has a deformed son that she keeps locked up. Could it be her or this son? There is also the reclusive Professor Isaacs, who plays his violin at all hours of the day and night. His daughter, Sheila, lives with him. She's a lesbian who likes to flirt with Jennifer. Could the killer be either of them? What about Andrea Barto? The police begin to focus on him as their prime suspect. He was the last person to see Mizar alive. That's a fact he had kept from them. Jennifer doesn't believe it could be him since he has an paralyzing phobia against blood. Could that be just an act? The police are very suspicious on him and that grows even more as the movie goes on. Jennifer must solve the puzzle herself before she becomes the next victim of this monster. So who else is murdered in this film? Is the killer Andrea or someone else? If you haven't seen this film, then I'm not about to spill the beans. You'll just have to see it yourself.
While this film won't be noted for its originality at all, I found it to be a very solid and entertaining giallo. It does all the giallo traditions quite well. The murders scenes have just the right mixture of suspense and tension. There's a nice amount of blood without it being gratitious. One of my favorite scenes in the film is a stabbling scene that happened in broad daylight. It's right out in public on a crowded street. We also get a chance to see some beautiful female flesh on display. We get a chance to see Edwige in little or no clothes quite often. The film is quite stylish whether it's the sets, clothes, etc. The film has a wonderful breezy and jazzy score by Bruno Nicolai. It's one of the highlights for me. I was humming the music for days after I watched it.
The Case of the Bloody Iris is really a worthwhile film to see due to its star. Edwige Fenech is not just eye candy in a 1970's Italian film. While she is gorgeous beyond belief (she looks as if she was carved out of marble by the gods themselves), she is also a fine actress. She plays her part well and the film rests on her shoulders quite nicely. If you've never seen a giallo film before, then this film is a fine introduction to that genre. Even if you've watched your share of giallos, I hope you'll give this film a shot if you've never seen it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.