Friday, 8 January 2010

The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972)

The Case of the Bloody Iris is a fairly stock-standard 1972 Italian giallo. If you’re a giallo fan you’ll enjoy it; if you’re not a fan of the genre this one doesn’t really have enough going for it to convert you.

This one was also released under the infinitely superior title What Are Those Strange Drops of Blood Doing on Jennifer's Body? (which is pretty much a literal translation of the original Italian title Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer?).

This one has most of the expected giallo plot elements and trappings. It has glamorous models and photographers, it has a series of mysterious murders of women, it has lots of red herrings, relatively ineffectual police investigators, some nudity, some reasonably graphic murders and the obligatory hint of sexual perversity.

Edwige Fenech is Jennifer, a model who thinks she’s had a stroke of luck when a hunky architect friend finds a luxury apartment for her and a friend. It turns out that the apartment is vacant because the previous tenant was murdered in her bathtub. Her architect friend comes under suspicion, but there are lots of strange tenants in the buildings who seem like equally plausible suspects. And Jennifer is pretty keen on the architect, Andrea Barto (George Hilton), so she’s inclined to believe him to be innocent. Especially after they start an affair. Then her flatmate is murdered, which takes the tally of victims to four women, all of them with some connection to the apartment building.

The police as usual follow up the wrong leads, and Jennifer finally decides that this isn’t a very healthy place to live. But will she be able to get out alive?

The actually starts quite well. Murders in elevators aren’t startlingly original, but elevators are inherently scary and this one is done quite well. And then there’s the delightfully strange and perverse night-club act of the beautiful black woman Mizar. She challenges the male members of her audience to one three-minute round of all-in wrestling. If the customer wins, he gets to spend the entire night with her and she will allow him to do absolutely anything he wants with her. It sounds like a great deal, but so far not one customer has survived three minutes in the ring with Mizar! She’s one tough cookie. Of course in the process of wrestling with the audience member she tends to lose most of her clothing, so for the rest of the audience it’s three minutes of wonderfully kinky entertainment. This is the sort of inspired sleaze that provides much of the appeal of the giallo genre, but unfortunately the rest of the movie fails to reach the same level of kinky visual inventiveness.

In fact compared to classics of the genre such as The Fifth Cord and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage the movie lacks visual punch. The settings are a little disappointing as well - the apartment house really isn’t all that interesting. A couple of the early photo shot scenes are amusingly sexy in an early 70s way, with naked girls with painted on costumes. But director Giuliano Carnimeo just can’t put together enough striking images to make this a classic giallo.

It does have Edwige Fenech, which is always a plus, but even she isn’t quite as sexy as usual. Her character is a little on the dull side, and that doesn’t give her much to work with.

Blue Underground’s DVD presentation looks as impressive as you expect from this company, but offers no worthwhile extras at all. One alternative murder scene, running for a few seconds, and a trailer.

On the whole it’s a mildly entertaining example of a genre that I must confess I’m not really a huge fan of anyway. If you’re more of a giallo fan you might find more to like in this film, but I’d be inclined to rent it before buying, unless you simply have to own every Edwige Fenech movie (and that’s an obsession I find perfectly understandable).


Samuel Wilson said...

You remind me of my own response to this film, d. It's good for eye candy and a dose of weirdness in the wrestling scene, but it is a very average film, albeit a sliver sleazier than the norm.

dfordoom said...

It's a pity that interestingly weird kinkiness of the wrestling scene couldn't have been carried over into the rest of the film.

Nigel M said...

I will differ from you guys a little- Its one of my favs. Yes it is giallo by numbers, but I loved the inspector character and the subtle humour he brought to it. I also really adored the killing ina public space- that was so well handled.

Not groundbreaking by any means but it is one I have revisited quite a few times.

The wrestling scene btw reminded me a little of those stage performance openings that jess franco occasionally indulged.

Some of the stuff in there was so textbook that I think it is fair to say that if someone were to ask you to show them one film that was "typically" giallo then this film would probably be a great example- because while I think it is unoriginal and not the most stylish it certainly shows what someone would expect from the genre in terms of "genre rules"

dfordoom said...

Yes, I agree the wrestling scene had that Jess Franco touch to it!

Nigel M said...

And don't forget the inspector- I loved the bit when he pulls out his magnifying glass as if he spots the clue and there is a eureka moment- but it turns out it is a postage stamp he likes for his collection!!!!

Oooo and edwige fenech wearing body paint and a smile. Some of the the shots that focused on geometry and in particular the stairwell we quirky if not necessarily original (they also could be seen as a clue!!!)

Though not an especially good clue because you didnt have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the killer had something to do with that building.

dfordoom said...

I'd forgotten the postage stamp moment - that was definitely a nice touch of humour.

The giallo I saw previous to this one was The Fifth Cord - that may have raised my expectations too high as far as visual style is concerned.