Sunday, October 04, 2015

'70s Horror Poll: The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

#18 (Tie) - 4 Votes

Hopefully the only "the dog ate my homework" post I'll have to share this month, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (AKA Blade of the Ripper, AKA Next!) is one of the movies on this list that I hadn't seen before. I found Sergio Martino's 1971 giallo on YouTube only to discover, as I sat down to watch it this week, that none of the uploads of the Italian-language movie that I could find featured subtitles. I watched anyway, relying on plot summaries of the film, so I'd have something to write about, but apologies in advance, as this will (hopefully) be the briefest entry I write this month.

Thankfully, there are two aspects of the movie I was able to enjoy that transcended the language barrier. The first was the lovely Edwige Fenech, who plays the unfaithful wife of a diplomat (I learned this from other reviews, though I ascertained that she's a jet-setter who likes to bang a lot) who finds herself targeted by a mysterious killer. Fenech appeared in several movies that showed up on people's ballots; she's a scream queen before the term had been coined, and for good reason. She's mesmerizing whenever she's onscreen, and while I can't speak to the quality of the script, her performance makes for a strong giallo counterpart to Susannah York in Robert Altman's Images, released the following year. She's both a great screen presence and, as the movie becomes more hallucinatory, manages to deliver a credible performance despite the kind of late-in-the-game plot convolutions (if I understood them correctly) that are as much a part of gialli as their stylish death scenes.

And as far as death scenes go, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh nails it. Unlike Argento's protracted, hyper-stylized setpieces, Martino's murder sequences are stylish but quick, gory and disturbingly economical. Coupled with the movie's blunt nudity, Martino's movie reminds of the influence gialli would have on slasher movies several years later. Martino, who would go on to direct Torso, 2019: After the Fall of New York, and Island of the Fishmen (re-titled Screamers when it was released, with a hilariously misleading trailer, by New World Pictures), among many others, seems less interested in aestheticizing violence than most of his peers, but having to rely entirely on the images to get through the movie, I can at least report that he has a great eye, and I'm looking forward to revisiting The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and more of his movies when I can know what the hell everyone is saying.

Sidenote: Nora Orlandi's haunting theme for the film, which has been stuck in my head for a couple of days, was used by Quentin Tarantino for the soundtrack to Kill Bill vol. 2.

U.S. Release Date: August 6, 1971 (Also released that day: The Brotherhood of Satan, The Horseman, Let's Scare Jessica to Death, The Love Machine)

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