JUNE 4, 2010
Can’t quite recall where I heard about Blade Of The Ripper (Italian: Lo Strano Vizio Della Signora Wardh, which translates to The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh), but it’s a doozy. There’s a ton of nudity, a few killings in the first hour, and a third act that’s mostly people explaining why they were killing people earlier in the movie (there is almost no violence in this section). If you liked the convoluted nonsense of Bay Of Blood, you will probably appreciate these scenes, in which characters explain to each other their own actions for the audience’s benefit.
And when you do, I urge you to watch it dubbed (unless you speak Italian), if you have the same DVD that I got (from MYA Communication - I believe there are multiple releases in the US), because their subtitles are incredibly lazy, summing up what the people are saying without any of the detail. So things like “Who was that on the phone just now?” becomes “Who called?”. And I wouldn’t even have noticed if I hadn’t had to turn the subs back on whenever there was a letter on-screen, because it’s in Italian and the translation would be in the subs. I don’t know why they bother doing this - wouldn’t it be easier to just transcribe the dub actors’ dialogue than re-translate it from the original dialogue (poorly)? It’s a common problem with foreign films, and a shameful one, if you ask me.
The movie also has a Freud quote at the top, which I assumed was about sex due to all of the nudity that followed (I didn’t turn the subs on in time and didn’t think to rewind until later). Our heroine is a bit of a whore - she just got married, and she’s looking to get over another lover by taking on a third. She has flashbacks and dreams about sexual encounters, and her friend is frequently nude as well, as is another woman who is killed in a shower in a scene I can no longer recall the relevance for. But later I decided to see what it said after all, and discovered it was about how the commandment “Thou Shall Not Kill” is just a reminder that it’s in our nature to kill. Which makes this, I believe, the first movie to have a Freud quote that’s not about how much we want to fuck our parents or how everything we men do is related to our penis.
As for the killer himself, he’s the usual black gloved type, and the kills are pretty basic slashings. The most inventive he gets is when he tries to make it look like a suicide; part of his plan involves locking the door from the inside, so he wedges an ice cube into the latch to keep it up for a few seconds, and then as it melts it drops and locks. Pretty awesome; I’m going to try that next time I am faking a suicide for someone.
I also really dug the music, and could have sworn that I had heard some of it before. I thought it might be because it was a bit similar to the Poltergeist theme at times, but as it turns out Quentin Tarantino used it in Kill Bill Volume 2 as Bud’s sort of “theme”. I haven’t seen either film since theaters (waiting for the promised “combined” version), but it’s cool how 6 years and thousands of movies in between, it obviously stuck with me. It’s not the only QT connection the film has - lead actress Edwige Fenech also appeared in Hostel 2 (which he produced) and the Mike Myers character in Basterds was named after her. Next time I see him at the Bev I shall have to discuss the film with him (yeah right, in probably 20 sightings I’ve only had the balls to talk to him once).
Apart from the Italian language, the only extras on this release are the trailer (in Italian) and a gallery of stills and various posters that reflect all of its titles. Apparently the release from NoShame has a bit more, including an intro from director Sergio Martino when the film showed at a festival a few years ago and a half hour retrospective documentary. If anyone has that release - compare the dub to the subs and see if they differ? Hopefully it’s exclusive to this DVD; I remember bitching about MYA for something in the past, but I can’t recall for what exactly. Maybe I should just avoid them from now on. Though the NoShame one seems to be out of print, so the MYA one may be your best bet as it's at least uncut (98 minutes - some prints run as short as 81 from what I understand).
In the vast history of Giallo films, it’s pretty run of the mill, but it’s also one of the first (it precedes any of Argento’s). You can do better, but you can easily do worse. It may be a bit over-plotted near the end (seriously, the villains have to explain it to each other!), but it’s certainly more coherent and logical than most, and as with any “trailblazer”, you can’t really fault it for not having really crazy kill scenes, because more often than not such things are a response to top the films that came before. The rampant sex (including a very rough "on the ground in the rain" sequence) is what gives it its edge, so if you are teaching your young children about Giallo films, I would recommend holding off on this one until they are at least nine years old.
What say you?