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Case of the Bloody Iris (DVD)

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Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy / Theatrical Release: 1972 / Actors: Edwige Fenech, George Hilton ... / DVD released 2008-02-26 at Blue Underground / Features of the DVD: Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC

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      21.02.2011 08:44
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      A typical but entertaining Italian horror film

      A film-only review. A region free DVD is available through amazon for about £6, and it's likely to be better than the region 2 releases available.

      Probably the most prolific Italian horror subgenre was the giallo, a kind of lurid murder mystery in which the killings were heavily emphasised and the (usually female) protagonist would be stalked by the murderer. Dozens and dozens of these were made in Italy in the 60s and 70s, and it can be difficult finding the good ones. The Case of the Bloody Iris, from 1972, is a pretty good one.

      In a fashionable apartment block, a woman is murdered, and then another. Two ditzy young fashion models are moved into the apartment of one of the dead girls, and soon find themselves under threat. The police are baffled by the enormous number of red herrings, and inevitably the body count rises as the mystery moves towards its resolution.

      The thing about gialli is that, although the plots are stupidly complicated, they're actually very formulaic. The real focus of the films is on the scenes where people (usually women) get murdered, in which heavy emphasis is placed on the killer's gloved hands and the weapon he uses, while his identity is kept secret. Literally every character we meet apart from the heroine and the police could be the killer, and everyone is given their chance to establish themself as a potential murderer. A predatory lesbian, eh? Well she's going to hate girls who've rejected her. And a repressed old woman? Obviously she'll want to punish anyone younger and more promiscuous than her. And an architect with a fear of blood? Hmm, yeah, that could work. And the heroine's ex-husband, who runs a weird group-sex cult? Uh, yeah. Probably not him. Way too obvious.

      That's kind of the thing. As soon as you feel the film is trying to point you in the direction of any one character, you can be pretty sure that character won't be the killer. If one is interested in second guessing a giallo, you should forget anyone who's got an obvious motive, and concentrate on seemingly harmless peripheral characters. There's no magic formula, and the point of the films is to put lurid killings on screen rather than to solve the mystery, but it's still a diverting parlour game to try and guess which random supporting character will turn out to have dunnit.

      Anyway, other giallo tropes are very much present and correct. They're typically very aspirational films, with victims living in plush homes with delightfully 70s decor (perhaps the films allow the less well-off to enjoy the sight of the well-heeled get heir bloody comeuppance). Bloody Iris features some charming white rugs and globular light fittings, although doesn't go as far as some. The typical giallo decor fits well with the typical giallo soundtrack, usually frothy and loungey with soft, teasing bass lines and mildly sardonic electric piano. Bloody Iris features some particularly nice music that fits the genre like a glove; it could be used equally well in any one of a dozen other films without anyone noticing the difference.

      The star is Edwige Fenech, as one of the menaced girls. Ms Fenech is one of the foxiest ladies ever to have graced a screen, and was menaced and naked in many, many Italian horrors in the 70s. She can act a bit, too, although all that's really required of her is that she look scared and show off her chest every so often. The rest of the cast do what they have to do in stock roles. The police have an amusing double act (clever, bad-tempered detective with dim assistant). The various suspects all act suspiciously. And the annoying comedy flatmate is so annoying that you desperately hope she'll take a knife to the guts before too long. All the voices are dubbed, so no one sounds particularly natural (all the female dialogue is oddly rushed and breathless). Edwige's sleazy ex-husband has been given a cool Richard Burton voice, which is surprisingly effective.

      It's directed well, with the action often partly concealed behind things in the foreground, giving us the feel that we're eavesdropping on things we aren't meant to see, and obviously playing in quite nicely to the killer's point of view shots. One thing most gialli forget is to try to scare the audience. This one does have some very tense sequences as lone characters are stalked through various locations, some typical of the genre (apartments, underground carparks), some not (scrapyards, boiler rooms). Although there's plenty of nudity, this isn't as viscerally violent as some gialli, so although most of the victims are women, it doesn't feel quite as uncomfortable as some of the more excessive examples.

      While I doubt it will set anyone's world on fire, The Case of the Bloody Iris is entertaining and diverting, and probably worth a look if you stumble across it someday.

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