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Lo Strano Vizio della Signora Wardh

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh
Blade of the Ripper / The Next Victim

Italy/Spain 1971
produced by
Antonio Crescenzi, Luciano Martino for Copercines, Devon Films, Laurie International, MLR
directed by Sergio Martino
starring George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Conchita Airoldi (as Christina Airoldi), Manuel Gil, Carlo Alighiero, Ivan Rassimov, Alberto de Mendoza, Bruno Corazzari, Marella Corbi, Miguel Del Castillo, Luis de Tejada, Brizio Montinaro, Pouchi, Mira Vidotto
story by Eduardo Manzanos Brochero, screenplay by Eduardo Manzanos Brochero, Vittorio Caronia, Ernesto Gastaldi, music by Nora Orlandi

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Mrs Julie Wardh (Edwige Fenech) arrives in Vienna with her businessman husband Neil (Alberto de Mendoza), but since he's busy most of the time, that gives her plenty of opportunity to hook up with old friends and the like. Unfortunately, her old lover Jean (Ivan Rassimov) is among these old friends, and back in the days he has made her his submissive, and their S/M games also involved blood and the like. She's long come over this and over him, but he's not yet willing to let her go, actually stalks her from time to time ... which drives her right into the arms of George (George Hilton), cousin of her best friend Carol (Cristina Airoldi), and before you know it, the two have sex - but are secretly photographed and Julie is then blackmailed. Julie and Carol soon come to the conclusion that the blackmailer can only be Jean, so Carol wills in to hand over the money to him in Julie's place, to keep her out of harm's way ...

Harm's way is a good one, because presently there's a serialkiller roaming Vienna, and sure enough, when Carol wants to hand over the money to the blackmailer, she's killed by the serialkiller. Later the same serialkiller also attacks Julie, but she manages to escape.

Julie somehow persuades her husband to take care of Jean, of course suspecting him to be the serialkiller, but when they try to, they find him already dead. This drives Julie pretty much over the edge, so she ... escapes to Spain with George. Weirdly enough, she still receives threats of the kind that Jean sent her ... but Sean's dead, right? On top of that, the Viennese serialkiller has been killed by one of his would-be victims, and it was somebody who had nothing to do with the story. Anyways, fear soon drives Julie half out of her mind, and while George drives off to get a neurologist - Jean shows up again and kills Julie in a perfectly stages mock-suicide.

Jean soon gets his due though when it turns out he has been in league with George, and George just shoots him, making that look like suicide, too. But why would George kill the woman he has just run away with, a murder he can't hope to gain anything from? Because in a Strangers on a Train-sort of way he was in league with Julie's husband Neil, who has killed George's cousin Carol in return so he can inherit a large chunk of money - while Neil needed Julie's money to continue his lifestyle. Anyways, in the end the two are spooked out of their minds (and lives when they drive over a cliff) when they see the ghost of Julie ... only Julie was never really dead but saved by the neurologist (Manuel Gil) George brought to the scene of her alleged suicide as his alibi - but this guy smelled a rat right away ...

 

Other than many other sources I would not describe The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh as a milestone early giallo - because it quite simply isn't: The whole thing's incredibly far-fetched and over-constructed, and some of the movie's plotholes are gaping even by giallo-terms, the murder and suspense scenes are nicely done, mostly, but not exactly extraordinarily so, and they lack the inventiveness of the best of the genre.

That all said, the film's still totally worth watching, It might tell a story with more holes than Swiss cheese but does so in a well-paced manner, its imagery is very stylish and there's hardly a shot that's less than perfect, a bit of topless nudity is subtly mixed into the mix to keep things erotic, and even if the plottwists are far fetched they at least make sense in the context of the film.

No masterpiece, but not only giallo fans will like it!

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD