Thursday, January 3, 2013
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971)
He might be in the shadow Dario Argento, a director who always aimed for very spectacular thrillers (brilliant stuff by the way), but a giallo directed by Sergio Martino is without a doubt among the finest in the genre you can see. Torso and The Suspicious Death of a Minor is two of my favourites, but thankfully I've actually skipped a few of his other films just to have something to watch in the future - and today was one of those futuristic days when popped the cherry of Mrs. Wardh, well... or at least The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (aka Next! aka Blade of the Ripper)! Now this is one of the most twist-packed gialli I've seen, on the boarder to be parody - but it's so well done it's very easy to buy.
Edwige Fenech is Julie Wardh, married to ambassador Wardh (Alberto De Mendoza). A happy life in
a dream come true. Well, Julie isn't happy at all. Instead she has a lover, the
hunky George (George Hilton), who wants her to divorce her husband and marry
him. It would still be an okay life if it wasn't for her ex-lover, Jean (Ivan
Rassimov), who's a raving jealous psychopath! When a maniac is starting to
slice his way through the ladies of Italy ,
Julie suspects it's Jean - but is it him, or can it be her husband? Or George?
She's getting more paranoid when the killer goes after her, armed with a sharp,
shiny razor... Rome
I'm not sure everyone would agree, but The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is one of the smartest and trickiest gialli ever made. I can't say why or who or when or what the fuck, but it's built up in a genius way and with a script so packed with red herrings and clues and wonderful, wonderful characters, it's easy to just get drawn inside the intrigues and forget this boring real world. Martino has sometimes been accused of just being a gun for hired, but that's very far from the truth. A gun for hire would never put so much energy into telling a story, with intelligent use of angles and camera movements and getting the best out of his actors.
He has a stellar cast here, from the beautiful talent of Fenech, the raw hunkiness of Hilton, the restrained unhappy husband of De Mendoza (and I can never get it out of my mind that he plays the crazy priest in Horror Express) and the edgy madness of Rassimov. It's one of the finest quartets ever in an Italian thriller.
While not as gory or graphic as the work of Argento or Fulci, in the same genre, Mrs Wardh still gives us a couple of nasty set-pieces where the razor-killer slices away the ladies with an uncanny frenzy. The sexiness of the film is also higher than normal and there's enough nudity to please the dykes and straights, but very little for the women and gays - even if George Hilton's butt is quite okay. But it is a movie about sex, about romantic affairs and (something that's mentioned very discreet) some kind of kinky sex that Julie likes.
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is another masterpiece from the Martino-brothers and it will go to history as one of the very best of Italian thrillers.