Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971)

Riccardo Freda, the man who started it all, always had a hard time with the newer fans of eurocult. Maybe the productions he made later in his career wasn't as polished as the work of Dario Argento and Mario Bava and the script's was a bit sloppier. But isn't that part of the grindhouse-tradition that we love so much? Should a movie be perfect to be considered as a good movie? I consider both Tragic Ceremony and Murder Obsession flawed but very interesting pieces of eurocult and well worth re-evaluating for those who once upon a time decided they where inferior works of a very talented man. I been wanting to see The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire for a long time now, and after picking it up at Weekend of Horrors in Bottrop I finally got the chance to see it.

I really don't want to go into the story, which is a complex mess of a lot of characters and red herrings, and even in the end I wasn't totally sure WHY the killer attacked all those people, but it works good as a fairly bloody and nicely acted giallo. Much of it evolves around an ambassador and his family, all of them are suspects in the case of the mysterious killer slicing the throats of beautiful young women. But the main story, and the best, is that of ex-cop John Norton (the great Luigi Pistilli), who can't stay away from the police-business. Both because he's a highly original character but also because his former colleagues understands that he's too good to be ignored. He lives together with his slightly confused, and crime-interested mother, and his teenager daughter. These scenes are great, filled with a fine chemistry and somehow it feels like Freda invested a lot more in this storyline than all the others trying to find their place in the script. It's understandable, because it's best written part of the movie.

Iguana gets a bit to talky and convoluted for its own best, but it's a pleasure seeing all the great actors and colourful characters trying to take over every scene. From Pistilli, of course, to genre stalwarts like Werner Pochath, Dagmar Lassander, Renato Romano and Anton Diffring doing excellent work. Also watch out for a cameo from legendary laundry facility The Swastika Laundry, with a nice juicy swastika as the logotype. It was located in Dublin from 1912 to 1987, and it's name and symbol of course referenced the ancient culture of India and nothing else. But it's a fun detail.

Freda is handling the direction very well, and he uses the Dublin and Irish locations very well. The look of the movie is a lot more interesting than many of those based in Rome. Sure, everything in the production is rough around the edges, but for me that just adds to the charm and grittiness of the story. Because, even if it's giallo with beautiful ladies and a complex plot, it's also a surprisingly violent and cynical story. The gore, while not in any huge amounts, are very bloody and sadistic - mostly graphic throat-slits and the killer throwing acid in the faces of his/hers victims. The attack on one characters family is also very cruel and violent. Plenty of nudity for those who likes that, and more red herrings than you can count.

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is not perfect, but still an entertaining and violent giallo set in a great location and with a solid cast. I liked it, which of course doesn't mean anything if you look at the history of my taste in movies.

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