Archive for ivan rassimov

THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1971) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by goregirl

I ended up watching The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh on the last day of Italian horror month and didn’t get a review done. Since a month had passed, I decided I should watch it again. Despite knowing how it ends I actually enjoyed this film even more the second time around. Edwige Fenech may be the greatest female star of Giallo ever! This has been my favourite entry from Sergio Martino so far. It has all the elements that make these films so appealing to me; sex, sleaze and violence and Fenech is the cherry on top!

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh opens with a prostitute getting into a car and being slashed to death by an unknown assailant. We then meet Neil and Julie Wardh as they arrive at the airport after a business trip to the US. Neil goes off to do some business sending Julie home by cab on her own. The cab is stopped on route by a cop and the driver and Julie are asked to hand over identification. It is revealed that a serial killer has been terrorizing the area and another woman’s body has just been found. As the cab continues on to Julie’s destination she has a flashback that reveals what her titular strange vice is. Apparently Julie likes her sex rough and bloody. Although this excites her in the moment she is also completely repulsed by this dark side of herself. In order to put this past behind her she has married Neil Wardh but her ex-lover is still obsessed with her. When a third man, the cousin of a close friend shows interest, she can’t seem to help herself. Julie has problems! Julie Wardh is a woman conflicted. She has an air of self-importance but also a serious self-loathing. The sight of blood excites and repulses her and she completely falls apart, breaking down completely and fainting in men’s arms. I wondered often if things could possibly end well for Julie Wardh.

Unlike her role in Your Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I have the Key where Edwige Fenech plays a confident, cheeky little minx, in this one she is definitely the woman in peril. Unlike many of her peers playing the victim, she never strikes me as an air-headed ditz. As always she gives an intriguing and memorable performance. Fenech is the cat’s ass! She gets some pretty solid support too. Martino regulars Ivan Rassimov and George Hilton are two of the men in Julie’s life. Rassimov, the man of a thousand hair don’ts always brings a sleazy charm to his roles. He plays Jean, Julie’s ex-lover, fellow vicer and giver of roses with creepy notes. Hilton plays the new lover, handsome cousin of her best friend Carol. That Coppertone tan, sideburns and swaggering confidence screams of the decade! This is the first I can recall seeing of Conchita Airoldi who plays Carol. Airoldi plays Carol as a hideously bitchy socialite type with a rather glib sense of humour. Finally Alberto de Mendoza who plays Julie’s hubby Neil Wardh gets a bit overshadowed by the bigger personalities here. Mendoza is seemingly the older and wiser of the players but acts as a pretty good leveller.

This is a pretty meaty film for the very early 70’s. In the first 15 minutes we see a woman slashed with a razor, Fenech naked and slapped around until she’s bleeding from the mouth and two women ripping the dresses off of each other at a party. Missing in The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh is the dramatic drawn out classic chase and kill scene. The films serial killer makes pretty quick work of the ladies he slashes to death. Truth be told, the violence isn’t very graphic and certainly there are other Giallo that offer more in this regard. But what it might lack here it makes up for in so many other ways! There are almost as many red herrings as there are boobs and there is a twist ending, and then another twist and yet another! An unholy trinity of twists that was as satisfying as cold beer in a frosty glass on a sizzling hot day. There are absolutely amazing location shots in both Italy and Spain and kick ass sets and set pieces. The Wardh’s apartment with its spaceship doors and obnoxiously busy wallpaper is swingingly seventieslicous! Martino’s stylish filming and care for detail shines as bright as chrome. Amazing shots like Jean smashing a wine bottle that shatters and flies through the air onto Julie’s naked body; the two fucking as the broken fragments lacerate their flesh and blood trickles from their wounds is a thing of lavishly kinky beauty.

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is a perfect example of all the reasons I love Giallo and all things 1970’s. My highest of recommendations!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Sergio Martino

Starring: George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Conchita Airoldi, Manuel Gil, Carlo Alighiero, Ivan Rassimov, Alberto de Mendoza, Bruno Corazzari

SPASMO (1974) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by goregirl

Before Lenzi got gory, he directed a handful of Giallo’s in the 1970’s that were pretty entertaining. Lenzi’s films ‘Seven Bloodstained Orchids’ and ‘Eyeball’ follow a classic Giallo formula but he refuses to play by the rules with ‘Spasmo’. ‘Spasmo’ has no gore, little nudity and a low body count. There isn’t even a maniac/stalker in black gloves attacking women! Not only is ‘Spasmo’ lacking the blood, gore and sex, it has glaring flaws in other areas. Despite this, it still managed to snare me in its trippy web.

Christian Bauman has a bizarre random encounter on the beach with a woman named Barbara who suddenly disappears. Later that evening he tracks her down and the two go back to Barbara’s motel room. Barbara insists he shave off his beard and Christian obeys. While in the bathroom an armed man breaks in and attacks him. A struggle occurs and Christian ends up shooting his attacker. This is the beginning of a strange and unsettling journey down a twisted path of mannequins in death poses, questionable sanity, disappearing corpses and of course, murder!

Clearly Lenzi was trying to make a horror film of a more psychological nature. However, if you are going for the cerebral, give your characters some intelligent things to say! The dialog in this film is pretty damn bad! My husband and I laughed a few times at the idiotic things the characters say to one another. And what is with Lenzi and the word whore anyway?!? The dialog is definitely the films weakest element. ‘Spasmo’ starts out a little too slowly and I was left shaking my head at the bizarre series of information I had been fed during the films first 30 minutes. It seemed like Lenzi was going to leave me numerous plot holes to step in but by the time the films reaches its most satisfying conclusion the mystery is solved.

The mannequin is one my all-time favourite props! This isn’t the first Giallo to use mannequins but very few use them as prominently as ‘Spasmo’. Mannequins are found hanging from nooses, lying on the ground bloodied, occasionally with a knife stuck in it, and always in varied states of undress. You will wonder often what the hell the relevance of the mannequins is and you will be rewarded…eventually. The films final scene ties it all up beautifully. The mannequins were the real stars in ‘Spasmo’ but there are some decent performances among the human cast also. Suzy Kendall attempts sex kitten somewhat awkwardly but isn’t unlikeable. Robert Hoffmann does a lot of fussing, fretting and rubbing his head as Christian Bauman but he’s a likeable enough sort. The two have good chemistry together and are quite watchable. I usually enjoy Giallo regular Ivan Rassimov and he is good in this as Fritz Bauman, but has way too little dialog and screen time. There is a peculiar parade of characters that come and go but don’t leave all that much of an impression. The only exception being the striking Monica Monet who plays Clorinda; but it’s more the visual of Monet you’ll remember rather than her dialog or acting.

Visuals in the film are rather toned down and outside of the aforementioned lack of nudity and gore, even set pieces and locations are mostly unmemorable. At times ‘Spasmo’ is like a car accident you can’t look away from. But it also has moments of brilliance. The last quarter of the film is fantastic! A great reveal an exciting finale and there are a couple of awesome surprise twists. If you don’t take the film too seriously it is actually a lot of fun. You have to kick back and enjoy the ride on this one, accept the bad dialog and move on. It really does come together in the end!

Sadly, the Shriek Show version I rented was dubbed. With the exception of Godzilla films I detest dubbing. I don’t feel like I’m getting the full experience if I can’t watch the film in its original language. There is also a bit of ambient noise on the dubbing, it never drowns out the dialog and you stop noticing it after a while. While Morricone’s score is a bit on the conservative side it is still quite effective and the sound for the music is crystal clear. The transfer of the film itself looked pretty much flawless as far as I was concerned. There is a short interview with Umberto Lenzi, a poster/still gallery and trailers for other Lenzi films and one Dallamano film. An interesting fact from the Lenzi interview; Lucio Fulci was originally set to be the director on Spasmo. Hardcore Giallo fans will probably not be overly impressed with this one, and gorehounds will certainly be disappointed. But if you like off the wall flicks that march to the beat of their own drummer, this weird little mess of a film has some highly entertaining moments and a great finale worth sticking around for. Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Robert Hoffmann, Suzy Kendall, Ivan Rassimov, Adolfo Lastretti, Monica Monet, Guido Alberti, Mario Erpichini, Franco Silva, Maria Pia Conte