We're no strangers to Sergio Martino here at Zombie Club. We first encountered him way back in 2004 when we had the pleasure of 2019: After the Fall of New York. Find me someone who wouldn't want to watch a movie with a title like that. And it didn't disappoint. We've also run his stupendously silly Island of the Fishmen, Hands of Steel as well as Big Alligator River and Mountain of the Cannibal God. The latter two also feature Barbara Bach - bonus!
But Martino is best known for his giallo output, and that's exactly what we're in the mood to celebrate tonight. First up is his first entry in that genre, the brilliant, sexy The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, in which the gorgeous Edwige Fenech runs around being all scared while Ivan Rassimov looms dangerously in the background. Second up, Martino tackles the occult with All the Colors of the Dark, in which the gorgeous Edwige Fenech runs around being all scared while Ivan Rassimov looms dangerously in the background.
This evening's Zombie Club was brought to you by Zomblee, in association with Edwige Fenech running around, being all scared while Ivan Rassimov looms dangerously in the background.
The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971)
Plot An ambassador's wife discovers that one of the men in her life - either her husband, an ex-lover or her current lover - may be a vicious serial killer.
Zomblee Back in the 1970s, Sergio Martino – along with his producer brother Luciano – was churning out some deliciously sexy giallo treats. Often, they would feature the seriously hot Edwige Fenech, who happened to be in a relationship with lucky brother Luciano at the time, and I like to think that The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh is a prime example of this partnership.
Shortly after married couple Neil and Julie arrive in Vienna on business, Julie hooks up with her sexy chum Carol and hits the type of party that only exists in movies, complete with naked wrestling chicks and Ivan Rassimov standing in the corner looking all naughty. It soon transpires that Ivan – here known as Jean – is Julie’s ex-lover, though it would appear that he’s not so keen on the ‘ex’ part of their current relationship. We soon learn that their previous sex life involved particularly unusual techniques, like shagging on a bed covered with broken glass (a flashback scene which De Martino shoots with great flair by the way). As Jean preys on Julie, a mysterious serial killer is slashing off young females in the city, using techniques he has obviously learned in ‘The Bluffer’s Guide to Becoming a Successful Giallo Killer’ (this book should come with free black gloves really).
Anyway, as these killings continue, Julie distracts herself by shagging giallo stalwart George Hilton, who she initially meets at that weird party, but then becomes increasingly terrified after Carol is murdered by the serial killer. When George takes her off to sunny Spain to recover from the shock, she hopes her troubles will stay behind in Vienna. Except it doesn’t quite work out like that.
As ever, Fenech is pure eye candy, and never shies away from various states of undress, although I think Jim preferred her look in Strip Nude for Your Killer (”You know, I think she looks more attractive with short hair.”). Ivan Rassimov is at his diabolical best here, while George Hilton excels as a smarmy, over confident prick. The fashions are 70s kitsch at its most excessive (when the clothes are on that is), and Martino’s striking cinematography is suitably complimented by this essential DVD release from No Shame Films.
What makes this an essential giallo however – apart from all the fantastic sex and violence – is Ernesto Gastaldi’s sublime story which, unlike many gialli, cobbles together just the right amount of characters to weave a blinding plot which never becomes (as so many of these films do) overly convoluted. The final revelations are sooooooo worth the wait; so good in fact that you may want to watch it all over again. Oh, and Nora Orlandi's soundtrack ain't half bad either; Quentin Tarantino obviously agreed because he used it to great effect in Kill Bill.
”Drop it! I don’t like your sex habits!”
Jim Ah yes, the giallo. Edwige Fenech, George Hilton, black gloves, nudity, depravity and plentiful throat cutting. Don't you just love this kind of stuff?
Zomblee's talked you through the plot of this one so let's simply surmise. Julie Wardh (Fenech) is the wife of a diplomat who's often away on business, and she has an ex-lover in the shape of Man from Deep River's Ivan Rassimov. She also has a new lover met at that crazy 70s party mentioned above ("Parties were great in the 70s" - Zomblee) and a fetish for violent blood dripping sex, demonstrated to us through that flashback. And she has a slutty blonde friend who is killed giallo-style by a serial killer that's also threatening her. But hang on, is he caught? So where are these new threats coming from? Is the plot not quite as obvious as it at first appears?
Well no, this being a 70s Italian giallo there's obviously a lot more to it than just some cool deaths and Edwige Fenech looking gorgeous (even if I do prefer her with short hair like in Strip Nude for our Killer). There's some cool cinematography, a cool score, a load of dream sequences that confused the hell out of me and the occasional touch of brilliance, like the glass bed shag flashback we keep mentioning. But there's also a plethora of ideas that you just know young American filmmakers from the late 70s just robbed. Like, for example, the shoes under the curtain sequence that was so effectively recreated in Dressed To Kill. And a couple of nods to Hitchcock that, um, I wrote in my notebook but can't for the life of me remember now.
And while it does get quite tense near the end, there's still loads of fun to be had. Have I mentioned Edwige Fenech is gorgeous? And, what with this being pre-first child, has much fuller boobs than in Strip Nude. She's also "very good at handling the phone in a nervous way" (Zomblee), although Rawshark's comment that "she's looking more like Michael Jackson to me..." is perhaps the most disturbing observation of the evening.
Great stuff, although I still can't for the life of me remember what happened to Julie's husband Neil, or what the trap set up was I got so excited about at the end. Well, to be fair, I get excited whenever I get to shout "It's a trap!", with my best Admiral Ackbar voice.
"What I need is protection against myself!"
Rawshark The fifth film from Sergio Martino (after a couple with very naughty titles such as his debut Mondo Sex and Naked and Violent), The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh certainly doesn’t skimp on the skimpy outfits and nudity for which he was becoming known, but is also, at heart, a rather smart and intriguing giallo that holds up well and deserves to be remembered as one of the better films from this genre.
Of course, the inclusion of Edwige Fenech (she has a cameo on Hostel: Part II don’t you know) in the titular role certainly helps matters, especially as she shows no embarrassment at being in certain stages of undress. Yet the film also features our favourites Ivan Rassimov and George Hilton, and covers standard giallo territory such as black-gloved killers, red herrings (why are they called red herrings – does anyone actually know?), motorbike stunts, well-designed rooms (”the design of that room looks exactly like one of my beach towels” - Zomblee) and an ending featuring multiple twists and traps.
Aside from the acting, which is all top class, Martino directs the film (his first, er, stab at the giallo genre) with great verve and panache – see the murder of the man being shot filmed in the reflection of the murderer’s sunglasses for instance. Sure, it’s heavily influenced by Hitchcock (you can spot references to both Psycho and Strangers on a Train), but it’s worth noting that it has also influenced a lot of Hollywood, Jim’s mention of DePalma’s Dressed to Kill being just one example. It’s also smart enough to keep you guessing all the way through to the end as to who the killer is, or indeed how many killers there are.
Stand out sections for me, sex on the broken bottles aside, included the chase to the lift (the hand appears at just the right moment!), and the ultra-cool way Jean locks Julie in the room at the end with the ice cube so that it will look as if it was locked from the outside. Sex-fuelled and smart, it’s like finding a satisfyingly cryptic crossword in your favourite trashy tabloid newspaper – enough here to tickle the titillation and the brain, and all the better for it.
”I was afraid I’d have to do without my Brockwurst”.
Director Sergio Martino
Cast George Hilton
Runtime 98 mins
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All the Colors of the Dark (1972)
Plot A woman recovering from a car accident in which she lost her unborn child finds herself pursued by a coven of devil worshipers.
Rawshark Martino reunited Edwige Fenech, Ivan Rassimov and George Hilton for All The Colors of Dark, a super psychedelically strange Satanic movie, which, although not quite as strong as Mrs Wardh, certainly has it’s fair share of sexually-charged imagery and dread.
This time out Edwige plays Jane Harrison who lives in London with her boyfriend Richard (Hilton). Jane is haunted by dreams (we’ll come to these later) of losing her mother when she was five, and also from losing her unborn baby in a recent car crash. Her boyfriend who is a pharmaceutical salesman thinks pills are the cure, whereas one of Jane’s new neighbours, Mary, believes in Black Magic and thinks that Jane can be helped by taking part in a Black Mass. Can you see where this going yet?
After a slightly slow and moody intro, this film really grabs you soon after with it’s initial dream sequence which features nudity, strange contact lenses, pregnant girls and rotten-toothed Goldilocks. This disturbs Jane who wakes and takes a shower (”She’s still wearing her ‘nightie’” - Jim) before she has another viciously graphic dream of her mother’s stabbing. But it’s not until Jane finally accepts Mary’s offer of taking part in the Satanic ceremony that things get very strange where some guy with very bad hygiene habits (”Oh my good lord – ridiculous – just look at his nails” - Jim) forces Jane to strip and drink blood, prompting Jim to comment that it’s a ”pretty intense initiation into this group!” After this, the film grows increasingly bizarre as we’re led to wonder whether this is all in Jane’s mind, or whether there really is a blue-eyed maniac out to kill her…
Helped along with typically beautiful Martino visuals and a psychedelic score by Bruno Nicolai, All the Colors of the Dark is a strong Italian giallo / supernatural hybrid that is well worth the time, particularly if you like films such as Rosemary’s Baby. It may cause some smiles to a British audience in terms of it’s Underground locations (Jane manages to both get on, and one stop later, get off at Aldwych Station) and views of British life (”It’s 5 o’clock – time for a cup of tea!” - Zomblee), but with healthy doses of strange dream sequences, and with Edwige Fenench again proving a great lead actress, I’m sure, like us, you’d be willing to overlook it’s small foibles.
”Strange men have been following women since the Stone Age, Jane”.
Jim So, All the Colours... Well, it's got Edwige Fenech with that long hair again, it's got George Hilton as her partner, that Ivan Rassimov guy and the assured direction of Sergio Martino again. Um, it's also got crazy hippie parties, loads of nudity, and a wicked glass bed shag flashback. And Ivan Rassimov tries to convince us he's English by banging on about how much he likes good old English pubs.
Hang on, that's wrong, isn't it? The party was in the last movie, this one had a devil worship thing going on, with the cult led by the guy with the ridiculously long nails (does he look at himself in the mirror on his way out and go "Man, my nails look good!", or am I crazy?) And obivously Ivan's pub fixation was from Man from Deep River, which has nothing to do with this movie. Neither does his portrayal of a Darth Vader clone with a gimp mask on in Humanoid. Now I really am going off topic.
Anyway, according to my notes, Fenech plays a pregnant girl that has bad dreams and likes to take nightie showers, although, as Zomblee pointed out, "Her eye make up is better in this movie than in the last one." She meets a neighbour that looks a lot like Carol from the last movie (it's not her, but my word was that a close one) and they get in to Devil worshipping together. Ivan has blue eyes and seems to keep following her, but then again what with all those bonkers dreams she has it's hard to work out whether he really is or she's just totally nuts and also having flashbacks to the last movie. Who knows?
I admit, I don't. You may have noticed how vague I've been with my write up here, well that's because I can remember very little about this film. Blue-eyed Ivan, the nails and my notes is all I've got to go on, and my handwriting is looking a few pear ciders and a bottle of wine worse for wear. I have no idea what Mary's mother has to do with it or the relevance of the pitchfork, but I wrote them down so they must have been important. Oh, and you know the lines in the last movie about nervous phone handling and Michael Jackson? Well, examining my notes more closely reveals that those comments actually came from this movie.
My colleagues seem to have a better grip on what's happening with this flick, so I think I'll just quit now while I'm relatively ahead.
"Just like your Mother, Jane, just like your mother..."
Zomblee Martino shot this one between the gialli The Case of the Scorpion's Tail and Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key in 1972, and although almost all the production elements (Martino, the cast, Gastaldi script) would suggest this a prime giallo, it really feels like a paranoia-soaked Satanic horror/thriller which just happens to be Italian.
All the Colours... features the highly delectable Edwige Fenech yet again, this time as Jane, a woman living in London who recently lost her unborn child in a road traffic accident. Her husband (George Hilton) is having an affair with her sister, and she keeps seeing Ivan Rassimov everywhere. Could things possibly get any worse for her? Well, yes. It so happens that a pesky coven of devil worshippers led by Julián Ugarte have her in their sights, which I suppose is partly her own fault because she visits a sabbat of her own free will in an effort to resolve her psychological problems ("Why is she hanging out with devil worshippers now?" - Rawshark). No, it didn't sound like a good idea to me either Rawshark.
Martino conjures some well-staged sequences in All the Colours of the Dark, and the atmosphere is as dark as you would expect, with a sense of intense paranoia everywhere; is Edwige Fenech mental, or are they really out to get her? The sabbat scenes are particularly fun in a kooky, psychedelic kind of way, complimented with very 'they're coming to get you' style wide angle photography, not to mention the coven leader's outrageous, 'devilish' finger attachments ("Look at his girly nails" - Jim). Credit also to soundtrackmeister Bruno Nicolai for the superb score, particularly in these coven scenes.
Of course, this is very much of its time. It is clearly influenced by Rosemary's Baby, which is no bad thing, but despite all Fenech's admirable qualities, she is no Mia Farrow, and her cries of desperation actually started to grate after an hour or so. But don't let that put you off. Anyone with an interest in giallo crossover movies needs to see this prime Martino. Oh, and it's set in London - how cool is that?!
"Does being alone in the dark worry you?"
Director Sergio Martino
Cast George Hilton
Maria Cumani Quasimodo
Runtime 94 mins
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I'm not quite sure what happened halfway through All the Colors of the Dark tonight, but we ended up just sitting there, saying very little, staring at the screen like zombies. Which sometimes happens here at Zombie Club. Maybe Fenech's constant cries of 'they're really after me you know!' got a bit tedious after a while; and who knows, perhaps that movie just featured one too many elevator scenes, like Jim said. We're obviously very tired and need to get some sleep so that we're all revitalised before Clint Howard enlists the help of his satanic pigs in our Revenge Night. One more thing - I can't look at Edwige Fenech the same way ever since Rawshark said she looked a bit like Michael Jackson. It's quite unsettling actually. Cha'mon.