Hitchcock has a lot to answer for. Prior to Vertigo, Dial M for Murder and, of course, Psycho, nobody had ever made the connection between sex and death on screen in quite such a pronounced and, more pertinently, stylised way – and we’ve been witnessing the fictional murders of emancipated women in often rather hokey detective thrillers ever since. The Italian giallo movement began with a picture named after one of Hitch’s (Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much), and by the 1970s the genre was making the link between the libido and murder far more explicitly than the master was ever able to.
Fortunately, some of these films still retained Hitchcock’s sense of style, and while The Case of the Bloody Iris (or Why Those Strange Drops of Blood on Jennifer's Body? according to a more literal translation) isn’t exactly steeped in quality, it is at least cheap and cheerful in an enjoyably creative way.
A collaboration between director Giuliano Carnimeo and writer Ernesto Gastaldi (who previously worked together on Cloud of Dust... Cry of Death... Sartana is Coming; these translated titles are nothing if not evocative), The Case of the Bloody Iris stars Edwige Fenech as Jennifer, a beautiful and full-breasted (an important requirement) young woman running away from a spiritual marriage to a bullying husband with an obsession for group sex. She and fellow model Marylin (Quattrini) move into an apartment where another young model has recently been murdered (like, the previous day), only for it to quickly become apparent that the murderer is not just a serial offender, but also one who specifically targets young, beautiful, full-breasted and free-thinking women, and even more specifically, ones who live in that particular apartment.
So okay, it doesn’t get much more pulpy and contrived than that, as the straight playing cast – including George Hilton, one of Carnimeo’s various Sartanas – are only too aware. Gastaldi thus arranges an array of potential suspects, including the bitter widow and her crippled son from the apartment on one side and the predatory lesbian and her violin-obsessed widower father from the apartment on the other, plus Jennifer’s new architect boyfriend, for a detective team much like the pair from An American Werewolf in London (surely referencing this) to wade through before the inevitable surprise showdown.
The dialogue, sound recording and acting are variable, ranging from pretty poor to, well, not especially good – but you’re not here for the quality, and if soft-focus sex to a sub-Morricone soundtrack and topless wrestling tick your boxes you’re all set. The pleasant surprise is the photography and editing, which emulates Hitchcock after a fashion that would later be a big influence on Brian De Palma, and manages to keep the interest piqued even when the plot runs out of coherence.
Sadly, even in this new 2K restoration, the picture still isn’t up to much, but there are a couple of nice in-depth interviews included, and on the whole this is perhaps one of the better examples of the genre.
Extras: interviews with George Hilton, Paula Quattrini
THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: GIULIANO CARNIMEO / SCREENPLAY: ERNESTO GASTALDI / STARRING: EDWIGE FENECH, GEORGE HILTON, PAOLA QUATTRINI, GIAMPIERO ALBERTINI / RELEASE DATE: 19TH NOVEMBER