The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh, 1971.
Directed by Sergio Martino.
Starring George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Conchita Airoldi, Manuel Gil and Carlo Alighiero.
A restless woman becomes embroiled in a horrifying mystery that threatens to drive her to the brink of madness… or worse.
Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (1971) is a Giallo par excellence. Directed by Sergio Martino (The Case Of The Scorpion’s Tail, All The Colors Of The Dark), and starring none other than the queen of the Giallo herself, Edwige Fenech (Strip Nude For Your Killer), it represents something that a film obsessive will seldom discover yet constantly seeks – the rare gem. A piece that, despite being so great, is so difficult to get hold of. In this case one can only see the film by importing a rather peculiar looking Thai DVD, or settling for the lacklustre MYA Communications effort. The now legendary NoShame DVD, complete with its thirty-minute documentary on the film, entitled “Fear Behind The Door”, could set you back a walloping £80! Well, enough of the DVD nerd mumbo-jumbo, “why is this film so great?” I hear you ask…
The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh – also known as Next! and Blade Of The Ripper – was released at the heart of the Giallo boom in Italy, which lasted from about 1965-1975. It concentrates on a series of grisly murders, the victims of which all have some connection to our heroine, Julie Wardh (Fenech). Mrs. Wardh is quite the minx, balancing three lovers at once, as well as a… strange vice.
The ninety-minute film can be split into two sections, the first sixty minutes plays like a typical Giallo: it has its black-gloved killer, who never leaves home without his straight razor; and it has its glamorous females and wonderfully dressed males (along with a haunting theme to boot). Here Martino does ‘Giallo’ perfectly, and whilst I was very impressed the first hour does not really go beyond this. Indeed, an hour into the film one finds oneself in a strange situation: yes, the film is perfect and has everything a Euro-trash fan could desire (the music, the melodrama, the tackily exotic characters), however it does not seem to be going passed that. At this point one is thinking of the intelligence behind The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (Argento, 1970) and wondering whether or not it will rear its beautiful head in Martino’s world. Don’t get me wrong, the film is fantastic and there are some wonderful suspense scenes, including a nail-biting chase in an underground car park, but it is not until the second part – the thirty-minute finale – that things really get interesting. Such an incredible piece of cinema; a snowballing, twist-laden, ever-developing mystery unfolds before our very eyes and reveals The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh to be one of the genre’s greatest artefacts.
I will not give away the ending; in fact I haven’t really given away much of the film whatsoever. A quick look at the IMDB synopsis is enough to whet one’s appetite:
“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.”
See what I mean by ‘typical’ sounding? Don’t let this fool you, the execution by all involved really makes this film stand out in a genre which already has so many recommendations. What’s not to like? Go forth and seek it out!
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