The Case of the Bloody Iris July 28, 2015
Stylish, alluring, and agreeable, The Case of the Bloody Iris is a straightforward giallo less notable for its dextrous offings and more for leading lady Edwige Fenech, the inarguable queen of the genre. While never reaching the orgasmic heights of other masterpieces of the era, The Case of the Bloody Iris is still a splendidly fun (albeit gory) murder mystery that embraces its ridiculousness and makes up for convoluted time with sophisticated design and worthy blood-soaked set pieces. It’s an admirable time waster, a slasher dressed to the nines in pre-De Palma swank.
As in all gialli, a gloved killer wrapped in sharp black is mercilessly butchering physically beautiful young women for kicks, this time in a luxurious apartment complex. Days after two women are murdered in a twenty-four-hour period, models Jennifer (Edwige Fenech) and Marilyn (Paola Quattrini) move into one of the victims’ apartment, hardly worried about the room’s sordid past. “Life goes on,” Marilyn says. But it doesn’t take long for the pair to realize that such things can hardly be laughed off, especially when considering the building itself seems to contain a number of shady characters easily able to commit such heinous acts. Suspects include a stereotyped lesbian neighbor, a misogynistic old woman that lives with her disturbingly deformed son, and even Jennifer’s love interest (George Hilton), an architect with a crippling phobia of blood. And it doesn’t help that Jennifer’s maniacal ex-husband (Ben Carra) enjoys spending his days stalking his former wife instead of making a living.
In order to fully enjoy The Case of the Bloody Iris, one must disregard the horrendous dubbing, the severely stiff performances, and the regularly asinine script — because this is a film about style and Edwige Fenech, not much else. (Those expecting the normal amount of generous giallo gore will be sorely disappointed.) The first murder is exquisitely shot — with hardly a word of dialogue to spare, it follows a comely blonde from a telephone booth to her apartment building’s elevator, where she winds up slashed to death after the passengers depart one by one. Clearly inspiration for Angie Dickinson’s gruesome offing in Dressed to Kill, the scene sets the tone of the film: absurd but competently suspenseful. Because much of the film is absurd — Jennifer’s religious cult backstory is unneeded and contains a gratuitous orgy scene (hardly graphic) more laughable than tantalizing, and her bad habit of wandering away from safety in a time of danger is maddening — but, for the most part, The Case of the Bloody Iris classes it up while later ‘70s peers of the Black Christmas mindset didn’t. It cares more about how it appears than how it builds intellectually, so thank God it looks like the chic second cousin of Blowup or some other mod infused character study.
Best of all is Edwige Fenech: never have I seen her in one of her famous gialli (those were directed by Sergio Martino, and I’m still in the process of trying to find a copy to view), and this film gives an idea as to why she is an underground legend. With her cat eyes, voluptuous figure, and jet black hair, it’s impossible not to stare at her, mouth agape and all. One can hardly call her a fine actress, but Fenech has presence, a characteristic hardly found in other giallo women like Barbara Bouchet or Evelyn Stewart. The camera clings to her composure almost passively; she can turn a poorly executed scene into a work of art by merely acting as its center. Maybe her films with Martino are better, but The Case of the Bloody Iris is a giallo minor but palatable. B-