The Case of the Bloody Iris is a 1972 Italian ‘giallo’ horror thriller film. The original Italian title – Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer? – translates as “Why Are There Strange Drops of Blood on Jennifer’s Body?”
In the UK, sleaze specialist distributors Border Films released the film in a BBFC butchered version as Erotic Blue to appeal to the ‘raincoat crowd’ just as they did with another Italian giallo import, which they retitled Excite Me.
An attractive young woman is slashed to death by a mysterious killer in the lift of a high-rise block.
An exotic black dancer — whose act involves subjugating her male audience — discovers the victim’s body and soon becomes a victim herself. Having become friends with Andrea, the building’s architect, two models, Jennifer and Marilyn, move into the deceased dancer’s former apartment. The bumbling police (aren’t they always ?) are suspicious that Andrea may be the killer. Meanwhile, Jennifer is being harassed by Adam, her former partner.
After being attacked in her bedroom by the masked murderer, Jennifer seeks refuge in her neighbour’s apartment. The seemingly-‘good’ samaritan, who lives with her violin playing father, turns out to be a stereotypically predatory lesbian with designs on her good-looking neighbour. Returning to Jennifer’s apartment, the increasingly frantic young women discover a bloodstained orchid and Adam’s body.
Later, Marilyn is stabbed to death in a busy street. Andrea, who happens to be at the scene of the homicide, becomes smeared in her blood and so goes into hiding from the police. Meanwhile, Jennifer is suspicious of her neighbour, a sour-faced woman named Mrs Moss, who is seen taking ‘Killer Man’ comic books into her apartment…
By the early 70s, Italian gialli thrillers had become intrinsically linked with the horror genre. Here, the proverbial old dark house is replaced by a swanky new tower block but the essence of the terror-filled plot is still the same: murders a go-go and suspects a-plenty.
There is also that other horror standby: a disfigured madman locked away from view. Producer Luciano Martino was adept at turning out slick, sexy thrillers (usually helmed in more brutal outings by his brother Sergio) and this vehicle for Edwige Fenech, his mistress at the time, is no exception.
The directorial reigns were handled by Giuliano Carnimeo – best known for his four Sartana westerns, commedia sexy all’italiana and Rat Man – and the resulting lush visuals are a testament to his eye for striking imagery.
Ernesto Gastaldi’s screenplay is a delightfully fluffy cliché-filled sub-Freudian synthesis of what gialli had become for their intended ‘knowing’ audiences. Meanwhile, future director of trash gialli Stelvio Massi (Five Women for the Killer; Black Angel) competently handled the crisp cinematography; Eugenio Alabiso’s editing was perfectly gauged and Morricone collaborator Bruno Nicolai’s jaunty score is one of the best easy listening giallo aural accompaniments.
It’s a sly whodunit laced with copious amounts of nudity and intermittent violence and the requisite red herrings such as toad-like genre regular Luciano Pigozzi as the owner of a Pop Art nightclub, Oreste Lionello as a camp photographer (“what sells beer is a bare-assed broad”); and Jennifer’s seemingly insane jealous ex-lover, who previously involved her in ‘free love’ orgies – with flashbacks that are an excuse for yet more naked flesh.
Aside from the antics of the aforementioned camp cameraman, mild humour is derived from the antics of the philatelist police inspector (at one point he exclaims out loud, having seemingly found an important clue, although it turns out to be merely a rare stamp instead).
Even Jennifer’s flatmate Marilyn gets in on the self-referential playfulness when she jokingly pretends to have been drowned in the bath where the former tenant violently expired. Perhaps tasteless but typical of Italian ‘black’ humour?
Ultimately, The Case of the Bloody Iris is a cheerfully, almost, tongue-in-cheek example of the smoother blend of the giallo genre.
Adrian J Smith, HORRORPEDIA
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