The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh – Italian: Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh – is a 1971 Italian/Spanish giallo murder mystery film directed by Sergio Martino (The Great Alligator; Torso; All the Colours of the Dark) from a screenplay by Vittorio Caronia, Ernesto Gastaldi and Eduardo Brochero, based on a storyline by the latter.
The letter “h” was apparently added to the name “Ward” when an Italian woman named Mrs. Ward threatened legal action over the original title’s potentially damaging her good name. The film was released as Blade of the Ripper in the United States, and is also known as Next! or The Next Victim.
In Vienna, Julie Wardh, a mentally fragile American socialite and heiress to the Wardh’s retailing fortune, becomes the victim of a secret conspiracy between her husband, her ex-boyfriend, and her new lover, who plot to kill her and frame it as either the work of a random serial killer who’s been stalking the city, or a suicide.
Her husband, a financier, hopes to collect the life insurance money to pay off debts. In return for his help in the scheme, Julie’s lover has Julie’s husband dispatch his cousin so that he can become the sole heir to a fortune that they’ve inherited jointly.
Julie’s eccentric ex-lover, a sadist and struggling photographer who keeps exotic pets, is interested only in the money so he can begin a new life overseas, but he’s shot dead in a double cross before he can enjoy his ill-gotten gains. The random serial killer also meets his death when one of his victims fights back, endangering the elaborate scheme. Will Julie succumb to this dastardly betrayal by those closest to her, or will the conspiracy founder?
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“Ernesto Gastaldi’s fills his script to the brim with beautiful people doing terrible things to each other to create a plot overflowing with twists, brutal murders, and a hefty dollop of kinky sex. The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is short on sympathetic characters and often strays from believability during its overheated finale, but fans of the genre won’t care because Martino keeps the film stylized in the extreme.” Donald Guarisco, AllMovie
“Fenech is great as the confused Julie who can’t keep her eyes and hands off her new boyfriend George. Rassimov suits the part of her sadistic ex Jean like a glove, and her surreal dreams of their violent relationship are great. The classic gloved stalking killer theme works well, and as usual Martino bring his tricks to the table.” Jason Meredith, Cinezilla
“With many twists and clever plot devices, there’s a sufficient level of suspense that helps the colorful film maintain its entertainment value. Martino delivers an intriguing travelogue of exotic locations and alluring imagery, which depicts the characters as the superficial jet setters without any cares. Blending the intense music of Nora Orlandi with arty and erotic visuals, the film has a very misogynistic edge to it, with beautiful women (often nude) being slayed in gory fashion.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In
“This has everything you could ever want from the genre: beautiful Eurobabes being menaced by a homicidal killer in classic giallo garb, liberal steals from Hitchcock (given a delirious reworking, naturally), sex, nudity and suspense, a suitably velvety soundtrack (courtesy of Nora Orlandi) and so many twists it’ll leave you gasping for air! Next! also marked Edwige Fenech’s ordination as the Queen of the giallo…” Justin Kerswell, Hysteria Lives!
“The story is consistently engaging and the characters prove to be interesting, even if they emerge as a pretty unsavoury lot on the whole. Martino captures the “swinging jet-set” feel of earlier gialli by Umberto Lenzi but mercifully does not spend too much time on vapid party scenes and the like. Things take a pretty grim turn pretty much right off the bat, and the assorted plot twists are expertly spaced out so as not to overwhelm the viewer.”Troy Howarth, So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
“Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (Torso) offers many twists and turns along the way to the end, a red-herring laced whodunit, you definitely won’t see this ending sneak up on you, that’s for certain, this one is right up there with Sidney Lumet’s shocker Deathtrap (1982)! A stylish giallo laced with pulse-pounding eroticism, sexualized violence and dizzying cinematography, it just doesn’t get much better than this, a top-tier thriller from start to finish.” Ken Kastenhuber, McBastard’s Mausoleum
Cast and characters:
- Edwige Fenech… Julie Wardh (Hostel: Part II; The Case of the Bloody Iris; Strip Nude for Your Killer)
- George Hilton … George Corro (All the Colours of the Dark)
- Conchita Airoldi … Carol Brandt [as Cristina Airoldi]
- Ivan Rassimov … Jean
- Manuel Gil … Dr. Harbe [as Maurice Gillas Pou]
- Carlo Alighiero … Commissioner
- Alberto de Mendoza … Neil Wardh
- Marella Corbi … Victim who escaped from the killer
- Miguel del Castillo … Medico Spagnolo
- Luis de Tejada … The Inspector
- Pouchi … Victim in the shower [as Pouchie]