Monday, November 4, 2013

DVD Review: BLADE OF THE RIPPER (1971)


BLADE OF THE RIPPER (1971)
Label: Mya Communications
Region Code: 0 NTSC
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Audio: English, Italian Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with optional English Subtitles
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Sergio Martino
Cast: Edwige Fenech, Ivan Rassimov, George Hilton, Conchita Airoldi


Julie Ward (Edwige Fenech, Strip Nude for Your Killer) is the gorgeous and affection-starved wife of a Austrian diplomat who is left on her own way more often then a woman of her caliber should be. She's a striking woman with the most alluring eyes, actress Edwige Fenich is a haunted beauty in every film and never more so than in Sergio Martino's classic whodunit Blade of the Ripper (1971). That there's a razor-wielding sex maniac is on the lose mutilating women is yet another reason not to leave her alone, plus her pervy former lover Jean (Ivan Rassimov, Planet of the Vampires) pursues her relentlessly, and then there's the fact that she's fallen in love with her friend Carol's handsome cousin George (George Hilton, The Case of the Bloody Iris). When her romance with George is uncovered she is blackmailed by a stranger who might just be the sex maniac, when she confides this turn of events to Carol (Conchita Airoldi, Torso) her friend offers to meet the blackmailer in a public perk on her behalf, but the hand-off does not go as planned and she's razor-slashed to death in the park, it's a fantastically shot scenario, a true slice of Giallo stalk and slash at it's finest.

The camera shots and angles are wonderfully executed, there's a shower scene slashing that's pure Hitchcockian perfection, on par with anything Argento has put onscreen. Yet another memorable shot features a violent sex scene during a torrential downpour which elevates eroticism to high art, it's hard to believe this was Sergio Martino's first Giallo, it's a masterful watch with no shortage of onscreen beauties, we have Fenech of course, plus Conchita Airoldi, both women have a magnetic sexuality. Nudity pours from the screen, the opening shots near the airport begin with a flash of breast and ends in sudden death, plus women wrestling nude at a swinging party and several tasty nude bathing scenes, there's definitely no shortage of erotic-laced violence here. 

I found the cast in Blade of the Ripper (1971) to be quite good, there's not a bad performance in the bunch. Edwige is a true Euro-beauty and a sympathetic enough victim, plus George Hilton as her playboy lover is quite affable. Ivan Rassimov as the violent ex-lover is quite menacing in the sadistic role, he's perfectly cast with his sinister grin, he truly made my skin crawl in every scene, and the trippy flashbacks to his relationship with Julie are quite strange. 

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. 


DVD: Blade of the Ripper (1971) alternately knows as The strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh receives a very attractive anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) interlaced transfer from Mya Communications on DVD. Sourced from the original 35mm negative it's nearly pristine with only very minor instances of white speckling, colors saturation is deep and skin tones are accurate, while there's some crush in the darker scenes it's nothing too alarming. This would look stunning on 1080p Blu-ray with a nice transfer, a very attractive film. 

Audio options include choice of Italian or English presented in Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with optional English subtitles. The Italian audio presentation is more robust, the score in punchier and the dialogue more present. It should also be noted the English audio drops at out for a few seconds at the 9 minute mark and again at 66 minutes, the Italian audio does not. Nora Orlandi's haunting score sounds fantastic with some nice jazzy psychedelic touches, it's one of my favorite Giallo soundtracks. Quentin Tarantino was quite a fan and even re-used some of it in Kill Bill Vol.2 (2004). 

Extras are limited to the original Italian language theatrical trailer and a poster and still gallery  unfortunately we do not get the half hour making of doc "Fear Behind the Door" from the 2005 No Shame DVD. 

Special Features:
- 16:9 Original Trailer (3:03) 
- Photo and Poster Gallery (4:03) 

Verdict: I have only just scratched the surface of Sergio Martino's filmography with viewings of Torso (1973) and now Blade of the Ripper (1971), now that I have plundered the depths of the Italian masters Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci I am quite excited to jump into the films of Sergio Martino. A stylish Giallo entry, gorgeously shot and drenched in eroticism,violence and dizzying whodunit twists. On par with Deep Red (1975) and Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), this is one slice of Euro-sleaze that should not be missed, an essential slice of Euro-cult cinema. 4 Outta 5 


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