Monday, June 15, 2020

THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1971) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray

Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 100 Minutes
Audio: English & Italian DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD WIdescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Sergio Martino
Cast: Edwige Fenech, Ivan Rassimov, George Hilton, Conchita Airoldi

The titular Mrs. Wardh (Edwige Fenech, Strip Nude for Your Killer) is the gorgeous and affection-starved wife of an Austrian ambassador, and she's left on her own more often then a woman that dang sexy should be. She's a total sexpot with the mesmerizing eyes, the type actress Edwige Fenech played often, and here she is again in Sergio Martino's stylish whodunit The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971).

That there's a razor-wielding serial killer mutilating women is yet another reason not to leave her alone, plus her sadistic former lover Jean (Ivan Rassimov, Planet of the Vampires) is after her, and on top of that she's even found time to have a fling with her friend Carol's handsome cousin George (George Hilton, The Case of the Bloody Iris). This is just the sort of stuff that happens when a gorgeous woman is left alone in an Italian film from the 70s. When her fling with George is discovered she is blackmailed by a stranger who sends her flowers with cryptic cards, and this blackmailer might just be the serial killer that's been stalking the area. When she confides all of this to her sexy gal pal Carol (Conchita Airoldi, Torso) her friend offers to meet the blackmailer in a public park on her behalf. As you might expect the meet-up does not go well for Carol, as she ends up slashed to death with a razor for her ill-advised kindness. Her death death is fantastically set-up and executed, making this murder a slice of giallo stalk and slash at it's finest.

Another memorable shot features a violent sex scene during a torrential downpour which elevates the eroticism to high art, watching this again it's hard to believe this was Sergio Martino's first giallo film. It's an well-crafted and suspenseful watch with the added bonus of European beauties Edwige Fenech and Conchita Airoldi, who both have a magnetic sexuality that oozes right off the screen. As with many of my favorite gialli, nudity is not a scarce commodity, it's literally in the opening shots with a flash of tits, there's nude women writhing on he floor at an orgy at one point, multiple shower scenes, and various depictions of Mrs. Wardh's sexual couplings, it's got plenty of it.

All of the cast is great, there's not a bad egg among them, Edwige is not only easy on the eyes but also a sympathetic victim, plus George Hilton as her latest playboy lover is quite an affable guy, nevermore that both are cheaters. Then of course we have Ivan Rassimov as the kinky ex, he's quite menacing in the sexually sadistic role, again perfectly cast with his angular face and wicked grin.

The script from legendary screenwriter  Ernesto Gastaldi (Torso) offers plenty of twists and turns as the thriller unfolds, with a shocker finale you won't even see sneaking up on you, with a bizarre double-edged twist that is rather silly and implausible, but all that's sort of par for the course with these gialli films. This is a stylish whodunit laced with pulse-pounding eroticism, sexualized violence and some dizzying cinematography. I still prefer Sergio Martino's Torso to this but this is still a top-ten giallo for me.

Audio/Video: The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Severin Films in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. It's advertised as being sourced from a 4K scan from the internegative, and it's a definite improvement over the Mya DVD I have. The grain looks solid and skin tones appear warm and natural looking, with deep blacks, but what looks to be compression obscures some of the detail in the darker scenes, dampening clarity and depth.

Audio on the disc comes by way of Italian and English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with optional English subtitles. The score from Nora Orlandi (The Sweet Body of Deborah) is haunting with some nice jazzy psychedelic touches throughout, it's still one of my favorite giallo soundtracks. It turns out that Quentin Tarantino was quite a fan and even re-used some of it in Kill Bill Vol.2 (2004). Fans will be jazzed that Severin have included the 31-track CD soundtrack, licensed from Beat Records, as a bonus on this release. 

Extras begin with a brief introduction from actor George Hilton, and a 24-min archival interview with Edwige Fenech. We also get new stuff by way of a 22-min interview with Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, a 43-minute interview with Director Sergio Martino, and a 19-min interview with Actor George Hilton and Italian historian Antonio Bruschini, plus a 3-min trailer for the film. All the interviews are in Italian with English subtitles. There's also a fantastic commentary with Kat Ellinger, Author of ‘All The Colors Of Sergio Martino’.

The 2-disc Blu-ray/CD arrives in a spiffy black keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork,the Blu-ray disc featuring an excerpt of the key artwork, and the CD soundtrack containing a different illustration of Edwige Fenench. Inside there is a card with a tracklisting for the CD soundtrack. 

Special Features:

- Of Vice and Virtue: Interview with Director Sergio Martino (43 min) 
- Cold As Ice: Interview with Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (22 min) 
- Vienna Vice: Interview with Actor George Hilton and Italian Genre Historian Antonio Bruschini (19 min) 
- Archive Interview with Actress Edwige Fenech (24 min) 
- Introduction by Actor George Hilton (1 min) 
- Audio Commentary with Kat Ellinger, Author of ‘All The Colors Of Sergio Martino’
- Trailer (3 min) 
- CD Soundtrack (Limited to 3000 Units)
- The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh Comic Book [Webstore Exclusive]

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) is a stylish and hypnotic black-gloved whodunit with some unexpected twists and turns that make for a memorable watch. The Blu-ray from Severin struggles a bit technically with compression but they won me over with the lengthy in-depth extras and CD soundtrack. 

More screenshots from the Blu-ray: