The Strange of Vice of Mrs. Wardh (Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh)
blade of the ripper | the strange vice of mrs. wardh | sergio martino | vittorio caronia | ernesto gastaldi | eduardo manzanos | george hilton | edwige fenech | conchita airoldi | mystery | thriller | italy | spain | crime | giallo | ivan rassimov | alberto de mendoza
Film: The Strange of Vice of Mrs. Wardh (Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh)
Director: Sergio Martino
Writer: Vittorio Caronia, Ernesto Gastaldi and Eduardo Manzanos Brochero
Starring: George Hilton, Edwige Fenech and Conchita Airoldi
This film is one that I discovered through the Horror Show Guide encyclopedia I’m working through. It was listed there under the alternative title, Blade of the Ripper. I’ve now seen this a couple of times. It was one that I was excited to revisit now that I’m more versed in gialli. It is also fun to rewatch as this is directed by Sergio Martino, written by Ernesto Gastaldi and featuring Edwige Fenech. These are all giallo royalty.
Synopsis: an ambassador’s wife discovers that one of the men in her life – either her husband, an ex-lover or her current lover – maybe a vicious serial killer.
We start this off with a quote from Sigmund Freund about the nature of a man and how it is in our blood to be a killer. It then gives us the credits while we are inside of a car driving down the road. Whoever is driving picks up a woman. He doesn’t say anything, but they drive away. He takes her to the airport and a plane starts to land, making a lot of noise. The woman is stabbed to death with a straight razor.
This then takes us to Neil (Alberto de Mendoza) getting off a plane with his wife, Julie (Fenech). He is a politician and they’re met by his advisors. He is taken away as there is work that he must attend to. Julie gets a taxi to head home. During this drive, she has a flashback to a former lover. We learn later his name is Jean (Ivan Rassimov). The taxi is stopped as well, learning that a murder took place in the area so the police are checking cars.
Upon Julie returning home, she is nervous at seeing a car parked there. It belongs to Jean. Something we also learn later was that he was violent with her, but there was passion. She still has feelings for him. It is just that he isn’t good for her. He sends her flowers.
Julie then goes to a party with a friend, Carol Brandt (Conchita Airoldi). The former wants her husband to be there with her, but he is neglectful. This explains why she has affairs. Carol introduces her friend to her cousin, George Corro (George Hilton). Despite being cousins, Carol has a crush on him and he finds Julie to be stunning. There is attraction there, but his arrogance makes her think of Jean. Speaking of him, he shows up so Julie leaves.
This killer operates in the area and it makes Julie nervous. Jean stalking her drives her into the bed of George. Neil not being around also is part of this. Julie is into rough and kinky sex, which can be problematic for her high-profile husband. A blackmailer catches Julie with George and wants a meeting. It is from here that she is worried this person could also be the violent serial killer.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Now this of course one of the bigger titles in the giallo subgenre. Upon my first watch of this movie, I didn’t necessarily know much about movies like this or even appreciate them. Going back to what I said in my opening, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries and just seeking more out, this works much better for me.
Where I want to start then delving deeper is with our lead, Julie. Fenech is so stunning while also being a great actress. This was probably my introduction to her. What I like here is that director Martino and the co-writers of Eduardo Manzanos and Gastaldi do a great job at fleshing this character out. The writing of her is good but Fenech also brings it to life. Julie is into kinky sex, which is what draws her to Jean. He gets too violent with her and I also get the idea that she wants to be faithful to her husband. She could ruin his career as well. I like how these elements fit into the story.
Let me then go over to the mystery here. I’ll be honest, I didn’t remember who the killer was so this was like a first time watch there. There are murders that happened before the Wardhs arrive in Vienna. That makes Neil not the killer of them. I’m not saying if he is involved or not, but this is a fact. Jean is violent so he could be the killer. He’s been here the whole time as well. When watching movies like this, they’re pushing him hard so it makes me pause. There is also George, who we know is new here and we don’t know how long he’s been here. These are the red herrings or potential killers that we know. Gialli can also just toss in a random person who is doing so I did like that this kept me guessing until the end. I’ll be honest, I was partially correct, but I didn’t guess what the full reveal was so credit there.
Now this doesn’t necessarily have the deepest story. What it does though is show Julie navigating through this world. I’ve said how good Fenech was. Hilton, Rassimov and de Mendoza are solid as the main red herrings around her. I also thought that Airoldi, Manuel Gil and the rest of the cast help push our characters to where they end up. Just as a heads up, this is a sleazy movie in the fact that we get quite a bit of nudity. We see Fenech nude quite a bit and even Airoldi at one point. If you’re looking for that, it is here.
All that is left then is filmmaking. I’ll start with the cinematography and I’ll say that this is shot beautifully. A sequence stuck out to me a park with Carol. When that came up, I remembered it so that is saying something. Another is a scene in the rain between Julie and Jean. These were both great. I like what they do with flashbacks to fill in Julie’s story. They use soft focus there. The effects are subdued, but that’s not necessarily a problem for me. I also thought that the soundtrack was great. Not the best in this subgenre, but we get a couple of reoccurring themes to help signify what we’re getting. I appreciated that.
In conclusion, this is one of my favorite giallo titles of what the ones I’ve seen. We have a solid murder mystery here. I love that we are exploring the backstory of Julia and Fenech does a great job at bringing her to life. The rest of the cast around her great with special credit to Hilton and Rassimov. This is well made with the cinematography and the soundtrack leading the way there. If you are into gialli or want a sleazy murder mystery film, then I’d recommend this one to you.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10