Times New Keeferton Keef shows no signs of lethality or psychosis

29Oct/150

HOW CAN HE SLAP: THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARD (1971)

I watched The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Sergio Martino's first film. It's a murdery mystery giallo about a lady with a weird blood fetish. She's since married respectably, but then her old bloody lover shows up and she gets scared, so she decides to embark on a new affair with a square-jawed fellow, because of course she does. Also, there's a razor murderer on the loose, and people around her start dying.

It's a fairly odd entry in the giallo annals. The plot is surprisingly convoluted, with a lot of characters to keep track of, a number of pretty great death scenes, a huge locale change halfway through, and then a very twisty-turny (but great) ending. This movie stars Edwige Fenech as Julia Wardh. Fenech is a mainstay of gialli from this period, and it's easy to see why-- she is beautiful. The problem is that she can't really act very convincingly. She's good at expressing turmoil and anguish, and that's about it.

The standout in this film for me was Ivan Rassimov, who plays her old flame, Jean.

Here's an interesting side note. For all of the Italian horror movies I've watched this month, I've preferred to watch them in the original Italian, with English subtitles. For this one, technical problems precluded the inclusion of the subtitles, and I watched it with the English dubbing in place-- and then when I took the screenshots, I included the subtitles (different device, no technical problems). It led to this interesting little tidbit. In the above screenshot, Julie Wardh is at the police station, confronting Jean. She expresses her negative feelings toward him, and that's part of his response.

However, the reason I wanted to include it at all was because the line as delivered was pretty incredible. The dubbing was actually better written than the subbing. Here's the dubbed version, preceded by Julie telling Jean, "I loathe you."

The only thing I cannot bear is indifference. Your best emotion is violent, raging hatred. Love is nothing compared to that.

And here's the subbed version, preceded by Julie telling Jean, "I hate you."

The only thing I can't stand is indifference. Hate is a good feeling, it's fiery and violent; like love, only more so.

Weird, right? I wish I spoke Italian, so I could actually take a listen to the original and compare it to both translations.

Anyway.

This is a weird-ass movie, man. I don't know how I keep stumbling into these bizarro S&M gialli; eroticism (and gratuitous nudity) is a hallmark of the genre, but this one, coming on the heels of The Whip and the Body, takes it to some weird places. The two follow similar trajectories, for their female leads: in both cases, the ladies have moved on, remarried, and attempted to leave their (perceived-as) troubled pasts behind them; in both cases, they get drawn back into their perversions, unable to resist that intractable fetishism.

And hoo boy, that fetishism.

This particular gif comes from a dream sequence, but it's fairly representative of the domination-driven sex scenes in this flick. In fact, it's fairly tame, in comparison with others. A flashback shows us another instance of Julia and Jean getting freaky, only this time he breaks a wine bottle first, flinging the shards onto her; then he falls on top of her and they do the deed whilst grinding the broken glass between their writhing forms.

Holy balls, man.

Another thing this movie does pretty well is provide arresting visuals. Not great, but better than good. The dream sequences are filmed in a sort of gauze fisheye style; the long shots are filmed with a great eye and scope; the action sequences are gripping and well choreographed.

The soundtrack is also pretty good. Tarantino took chunks of it for Kill Bill vol. 2.

So. What are my thoughts on this movie overall? I didn't hate it, but I couldn't quite bring myself to love it. I guess you could say I thought it was...

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