The Case of the Bloody Iris [Blu-ray 4K]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Celluloid Dreams
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (13th June 2024).
The Film

When a prostitute (His Name Was Holy Ghost's Evi Farinelli) is knifed in the elevator of an apartment building on the twentieth floor, and none of the residents – war widow Mrs. Moss (Plot of Fear's Maria Tedeschi), elderly musician Professor Isaacs (Horror Express' George Rigaud), or nightclub performer Mizar Harrington (Torso's Carla Brait) – claim to know her, the police have little to go on, least of all the identity of her client. When Mizar is subsequently murdered in her own bathtub, however, Detective Enci (The Tough Ones' Giampiero Albertini) and his assistant Reidi (The Sex Machine's Franco Agostini) put the residents of the building under a microscope. Enci's attention turns to apartment building owner Andrea (Dinner with the Vampire's George Hilton) when he is discovered not only to have had dinner with Mizar – a model offered up to symbolized the "integrated" aspect of his building's amenities by photographer Arthur (Sex on the Brain's Oreste Lionello) – but also moves models Jennifer (Phantom of Death's Edwige Fenech) and Marilyn (Hercules' Paola Quattrini) into the dead woman's apartment. When a masked and gloved assailant starts stalking Jennifer, she initially believes it is her ex-husband Adam (Super Bitch's Ben Carra) who inducted her into a free love cult specifically because he was aroused by his own jealousy, In spite of Andrea's phobia to the sight of blood, Jennifer may be the only person who thinks he is innocent as the murders continue and she is repeatedly frightened into the tender care of the professor's lesbian daughter Sheena (So Sweet, So Dead's Annabella Incontrera).

A Hilton-Fenech pairing produced by Luciano Martino but not directed by his brother Sergio Martino (The Case of the Scorpion's Tail ), The Case of the Bloody Iris is diverting and eventful but pales next to those efforts on a surface level. Whereas the approach of Sergio Martino, regular cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando (The Island of the Fishmen) and shared editor Eugenio Alabiso (Hands of Steel) to the giallo was aggressively dynamic and psychedelic in emphasizing frenzied and delirious emotional states in the cinematic equivalent of Italian fumetti comics and the salacious cover illustrations of literary gialli, Giuliano Carnimeo – more so a jobbing director than Martino but who had excelled in the spaghetti western genre where he had previously directed Hilton for Luciano Martino in Sartana's Here... Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin – in his only giallo outing, and cinematographer Stelvio Massi (Highway Racer) provide a level of visual gloss; however, what at first seems like workmanlike direction actually gives more emphasis than usual to the rendition of character, perhaps more so than many of the actors in the film were usually allowed in other works (apart from a couple actors in the cast lesser-known to genre fans but actually quite prolific in Italian theater and television). With the usual giallo theatrics including eccentrics suspects and red herrings, set-piece murders, drugs, nude photo shoots, the script of Ernesto Gastaldi (Libido) seems to be rehashing elements of the his Sergio Martino gialli but whereas the logic Gastaldi emphasized in his plots sometimes suffered in translation to the screen and felt more like psychic intuition, coincidence, or contrivance; here, character's gestures, mannerisms, and body language is not merely "suspicious" but actually quite meaningful in not only conveying character to a more sophisticated degree in concert with the Italian dubbing compared to the broader English dub track of the film. During the murders, the facelessness of the masked killer places emphasis on the sadism of the acts rather than bloodshed; and when their true face is revealed it is as much their verbal confession as the viewer's memories of their earlier facial reactions that conveys the hypocrisy underlying their deranged puritanical motives.

Fenech's heroine does terror and desire as well as in any other film, but here she also gets to convey a degree of resistance to her threatening husband, the dismissive detective, and the killer rather than simple fight-or-flight. Hilton's character lacks the wily nature of his more ambiguous Martino leading roles where he could just as easily be the stalwart hero as the primary or secondary villain, although his character's blood phobia, his reaction to literal blood on his hands, and the dramatic reveal of its source also give him opportunities for greater expressiveness than usually expected of him as a western or giallo lead. The would-be kinkier aspects rehashed from The Strange Vice of Signora Wardh and All the Colors of the Dark do indeed feel watered down, and not just because Carrα lacks the charisma and intensity of Ivan Rassimov (Last Cannibal World), and the score of Bruno Nicolai (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) provides a jaunty main theme but is nowhere near as iconic as his Martino offerings. Giallo detectives are usually ineffectual but a little smarter in the Martino gialli since Hilton's heroes are usually more ambiguous, but Albertini's authority figure is so focused on Andrea that Jennifer accuses him of being more interested in closing the case than catching the killer, revealing the cop to be stupid rather than corrupt; although his fixation on stamp collecting does convey a sense of distraction that really only seems to disarm his partner rather than the suspects. Carnimeo never returned to the genre while Massi's own attempts at it in the director's chair Five Women for the Killer and Arabaella, the Black Angel were considerably sleazier but also flat-out dull than his livelier action fare.


Unreleased theatrically or on videotape in the United States – although it did play in the U.K. as "Erotic Blue" by Border Films – The Case of the Bloody Iris was released on DVD in the U.K. by Vipco in a cropped transfer which was soon superseded by an anamorphic transfer stateside from Anchor Bay exclusive to The Giallo Collection – a boxed set that also included the separately available The Bloodstained Shadow, Short Night of the Glass Dolls, and Who Saw Her Die. The film made its Blu-ray debut in the U.K. courtesy of Shameless which restored the Italian credits with the superior title "Perchι quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer?" and boasted of being a new 2K transfer. While it was an improvement over the DVD transfer with deeper blacks and a sharper image, it had a faint yellow cast and some crush in the shadows during the many dark interior sequences from the apartments to the basement climax. We have not seen subsequent editions released in Germany by X-Rated and France by Le chat qui fume, but Celluloid Dreams' debut release features a 2160p24 HEVC 2.35:1 widescreen 4K UltraHD and 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen Blu-ray comes from a new 4K restoration of the original 35mm camera negative. The new transfer is darker than the previous one and the removal of that yellow cast makes the performers look healthier and less jaundiced while some colors that look subdued on Blu-ray benefit from the greater gradations of the UHD with HDR10. Shadows offer more detail and blacks are deeper, which greatly enhances the many scenes set in darkness, with the sequence of Mizar's club performance a set up for her bout with the killer. Some subtle touches in Massi's lighting are also more apparent than before with some blue gel lighting accents and what looks like an actual filter rather than accidental lens flare during the sequence of Jennifer being stalked by her husband. In terms of framing, the new transfer reveals a sliver of detail at the bottom and on the left at the expense of the top and right but not detrimentally.


Audio options include English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono tracks – both are post-dubbed and some of the Italian actors are not even voice themselves on that track – and both worthy of listening. The English track is broadly voice cast and scripted – Arthur is a nasal gay stereotype in English while he could just be a cynic playing the part of a flamboyant hippie on the Italian while Quattrini seems like even more of a dingbat on the former – but has some voices familiar from the export versions of other Italian genre productions while the Italian track has more nuanced vocal deliveries. English SDH subtitles are offered for the English dub while English subtitles are also provided for the Italian track in which discussion of the white male fantasy of black women are a tad more vulgar. Selecting the English or Italian track from the menu plays the respective title sequences via seamless branching (the tracks cannot be switched on the fly via one's remote's audio button but they can be changed via pop-up menu).


The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by film historian Guido Henkel, co-founder of the Celluloid Dreams label, in which he discusses the Hilton/Fenech pairings, the collaborations between Hilton, Carnimeo, and Massi, and Gastaldi's gialli (noting that Gastaldi felt the cult angle in All the Colors of the Dark overshadowed the mystery which may be why it was downplayed here). He also reveals that the film was originally titled "The Strange Orchid with Five Drops of Blood" but the title was changed upon the release of Umberto Lenzi's Seven Bloodstained Orchids. In disussing the differences between this film and the related gialli, he notes the use of urban Genoa and an emphasis on the middle class over the jet set and exotic backdrops as well as pointing out the film's attention to characterization, introducing characters with telling body language. He also provides background on several of the less familiar performers including typecast TV cop actor Albertini, Farinelli moved behind the camera and served as production manager on a number of genre efforts in the seventies and eighties including ones for Sergio Martino, Quattrini who was already a stage star before she was ten years old, and Lionello who was also a prolific dubbing artist best known for voicing Woody Allen starting with What's New Pussycat? and even redubbing Allen's own voice work for the Italian dub of the animated Antz. He also repeatedly stresses the importance of watching a film in the language of its production dialogue, conceding that it does not mean that you will hear the actual actors' voices but noting how some of the characters come across as broader and more grating on the English track, particularly Marilyn.

"Drops of Giallo" (29:26) is credited as an interview with both screenwriter Gastaldi and director Carnimeo, although the latter died in 2016 and is only featured here in clips discussing his relationship with Gastaldi and not the film in particular. Gastaldi recalls his days at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia where his friendship with Carnimeo and Tonino Valerii (My Name is Nobody) began. He also discusses coming to work with Luciano Martino in the sixties and the pressure to churn out new giallo scripts at a quick pace. Of The Case of the Bloody Iris, he recalls that he wrote it not know it would be directed by Carnimeo or starring Fenech and Hilton, and recalls Carnimeo's reticence toward showing bloodshed and other aspects of his script where he felt Carnimeo fell short.

Ported from the Shameless release is "Flowers of Blood" (20:43) in which actor Hilton covers some familiar ground about starting in Italy in westerns and wanting to make a change, getting offered a supporting role in the giallo The Sweet Body of Deborah produced by cousin Luciano Martino who asked him to introduce him to Fenech – who Hilton had met while he was shooting War Fever and Fenech was in Top Sensation –and their subsequent pairings under Sergio Martino with the Carnimeo film overturning expectations for viewers of the Martino efforts.

Also ported from the U.K. edition is "Marilyn" (11:51) in which Quattrini discusses her stage work before being cast in Carnimeo's film, her over-the-top character, being afraid to keep her head under water for her character's prank scene, the nude photo shoot scene, and her final scene in the film. Like Hilton, she also relays her affection for the shooting location in Genoa and her memories of her co-stars.

Also included are the international trailer (2:54), the Italian theatrical trailer (2:54) – in 4K on the UHD – an image gallery (5:16), and an outtakes reel (1:44) featuring various negative trims and extensions. The outtakes are also in 4K on the UHD.


The discs come with a slipcover, a reversible cover - the art is identical but the title is in Italian on the other side - and an insert with credits, information about the restoration, and a promotion for the next release.


The Case of the Bloody Iris seems watered-down compared to other collaborations between stars Edwige Fenech, George Hilton and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi helmed by Sergio Martino. Taken on its own terms, however, it is an interesting variation that subverts expectations that we have come to expect from the formula.


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