Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 18th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, January 15th, 1971
Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Vittorio Caronia
Cast: Edwige Fenech, George Hilton, Conchita Airoldi, Ivan Rassimov, Alberto de Mendoza
DVD released: February 9th, 2010
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: Mya Communication
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Synopsis: Julie Wardh (Edwige Fenech) is the wife of an ambassador and upon her arrival after a trip aboard she discovers that there is a sex maniac on the loose. One night at a party Julie is introduced to George (George Hilton) who turns out to be her best friend Carol’s cousin. Jean (Ivan Rassimov) is Julie’s former lover and he continues to pursue her even though she has no desire to go back to him. George after a chance encounter works his way into Julie’s life. Julie after a brief seduction falls in love with George which leads to them being blackmailed. Carol offers to go in place of Julie to pay off the blackmailer which leads to Carol’s murder. There is a killer on the loose and only time will tell who the next victim will be.
The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh marked Sergio Martino’s first foray into the giallo genre and it would help set the tone for other giallos that followed. First thing that one notices while watching The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh it is amazing how polished Sergio Martino’s direction is at this point his career. Martino carefully composes like a master painter every frame with his fluid camera movements. Casting wise Martino is blessed with an excellent ensemble cast of euro regulars that include Conchita Airoldi (Torso), Alberto de Mendoza (Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) and Ivan Rassimov (Your vice Is a Closed Room and Only I Have the Key, All the Colors of the Dark). The films two lead’s George Hilton and Edwige Fenech working for the first time together would collaborate on two other giallo’s The Case of the Bloody Iris and All the Colors of the Dark. There chemistry is undeniable as foreshadows the work they would do together in the future. Edwige Fenech is a classic euro beauty and director Sergio Martino exploits her ample talents to their fullest.
Ivan Rassimov is perfectly cast as the sadistic ex-lover. There is something wicked about his devilish grin and icy cold stare. The story has so many plot twists and red herrings that character development is all but non-existent. There is very little to find redeeming about any of the characters in The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh which offers a bleak outcome for most of the participants involved. The use of a flashback is employed several times during the film to give us the viewer more background on Julie’s relationship with Jean. These segments are beautifully crafted and heavily stylized to the point one wonders if they are real or a dream.
Nora Orlandi’s haunting score and Vienna’s baroque architecture help heightens the films Gothic and at times surreal look. The music Nora Orlandi used during the flashbacks sequences would find its way into Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill volume 2. Carol’s death scene that takes place in a park at dusk right before dawn showcases Martino’s expertise at crafting horrific and sadistic imagery. Another wonderfully executed scene is death scene that takes place in shower that could give Hitchcock’s shower scene in Psycho a run for its money. The special effects are extremely effective and at times almost too real looking; that they further drive home the film’s De Sade approach to sadism. The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh is by far and away Martino’s most violent giallo.
Blade of the Ripper is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the film’s original aspect ratio. Blade of the Ripper was original released in North American on DVD by No Shame Films in 2005 under the title The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh. Even though the film has been given an alternate title, this transfer looks very similar to the transfer for the No Shame DVD release. It should be noted that the listed running time of eight one minutes on DVD back cover is incorrect. Both releases clock in at ninety six minutes and 24 seconds. This release like the No Shame DVD release is interlaced and has not been flagged for progressive playback. The No Shame DVD release was a dual layer, while this release is a single layer presentation.
This release comes with two audio options a Dolby Digital mono mix in English and a Dolby Digital mono mix in Italian. Removable English subtitles have been provided. Both audio tracks are more than serviceable with the Italian audio mix being the stronger of the two audio tracks. The English audio mix does have a few instances that are only a few seconds in length in which the audio drops out. Also during the English dubbed track there is some text in Italian that appears on screen, but is left un-subtitled. These two audio tracks and the English subtitles are identical to those included on the No Shame DVD release.
Extras for this release include an Italian language theatrical trailer, no English subtitles (3 minutes 3 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and an extensive stills / poster gallery with 48 images. Overall Blade of the Ripper returns to DVD via a well rounded DVD release from Mya Communication.