Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 23rd, 2005
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: May 31st, 2005
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
DVD Release: No Shame
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
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.
No Shame presents The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This high definition transfer has been sourced from the restored original 2p negative and it is available for the first time ever on DVD in its original aspect ratio and uncut. When it was released in America on VHS under the title “Next Victim” it was cut by about fifteen minutes and the image was cropped from its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors are exceptional good and flesh tones look natural. Black levels are solid and the amount of detail even in darker scenes is amazing. Grain is kept to a minimum and there are no problems with compression or edge enhancement. This DVD transfer is interlaced. Overall the print is nearly flawless making this release the best this film has looked in decades.
This DVD comes with two audio options the films original Italian language track and an English dubbed track. Both are presented in a Dolby Digital mono as they are about even in their overall clarity. There is some minor hiss, still nothing that ever becomes distracting. The English dubbed track does have a few instances that are only a few seconds in length in which the audio drops out and while watching with the English dubbed track there is some text in Italian that appears on screen, but is left un-subtitled. The inclusion of the original Italian language track and an English dubbed track can only help broaden the films marketability. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
Extras include the films original trailer which comes with two audio options English & Italian and poster & still gallery that runs just shy on minute in length. Other extras include a collectable booklet that includes bios for Sergio Martino, George Hilton and Edwige Fenech. Rounding out the extras is the excellent documentary “Dark Fears behind the Door”, which features interviews with Edwige Fenech, Sergio Martino, Luciano Martino, Ernesto Gastaldi and George Hilton. This documentary is filled with a wealth of information spending most of the time focusing on Edwige Fenech (who still looks stunning) and her career. I was blown away just how much information that was included in this documentary that runs about thirty one minutes in length. Overall another solid DVD release from No Shame that finally gives the giallo genre the lavish treatment it justly deserves. The Strange vice of Mrs. Wardh is blessed with a first rate cast & crew that flawlessly mix all of the right ingredients that lead up one of the strangest endings in any giallo, highly recommended.