Newly married to an older man, Julie returns to Vienna, where a razor wielding slasher is killing women. Jean, her cruel and sadistic former lover, immediately contacts her, certain that only he can satisfy her strange vice. But she rejects him. She also meets George, the handsome cousin of her friend Carol; both are newly rich, thanks to an uncle's death. Julie's husband Neil is away frequently, so George pours on the charm. Meanwhile, it seems that the slasher is now focused on Julie. Bodies pile up, other murders are barely avoided, and George invites her to go away with him. Can it end happily? Written by
The true golden years for Italian giallo-cinema only lasted less than a decade (approximately from 1965 to 1975) and after that it was only the acclaimed director Dario Argento who sporadically managed to deliver a good old-fashioned Italian murder mystery. Yet in this relatively short period, several directors were responsible for a huge amount of terrific gialli, with story lines going from basic to extremely absurd and complex. Sergio Martino's "The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh" is a simplistic example of the giallo-genre and perhaps that is why it still ranks amongst the best and most successful ones ever. This film pretty much defines the sub genre, with its detailed murders of beautiful women, innovating camera-work, gorgeous music and (most importantly) the exact right amount of plot-twists to keep the story believable and compelling. The story revolves on the unearthly beautiful Mrs. Wardh (giallo-star Edwige Fenech) who finds herself stalked by a black-gloved killer who already murdered some of her closest girlfriends. Mrs. Wardh is an easy target since her estranged husband is often away for diplomatic duties and her sexually perverted ex-lover Jean still regularly contacts her. She looks for shelter in the macho-arms of a new lover (George Hilton), but even he can't guarantee her safety, as the killer seems unstoppable. The amount of graphic murders is rather limited (especially compared with later, more infamous gialli) but they're nevertheless unsettling and extremely well shot. Even when there aren't any ladies being knifed to death, this is a very suspenseful thriller, most notably during the tense garage-sequence. Sergio Martino proves himself to be a master of cinematography, with original camera angles (scenes shot in the reflection of sunglasses or through the peephole of a hotel door) and enchanting outdoor locations (the murder in the park, the climax car chase). The flashback sequences, in which Mrs. Wardh revives her masochistic relationship with Jean, are almost pure poetry and guided by a wonderful Nora Orlandi score. The music is so good that no other than Quentin Tarantino re-used it for his 2004 masterpiece "Kill Bill Volume 2". The acting of the entire cast is far above average. Even the women, who're basically selected on looks because they appear topless, are very convincing. In case you developed an interest in Italian horror cinema, but don't yet know where to start your journey, this film is the ideal choice. In case you're already hooked on the obvious giallo-classics directed by Dario Argento and Mario Bava, "the Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh" (as well as every other film directed by Sergio Martino) almost becomes fundamental viewing.
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