The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

aka La perversa señora Ward (Es), L’étrange vice de madame Wardh (Fr), Der Killer von Wien (WG), Blade of the Ripper (USA), Next (Int), The Next Victim (US video), El extraño vicio de la Señora Wardh (Mexico), Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh (It)
Luciano Martino and Antonio Crescenzi for Devon Film (Rome), Copercines (Madrid)
Director: Sergio Martino
Story: Eduardo Maria Brochero
Screenplay: Eduardo Maria Brochero, Ernesto Gastaldi, Vittorio Caronìa
Music: Nora Orlandi
Cinematography: Emilio Foriscot {Eastmancolor – Cromoscope}
Editor: Eugenio Alabiso
Set design: José Luis Galicia, Jaime Perez Cubero
Cameraman: Giancarlo Ferrando
Filmed: Elios Studios, with exteriors in Vienna and Costa Brava
Release information: Registered 23.12.70. Italy (15.01.71, 98 mins), Spain (12.06.72, Madrid), France (14.06.72, Paris), West Germany (05.05.72, 98 mins)
Spanish takings: €91.312,12
Cast: George Hilton (George), Edwige Fenech (Julie), Cristina Airoldi (Carol), Manuel Gil, Carlo Alighiero, Ivan Rassimov (Jean), Alberto De Mendoza (Neil), Bruno Corazzari (the killer), Marella Corbi, Miguel Del Castillo, Luis De Tejada, Brizio Montinaro, Rosa Vidoto, Pouchi

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

Blimey, this is a bit much, really… Julie and Neil (Edwige Fenech and Alberto De Mendoza) are an unhappily married couple, mainly because she is still obsessed by a past relationship. The fact that it was of a sadomasochistic nature and that she was sexually aroused by the shedding of blood is merely by the by. Unfortunately, her former lover Jean (feral looking Ivan Rassimov with a nice bouffant hairstyle) is not content with simply following her. He also persists in sending red roses to her home. This is not only because in flashback he is revealed to have whipped her with a bunch of the same blooms as a prelude to intercourse, but also because it allows him to send notes adorned with his singular attempts at poetry. “The worst part of you is the best thing you’ve got…and it will always be mine”, for instance, or “Your vice is like a room locked from the inside and only I have the key”.

Thinking that this looked like a sure-fire way to make an impression on the girls, I tried it at a local discotheque, only to be called a “weirdo” by a simply divine creature in a miniskirt and white stilettos. That’s the problem, you see. It’s so hard to make people understand that you are an artist.

Anyway, rather disconcerted by all this unbounded eroticism, Julie jumps straight into the arms of George (George Hilton), a man so smooth he glides down newly shaved legs. Unfortunately, their canoodling is viewed by some goon wearing dark clothes and with a hidden face, who immediately attempts to blackmail her. Thinking that it’s Jean up to his normal laugh-a-minute japes she sends her best mate Carol (Cristina Airoldi) to make the pay off. In one of those great POV shots that the director always handles so well the aforementioned goon kills her with a straight razor. This couldn’t happen soon enough for me, seeing as Carol remains one of the most irritating characters to have graced the screen.

Oh, and while all this is going on a maniac is at loose terrorising the city by carrying out a series of murders with – you guessed it – a straight razor.

Add several double crosses, people being alive when they should be dead, some more terrible poetry and the great line “How many girls bother hitchhiking when they’re buried?” and you have a top notch perverse little erotic thriller. Of course it all makes absolutely no sense unless you are drinking gin and prozac but, heck, that’s why I like these things. It’s once they start being comprehensible that they lose their appeal.

Time for a poetry recitation in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh
Time for a poetry recitation in The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

No, instead you have all the requirements of a great exploitation film: people acting in a willfully suspicious manner, girls taking their clothes off at every opportunity, lots of mascara and scenes where characters stare at each other – repeatedly. Add to all this the normal temporal accouterments to be found in these things, such as wallpaper that makes an apartment look like an architecturally challenged lido; sunglasses that cover at least half of the face; a party scene in which everyone grooves for a bit before ripping each other’s clothes off. Aah, heaven indeed!

Not to mention the fact that Sergio Martino, for all his exploitative faults, has a rare knack in framing shots and creating tension. There are some great scenes, most notably the one in which Rassimov breaks a bottle over the naked Fenech before making love to her and grinding the shards into her body – all lensed from an erotic point of view. There’s another nice Nora Orlandi score which sounds a bit like the one Morricone did for Who Saw Her Die (Chi l’ha vista morire?, 1972) but with kazoos (but that could have been the erratic sound quality of my video). It might be trash of the highest order, but it’s all put together with a degree of high quality professionalism that gives it a distinct veneer of class and raises it’s status to being one of the very best of Italian gialli.


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