‘The Case of The Bloody Iris’ or — Giallo’s Humour?
‘The Case of The Bloody Iris’ — (1972)
“You’re just frustrated. What I think you need is to spend the whole night with a man. You made a big mistake going from group sex to a vow of chastity.”
Jennifer, an attractive young photo-shoot model, needs a place to stay after leaving her sex-cult leader husband because she wasn’t into all the orgies and group sex. The husband wants her back and harasses her constantly, so she moves into an apartment with ditzy fellow model Marilyn in a building occupied by strange characters — a depressed violinist and his lesbian daughter; a hostile little old women and her insane son — but the place seems safe enough even though two young women have been murdered there in the last few days but that’s just the risk of renting I guess.
Yet after Jennifer is attacked in the apartment it seems that there is a maniac on the loose. Who could it be and what do they want? Is it any of the other residents? Is it the camp fashion photographer? Maybe it’s the dashing, yet somewhat odd, architect with the fear of blood? Or is it the pervy Police Commissioner who seems more interested in people’s sex lives than the actual case? And then there’s the biggest question of all — are lesbians evil?!
Director Carnimeo does here with the Giallo what he did with the Western by throwing out all pretension and replacing it with subversion, hence leaving only insanely exploitative entertainment resulting in one very enjoyable movie. The story is convoluted yet robust and packed with bizarre characters, red-herrings, thrills, shocks, kinky sex and a wardrobe that’s so cool and groovy it should be outlawed. This film is full on exploitation and knows it so it never lapses into sleaze or, if it does (and, let’s face it, it does), it’s with a wink so knowing that the sense of humour overrides everything else. So that sense of genre subversion evident in Carnimeo’s Sartana films is absolutely evident here too and works just as well. This is one very funny movie.
It also demonstrates Carnimeo’s strength which is not so much the staging of elaborate set-pieces but knowing how to work with his actors. The best example of this are the police who, despite being utterly ineffective and outrageously pervy to the point of almost becoming suspects themselves, really play off each other well and have some genuinely funny moments. Even though there are murders going on the tone never becomes dark or nasty although trust me, this film can be shockingly politically incorrect at times and all the better for it. There’s also a huge amount of kitsch going on: this isn’t just the early 70's; this is the early 70's in Italy.
‘The Case of The Bloody Iris’ is also seriously kinky with sexuality (or fear of it?) being very much the driving force behind the motivations. Dress it all up in some gorgeous set-design along with Edwige Fenech’s wardrobe which I can only describe as “to die for” and this feels like a spiritual precursor to Anna Biller’s ‘The Love Witch’ (2016). If you liked that film’s sense of colourful style, dark humour and naughty sexuality then you’ll love this. Also I’m now convinced that Brian De Palma never actually went to film school and simply watched every Gialli ever made as is that bit not ‘Dressed To Kill’ (1980) and oh!, that bit too? And Carnimeo pulls all those moments off with just as much brio. The fight near the end is particularly good showing how Carnimeo (and George Hilton, the actor) knows how to do a good, physical fist-fight. The climax also contains a couple of really gruesome deaths that are quite (literally) impactful and, oddly enough, had me thinking in more ways than one of the death of Primo Levi (if it wasn’t for the fact the film was made 15 years before Levi’s death I’d have wagered his character was an inspiration here).
Carnimeo brings to the Giallo table exactly what he did with his excellent Sartana movies and that’s unalloyed fun and entertainment. There is no pretension, no high-minded posturing. Indeed, those things would only get in the way of the enjoyment offered. It’s a big, daft joke and one we are invited to get in on by a movie that has a huge, massive twinkle in its particularly bloody iris.