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August 09, 2011

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

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Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh
Sergio Martino - 1971
Shameless Entertainment Region 0 DVD

Two words: Edwige Fenech. This is the film that made the young actress a star primarily in Italian film throughout the Seventies. And yes, there are some nude shots, but best of all are the close ups of that still photogenic face. In the meantime, after a bit of a lull, the British company, Shameless, is back on track with new DVD releases. Especially as the previous DVD release, from NoShame, is out of print, a new DVD release of The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh is very much welcomed.

Taking place in Vienna, the film begins with a quote from the Viennese Sigmund Freud, and plays with some psychological concepts. The wife of a diplomat, Julie Wardh is pursued by an past lover, Jean, with whom she have a relationship based on rough sex. Married or not, Jean still sends a bouquet of roses, refusing even the most clear refusals. Julie's marriage is loveless, and she succumbs to the advances of George, a stranger from Australia. In the meantime, there's a mad killer on the loose murdering attractive young women with a straight edged razor. As this is giallo, everything does come more or less together, although in ways not entirely expected.

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While I loved the NoShame DVDs for their interviews with the cheerfully ingratiating screenwriter, Ernesto Gastaldi, the extras here are worth mentioning. The Shameless series frequently uses a "Fact Track", subtitles that discuss aspects of the film being watched. The commentary by Justin Harries is more serious and informative than some of the commentaries of other releases. In this case, not only does Harries discuss aspects regarding the making of the film, but also connects Mrs. Wardh not only to the obvious proto-giallo, Les Diaboliques, but also, unexpectedly, The Wind, Victor Sjostrom's 1928 film with Lillian Gish going crazy over both real and imagined fears. There is also an interview with Sergio Martino discussing Mrs. Wardh and his career in general.

A credit that caught my eye was that the music was scored by Nora Orlandi. And it is a catchy score, recycled by Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill, Vol. 2. I mention this as there are so few women even now who compose film scores, and those of previous era, like Orlandi and Elisabeth Lutyens, are barely remembered today.

Sergio Martino might not be the visual stylist on the level of Dario Argento or Mario Bava, but there are several close ups using light and shadow that make the most of the face of Edwige Fenech. And while Martino freely admits that much of the nudity in the film, with Fenech and some other actresses, was commercially motivated, I'm not one to argue that any of it was gratuitous. There is the killer, or is it killers, with the black gloves. For those merely interested in a film that fulfills genre requirements, Mrs. Wardh succeeds on that level. What other films don't have is that one delirious, extreme, and upside down close up of the large, faintly exotic brown eyes and very long eye lashes of Edwige Fenech.


I have received an email from Valentina of Shameless informing me that the label has also been affected by the Sony warehouse fire that has destroyed the available stock of several smaller DVD labels. If you have an excuse to treat yourself to some films, check out the link above. Thank you.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 9, 2011 07:41 AM