THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS WARDH **** Italy 1971 Dir: Sergio Martino. 96 mins
Sergio Martino’s unpredictable, fast-paced giallo opens with a Freudian quote reminding us that we are all descended from an unbroken chain of killers. Following a vicious pre-DRESSED TO KILL razor assault on a hooker, we are introduced to the delicious Edwige Fenech as the eponymous heroine, suffering flashback reminders of how her psycho ex used to slice her clothes off with broken bottles before sex.
He appears to be stalking her, while blackmailing letters drop through the door and a mystery killer offs other women in the area. Exemplary murder scenes dominate this suspenseful, nudity-filled shocker: there’s an explicit reworking of PSYCHO’s shower murder, a terrific stalking scene in an underground car park and a bravura attack in a park. The same year as BAY OF BLOOD, the movie cannily reveals the maniac far earlier than we expect before a final half-hour of misanthropic twists and turns that reinforce the fact that you should never trust any man, ever. Assorted shock moments pre-empt the American slasher trend, while Fenech is terrific as the possibly-mental heroine. Best line: the villains memorably lament “We’re shafted!”
Review by Steven West