Sunday, August 21, 2016

Giallo time again--with the Blu-ray release of Duccio Tessari/THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERLY

Giallo lovers can, if not rejoice, get at least a little excited by the new Blu-ray release of a would-be giallo with the alliterative, if crass title, THE BLOOD-STAINED BUTTERFLY (Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate). The movie is much more a plain old mystery thriller -- and not a particularly good one, at that -- than it is a giallo, a genre that usually revels in blood and gore and beautiful women getting killed in grisly set pieces. All this would be commendable, were the movie very good on any level. Instead, it's merely passable entertainment for the nostalgia set.

What it does have is a very young and handsome Helmut Berger (above, of various Visconti movies and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis) in the kind of silly role that would presage much of his remaining career. The actor is still at it, actually, having now made some 64 film and TV appearances, the latest of which has recently completed production. (In the extras on the Blu-ray disc is a present-day interview with the actor, the viewing of which will make you marvel anew at what the ravages of time can do to even the most handsome of men.)

The filmmaker here, one Duccio Tessari (shown at right), is pretty much unknown to American audiences (including giallo aficionados), and if this film is a good indication of his output, that status would seem perfectly appropriate. This writer/director proves certainly adequate in turning out a genre movie, But despite the rather glowing comments offered up about Tessari and this film by giallo author Troy Howarth, yours truly feels less inclined to perceive this filmmaker as anything special.

By the end of this meandering film, which lacks much suspense, pacing or even plot, you may feel as did TrustMovies that your time might have been better spent. Having said that, I must admit I initially found the film engaging, due to a few unusual things this director and co-writer (with Gianfranco Clerici) does.

At the film's beginning, we're introduced to many of its character by name (and sometimes by occupation) via identifying titles (which I initially mistook for the names of further cast members -- until the words, "a lawyer" appeared on screen). We also get a soupçon of humor via a police inspector who proves very fussy about the quality of his morning coffee.

Along the way we get to view some gorgeous Italian architecture, as well (the film was shot in Bergamo, Lombardy), and the director does seem to have an occasional eye, as above, for spatial relationships and people placement.  There is also some interesting courtroom pyrotechnics to keep us occupied -- even if, finally, much of what happens seems over-manufactured and -manipulated.

The acting is problematic throughout, with Berger becoming so very dramatic and bizarre at odd times that you expect the character playing opposite him to beat a speedy exit for fear for her life. Other actors do better, and on the disc's extras you'll get to see and hear some of them (like Ida Galli/aka Evelyn Stewart, below) talk about what happened way back when.

Mostly the movie is given to introducing its murder suspects -- three or four of them -- and then letting the mystery unravel... very slowly. That titular bloodstained butterfly finally appears close to the movie's end and seems about as germane to the proceedings as would, say, a shit-stained salamander.

There is also a scene with kids in yellow (giallo, get it?) raincoats running around, which leads to the discovery of the first victim, and later to another victim, who proves a bit more closely related to those children. The finale, however, while somewhat surprising, remains more ludicrous than anything else. And the over-the-top manner in which Tessari filmed it simply adds to the ridiculousness on hand.

The movie does take in its special time -- 1971 (a year in which, according to Mr. Howarth, some 25 giallo movies were released in Italy!) -- with a nod to the fashions, as well as to politics and philosophy (during the film one character mentions that there's no longer any art for art's sake, and a protester carries a banner reading Art Beyond Status).

From Arrow Video, distributed here by MVD Entertainment Group, and running 99 minutes, the movie -- a "must," I would guess, for giallo completists -- makes its Blu-ray and DVD debuts this coming Tuesday, August 23 -- for sale and/or rental. As is usual with most of these Arrow titles, the Blu-ray transfer is a very good one. And the "extras" are every bit as informative, entertaining and interesting (more so, actually) than the movie itself.

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