Pete’s Peek | There’s thrills, chills and cleavage aplenty in the 1970s giallo, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh

If you’re a fan of Hitchcockian suspense, Euro sleaze and those classic 1970s Cinzano ads featuring Joan Collins, then this thriller is a real treat. Inspired by the much copied Les Diaboliques (out now on Blu-ray in the UK through Arrow Films), Italy’s Roger Corman, director Sergio Martino, has fashioned an engrossing thriller.

Giallo queen Edwige Fenech plays Julie, a foreign diplomat’s wife who accompanies her husband to Vienna on business. While staying at a plush hotel (Dick Dominici’s wild set design is so 1970s it screams bad taste), Julie discovers her ex-lover, the sadistic Jean, is also in town. If that’s not worrying enough, there’s also a killer sex fiend on the loose in the city.

Tired of her marriage, the lonely Julie soon falls for the swarthy charms of a medallion-wearing playboy called George (George Hilton). With Jean seemingly stalking her, Julie elopes with her new lover to Spain where she gets news that Jean has committed suicide. But when a bunch of roses arrives, it looks like Jean is still alive!

Double cross tactics and red herrings are all the go here, so I won’t spoil what happens, but the film’s twists and turns are riveting. When it comes to the sex and sadism advertised however, it’s only ever implied (best illustrated in a fantasy sequence in which Julie finds herself being assaulted by Jean during a rainstorm and a scene involving shards of broken glass). But the lack of sex doesn’t matter at all because Fenech’s huge fake lashes, Nora Orlandi’s soaring score, the film’s garish palette and Martino’s inventive editing skills all serve to elevate this minor thriller to cult status. It’s no wonder the folks at Shameless worked so tirelessly to add this to their Gialli collection.

This is a must-have, but a word of caution: don’t view the film using the Chapters section as there’s a major spoiler lurking. And if you want know what that Freud quote means in English, then watch the watch trailer.

I’ll certainly be watching this one again… and again.

Latest TV News