Monday, October 03, 2005

The strange vice of Mrs. Wardh

I had a weird day yesterday. Not a lot of good reasons, just one of those days... maybe just one of those moods.

I did finish up by watching The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh by Sergio Martino.

I'll pause here to make a rather esoteric point about Italian genre cinema. In the late '60s and early to mid '70s there were two big genres in Italian popular, the western and the thriller. Both are best best known, even defined, by most based on the work of a single director, Sergio Leone and Dario Argento respectively.

Both of these men were great cinematic artists who genuinely deserve the reputations they've gotten over the years. I would and will say nothing to diminish their artistry.

But it's interesting to note that in both genres there was another director whose work was much more widely imitated by the masses of films that came out during that period. The western director was the great Sergio Corbucci, whose work I've discussed in some detail before and certainly will again. The thriller, or giallo, director was Sergio Martino.

With The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, Martino began a string of surreal, sexual and viscerally violent thrillers that were much more widely imitated than the better known The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

It's easy to see why Martino's style was more tempting as a filmmaker. His films feature overly clever even contrived, but oddly intriguing, mysteries laced with an abundance of nudity, unique characters, dreamy flashbacks, bloody murders and an excellent sense of pacing. Just kick ass stuff in its weird way. This being quintessentially the beginning of the format, and the one to beat, as I see it.

It stars the absolutely smashing Edwige Fenech - Rory, my Lakeside star, for those who don't know yet, may be pleased or distressed (or even disinterested) to know that I'm totally planning to try out the enormous fake eyelash look on her for the climatic scenes, because I'm totally dorky for it - who is ravishing and dynamic as ever. She's also on the documentary afterward and still looks absolutely stunning 35 years later.

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