Disc Reviews

The Bloodstained Butterfly Blu-ray review

The Bloodstained Butterfly

The latest Blu-ray and DVD dual format release from Arrow Video presented in gorgeous new 4K transfer is The Bloodstained Butterfly, a relatively little known giallo thriller from Italy. Directed by Duccio Tessari, a director best known for a fairly decent spaghetti western called A Pistol for Ringo (1966) and another giallo, Death Occurred Last Night (1970). While many have criticised Tessari for being a workman like director, here he shows a modicum of style and an interesting slower pace for a giallo thriller.

The film opens with a romping piano piece, Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto before leading to the melodious refrains from composer Gianni Ferrio who adds atmosphere and some 70s style to the soundtrack. As the lengthy credits role the viewer is introduced to the principle characters including a vain celebrity TV sports presenter (Giancarlo Sbragia), his wife, a female student and a young rich kid who lives with his mother (played by Austrian actor Helmut Berger) among others. Set in the beautiful location of Bergamo in Lombardy, Italy, the story kicks off with a couple making out in a small Fiat 125 (in itself I would have thought an impossibility) in a park when through the steamed up windows the couple see a man in a raincoat and hat (looking more like Inspector Clouseau than anything more sinister) sexually assault and knife to death a young female student. As the murderer flees the scene there are many witnesses as he makes his escape. Meanwhile, the police meticulously sweep the crime scene and gather enough evidence to make a conviction. Finally an arrest is made against the TV presenter and the evidence against him is overwhelming. His defense lawyer is also secretly having an affair with the defendant’s wife but a conviction is secured and the TV presenter is locked away for murder. Not long after similar murders begin to take place. Does this mean that the wrong man has been convicted or is there something else at play?
As already mentioned the pace of this film is slower than other giallos even if the plot is rather formula and only the slow pace differs from other similar films. This slowness works in the films favour as it lacks the hysteria or excesses often found in more famous genre filmmakers, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Still the menace of Mario Bava is missing and what the film might have in 1970s style it does lack in suspense and terror. There are flares and maxi dresses aplenty here though, led by international Austrian actor Helmut Berger. Berger is perhaps most famously known for his several starring roles in Luchino Vicsconti’s films (the bi-sexual actor was also a long term lover of the director) but also appeared in many other international films. Berger also introduces the film and is quite disparaging of the director and the film in the less than 2 minute introduction. Most shockingly is that today Berger shows none of his beautiful good playboy looks he had back in the 70s, just the intelligent arrogance remains.
The version presented on this Arrow Video package is presented uncut but the film has far less the blood and sex present than in many genre films of the period. Presented in both the original Italian language and dubbed English it is always recommended to view in the original language – all too often the films are shown in their dubbed versions while the commentary track is provided by horror experts Alan Jones and Kim Newman. As is usual with Arrow packages the extras are extensive including a fascinating video essay by Troy Howarth on giallo films. Others include an overlong interview with actress Ida Galli (called Evelyn Stewart in the film), another interview about Tessari by his wife and most fascinating of all an interview with Helmut Berger as he recalls Tessari, who he says he likes but dismisses, perhaps correctly as a very workmanlike director. Berger also interestingly discusses his relationship with Visconti and is more complementary about his work with soft porn maestro, Tinto Brass starring in his cult classic Salon Kitty (1976). As usual Arrow Video have done themselves proud with this presentation of a not such a great film but adding some context and interesting background to the presentation.
Chris Hick

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