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Seven Blood-Stained Orchids
Seven Blood-Stained Orchids rates somewhere in the middle of this pack. Director and co-writer Umberto Lenzi, who died in October 2017 shortly after filming a new interview for this release, was a journeyman filmmaker, plying his artisanship in whatever genre happened to be popular at the time. He began with costume adventures, switching to spy movies and spaghetti Westerns when they became popular, then giallo and police procedurals after that and finally ending the most productive part of his career with extremely graphic horror films, the most notorious being Cannibal Ferox (1981). Compared to that film, the murders in Seven Blood-Stained Orchids are comically tame, and it lacks the stylishness of Bava or Argento's giallo, but the story is relatively strong and compelling. (Oddly, Lenzi thought just the reverse, that the story was pedantic but that it was visually stylish.)
A serial killer targeting women with seemingly no connection to one another (a prostitute, a mental patient, an artist, etc.) is terrorizing the city, the half-moon medallion he leaves at the scene earning him the nickname "the Half-Moon Killer." One of the victims is former hotel proprietress Giulia (Uschi Glas), attacked aboard a moving train at the start of her honeymoon with fashion designer Mario (Antonio Sabàto).
Though the press duly reports her murder, in fact Giulia survived and secretly recovers in hospital, a ploy by police Inspector Vismara (Pier Paolo Capponi) serving no clear purpose. In any case, Mario and Giulia set out to identify the killer after realizing all were guests or employed at her hotel at the end of the high season three years before.
Clues suggest a mysterious American who regularly dined but did not stay there, and that the murders are somehow connected to a fatal automobile accident in which the panicked driver, a woman, fled the scene and allowed the man in the car to bleed to death.
An Italian-West German co-production, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids combines classical giallo elements with those of Germany's earlier, more innocent krimi mysteries, hence German starlet and genre veteran Glas's appearance, Italian police procedural films, as well as the emerging slasher genre. Well-paced, the picture intercuts Giulia and Mario's movements with those of the killer, shot from his point-of-view, stalking his half-naked victims and using increasingly grisly methods to murder them. (This climaxes with what may have been the first "driller-killer" murder.)
Glas is a perkily charming screen presence though Antonio Sabàto (Grand Prix) is blandly handsome and unaccountably testy; to this reviewer he always resembled a Supermarionation puppet from Thunderbirds and his acting range was similar. The supporting cast is excellent however, giving Rossella Falk (8 1/2) a nice vignette as a desperate hospital patient; Marisa Mell (Danger: Diabolik) shines in a dual role; and busty Gabriella Giorgelli makes a strong impression as a prostitute, an early victim.
Video & Audio
Filmed in 2-perf Techniscope, Code Red's new Blu-ray utilizes a new HD scan with some color correction. The image, particularly the color, looks great. Included are both the English-dubbed and original Italian soundtracks with optional English subtitles. Region "A" encoded.
Supplements include an extensive interview with director Lenzi, filmed shortly before his death, as well as repurposed interviews with Lenzi, and actress Giorgelli, from an earlier DVD release. There's also an audio commentary track by film historian Troy Howarth, as well as a trailer.
Not top-tier but still enjoyable, bolstered further by a strong video transfer and excellent extra features, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids is Highly Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.