While books that belong in the giallo genre were adapted into movies during the 40s, Blood and Black Lace usually gets credited as being the catalyst for the film version of the subgenre, a stylish and relatively thematic follow-up to Mario Bava's first stab at that kind of material, The Girl Who Knew Too Much. As is frequently the case with the distinctive elements of a subgenre, giallo films that followed often amplified the bolder aesthetics, heightened bloodshed, and brazen sexuality to great effect, resulting in well-regarded additions like A Lizard in a Woman's Skin and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. Others, however, merely rely on excessively increasing those exaggerated aspects to stand out from the rest, without bringing something new to the table. Strip Nude For Your Killer falls into that category, profusely copying the decade-old template and assuming that skin, blood, and starlets might cover up the derivativeness.
It's never very fair to mention a well-regarded film in the intro of a review for another one, but in the case of Strip Nude For Your Killer, there's a reason for it. The framework for giallo films can be very straightforward and curiously similar between each of em, but this one from Andrea Bianchi directly echoes that of the influential Blood and Black Lace, in that a masked killer continues to murder people associated with a fashion business. Interest rises when both a young model and her doctor were discovered dead shortly after an abortion procedure, but curiosity really starts to set in once another associate of a modeling company mysteriously dies, putting the other employees on high alert. That includes lascivious photographer Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo), an archetypal womanizing and chauvinistic photographer who'll pull in fresh faces with just a little smooth-talking, and an attractive burgeoning photog-slash-model named Magda (Edwige Fenech).
Sometimes, yeah, those giallo titles can be deceptive, but Strip Nude For Your Killer does indeed bare a lot of skin in the vein of Italian sexploitation comedies, close to that of softcore erotica in certain scenes. Front-loaded with more sex than blood, the fluctuations between titillation and suspense give the film an uneven tempo in the first half, enlivened by snare-drummy lounge music that further pulls one's attention away from any mounting tension. There's no shortage of beautiful women frolicking around in the picture, especially the disarming giallo starlet Edwige Fenech, yet that goes on for such a long time at the beginning that it distracts from the ways in which the film plants the seeds for a murder mystery. When you combine the familiarity of the plot's structure -- once you've combined the personal drama of models and businesspeople with the presence of a black-clad, masked killer -- with what seems like the overly distracted nature of Bianchi's male-gaze direction, interest begins to dip early on.
Finding a protagonist in Strip Nude For Your Killer isn't easy, either, mostly because the script wants to preserve the likelihood that anybody could feasibly be wearing the tight biker gear and murdering the fashion company's employees. Carlo gets the most attention, and the combination of the character's manipulative, womanizing tendencies and Nino Castelnuovo's smugness in the role leave him thoroughly unlikable as anyone to root for, nor complex or exciting enough to be any sort of motivated villain. Magda's right alongside him, and despite the entrancing presence of Edwige Fenech's dark pixie haircut, piercing gazes, and seductive body movement, her lackadaisical attitude about her profession and the ways that she's bossed around by Carlo don't do her starring presence any favors. Those that remain under the fashion company's employ -- models, owners, financiers -- form into a gaggle of suspects and red herrings that don't engage in the same kind of interesting soapy drama as other giallo killing sprees. Motivations here feel obligatory, arbitrary, and most importantly uninteresting.
While Strip Nude For Your Killer sidetracks one's attention with sexiness and sexism, the kills gradually trickle in, heralded by the rushing water of faucets and lots of suspicious looking-around from the victims. It's standard stuff, really, where overly-bright red blood spills out in gratuitous fashion once a helmeted menace sneaks up with a weapon; however, the numerous kills scenes are neither stylish nor convincing enough to capture any specific moods, and that makes em come across as obligatory interruptions from the erotica instead of the reason for checking it out. That makes it exceptionally difficult to care when the story springs its grand reveal of the killer upon the audience, one with proper motivations that weren't properly built up and fleshed out while establishing the list of characters involved. Strip Nude For Your Killer ends with the realization of: "Oh, right, yeah, they aren't dead, are they?" instead of a meaningful reveal or grotesque final display, instead wrapping up with a little blood, a little more black lace, and lots of skin: a good summation of this jest of a giallo from the 70s.
Video and Audio:
To the delight of fans of Edwige Fenech, at the very least, Strip Nude For Your Killer recently received a 2K restoration, presented here from Arrow Video in a 2.35:1-framed, 1080p transfer. It's a beauty, too: despite being a "lesser" giallo from the mid-70s, the elements were in really great shape and produced a depth-aware, exquisitely-colored visualization of the film. Bright red of blood appears less frequently than one might expect, but when it does, the vividness can be quite striking. Conversely, the subtlety of skin tones remains credibly warm and balanced against the warmer shades of the subject's surroundings, whether it's a sauna or a photography dark room. Fine detail doesn't have a ton of opportunities to really stand out, but the sharpness and curly curves of hair strands, the lumps of viscera, and the contours of glasses are crisp and free of distortion. Moreover, contrast does exceptional things to features of the body, lending surprising dimensionality throughout. Sure, there's a little hairline damage here and there, wider shots are somewhrat flat, and black levels can be light or cumbersome, but those are minor gripes over a largely attractive restoration presented by Arrow.
The soundtrack arrives in 1.0 Linear PCM variants in both English and Italian, standing at a serviceably impressive condition for the age and niche, cult appeal of the film. Its vintage can certainly be heard throughout: splashing or rushing water, dialogue, and the vivacious lounge music all sports the thin, higher-leaning twang of an older track, possessing only sporadic responses in the low or midrange spectrum. Effects like the trickling of fluid, the knocking on a door, or the triggering of a switchblade do possess rich upper-end clarity that clings onto a convincing amount of somewhat higher-pitched bass, capturing some moderately natural-sounding elements. Verbal clarity, despite the subtle signs of age, stays quite nice throughout; of course, the synching isn't great, but not off in terms of digital rhythm. Outright distortion has been kept to a minimum, even among the numerous scenes of yelling in the film, and very few instances of distortion can be pinpointed during quieter scenes. The English subtitles are, predictably, excellent from Arrow as well.
I'm also amazed at the caliber of extras available for Strip Nude For Your Killer, beginning with an Audio Commentary by Horrorpedia.com's Adrian J. Smith and David Flint, one who's the owner of the site and the other a regular contributor; this track can only be played with the version of the film that features selected tinted sequences. This is a fun, lightly observational and informative chat, landing on a rhythm with the participants where their jesting and pointing out of more lurid pursuits actually factors into a dissection of the film's substance and intentions, light as they may be. They chat about the sexploitation era, Edwige Fenech, and the general vibe of those going into the film, all while having a good time tying their comments into the lurid content showing up onscreen. Complimenting this commentary is a video essay, Sex and Death With a Smile, that also goes wide with its content as author and critic Kat Ellinger weaves through the giallo subgenre and how Edwige Fenech fit into it, and how it shaped her career.
The rest of the extras are comprised of interviews, both new and archival. A Good Man for the Murders cobbles together bits of an older chat with actor Nino Castelnuovo as he discusses being typecast in good-guy roles and breaking from that mold, while a newly-recorded interview with Emma Schurer, entitled The Blonde Salamander (18:30, 16x9 HD) charts her involvement with the industry and the film. The Art of Helping (44:18, 16x9 HD) features a lengthy discussion with assistant director Daniele Sangiori, where he focuses on the hectic and repetitive nature of shooting these kinds of films, while Jack of All Trades (21:50, 16x9 HD) gets production coordinator and actor Toni Polenghi in front of the camera for a talk about expedited shooting schedules, cheap filming locations, and the workings of their low-budget shoots in general.
Rounding things out are a pair of Trailers, one English (3:42, 16x9 HD) and the other Italian (3:42, 16x9 HD), and an Image Gallery.
Strip Nude For Your Killer is an oddity, a genre flick that tries to slip into the middle-ground between two specific niches: giallo horror, and sexploitation. Mixing the two in somewhat even measure results in slasher-movie suspense that continuously gets interrupted by overt sexuality and cheekiness, which also effectively removes the visceral tension from murder scenes as well. If you're in it for the plentiful skin, brazen sexism, and Edwige Fenech, then you'll probably have a good time with this mid-70s lark. If you're hoping for an effective fusion of sex and suspense, however, this one doesn't quite make the cut. Arrow Video treats this one like a masterpiece, though, presenting it with a terrific restoration and bountiful extras that include a commentary and numerous interviews. Most folks will be good with a Rental, but fans of Fenech and of quirky sexploitation flicks should definitely feel comfortable picking up this one. Give Arrow's disc of Blood and Black Lace and numerous other weirdly-titled giallos a look if this one piques your interest.