1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage became a worldwide hit, bringing giallo to the world. But by 1972, in its native Italy, the films had already become self-aware parodies of the genre. Witness 1972’s The Case of the Bloody Iris (originally titled Why Are There Strange Drops of Blood on Jennifer’s Body?), directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (Exterminators of the Year 3000). Yes, I lied when I said I’d be watching all Sergio Martino movies. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.
We start with the hallmark of this style: a beautiful woman slashed to death by a masked killer in a public location — this time an elevator in a modern high-rise. That body is discovered by a black exotic dancer — well, she’s more of a wrestler who challenges men in the crowd to fight her on stage — who soon becomes the next victim in a bathtub drowning with a killer that references the look of the killing machine behind Bava’s Blood and Black Lace.
That leaves us with two models, Jennifer Lansbury (Edwige Fenech, Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key, Strip Nude for Your Killer and many more — she even had a cameo in Hostel 2) and Marilyn Ricci, who become friends with Andrea Barto, the architect of the building (George Hilton, All the Colors of the Dark) and move into the vacant room of the first victim. Nevermind that the police believe that Andrea is the killer!
Meanwhile, Jennifer’s ex-husband, Adam, used to use her for strange group sex rituals — we see a flashback of him giving her communion and initiating her into the group. He’s been stalking her, trying to get her back. Turns out he could make love to anyone he wanted and was the jealous type. “You’re not any man’s special girl because any man can take you,” he tells her. She tells him that she wants to belong to someone special. He replies by attacking her in an alley and tries to inject her with a needle. She escapes and he exclaims that she will “come crawling back on her knees.”
The cops bumble their way through the investigation, more concerned with naked women than they are with the case itself. Oh yeah — Marilyn fakes her death in the same tub the black victim died in, driving Jennifer crazy. And also — Andrea is afraid of blood. And then again there’s that nosy old Mrs. Moss who keeps showing up to find the bodies and has a subscription to Killer Man comics. And another red herring — Adam tries to kill Andrea. Whew — so much to keep track of!
Here comes another one — the murderer keeps showing up in the window of the apartment, scaring Jennifer. And then Adam shows up to attack her. Running from her apartment, she finds refuge at her neighbor Sheila Heindricks’ place. However, Sheila turns out to be a lesbian — with a violin playing dad — who wants to molest her. She runs back to her place to find a blood stained orchid and Adam’s dead body.
There is some good news. Even though the police think Andrea is the killer, Jennifer still falls in love with him. They make love while the police watch. The next day, Marilyn says hello to someone in the street and is stabbed in front of the world. She falls into Andrea’s arms, covering him in blood before dying in Jennifer’s arms. Covered in gore, the blood freaks out the architect, who runs into the streets to hide.
Wow — like I said, this film almost becomes a parody of giallo convention as it piles on things. Why does the old man play violin all night long? Why is Andrea afraid of blood? Why are the police so incredibly stupid? Oh! I forgot about Arthur, the camp gay pornographer!
Turns out that Mrs. Moss has a scarred up son that lives in her place. He attacks Jennifer when she sneaks in, then Mrs. Moss calls her a whore around 19 times in 2 sentences. When Jennifer brings the police, the son is nowhere to be found.
The killer starts luring Jennifer all over the place, from a junkyard to the basement — along with her lesbian neighbor. A blast of steam decimates the next door sister of Sappho and the lights go down, leaving our heroine trapped. Turns out Andrea has been following her since the junkyard and demands Jennifer follow him in a way that reminds her of her horrifying ex-husband.
So whodunnit? Do you really want to know? Well, it wasn’t the old lady. And it wasn’t the architect. And it wasn’t our heroine. So that leaves…the violinist! He blamed the women of the world for turning his daughter to sin, taking her from him. He also killed the old woman’s son. He dangles Jennifer over a big stairwell, but she’s saved at the last minute by Andrea. A battle ensues, leaving blood all over his face, which gives us a flashback of his father dying in a car crash, bleeding all over his face as he was a child. Luckily for all concerned, Jennifer used the reel to reel in the violinist’s apartment to record his confession.
Whew. Your head is going to spin when you watch this one, trust me. That said — if you haven’t really gotten your brain trained toward giallo, you may want to skip this. I can never really figure out what other folks are going to like! But if you enjoy murder, models and murky plots, well, this one is for you.