Thursday, 19 November 2009

Thoughts on "Mrs Wardh" and the woman's giallo

Just pondering somewhat about the idea of Sergio Martino's "The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh " being a 'woman's giallo', only because I've shown it to a few women friends (none Giallo watchers) and they've been quite taken by it.
Many Gialli follow a heroine being persecuted by a murderer but I still think "Wardh" does more.
Similar themes run through Carnimeo's "The Case of the Bloody Iris" (which is more of a "fun giallo").

In both films (both written by Ernesto Gastaldi) Edwige Fenech plays a victim of an ex-husband. In "Iris", Jennifer Lansbury has been previously married to the head of a cult who makes her take part in orgies somewhat against her will. Julie Wardh, although seemingly in a passive role is actually a willing participant in the S&M flavoured games with her husband Jean ie: the strange vice of the title.
In "Iris" the character is less rounded, generic victimised female, the important thing is the plat, finding out who the murderer is, whereas in Wardh, we're not sure, we want to know why and what's she going to do, there's a stalker about but we're still more engaged by what Mrs Ward thinks.
In Wardh she has motivations, I love the wonderful long bike ride with George (George Hilton) where different expressions flutter across her face as she seemingly makes her mind up about him, first excitement, then fear, some suspicion and finally desire.

Mrs Wardh is clearly a complex woman willing to take risks. She's left Jean (Ivan Rassimov), presumably tired and fearful of her games with him and looked for security and stability with Neil Wardh - but we sense all is not well - she still yearns for excitement (and someone who clearly isn't averse to wearing a bit of lip gloss now and again) and takes a risk again to pursue a relationship with George.

Maybe my friends enjoyed that in the end Mrs Wardh falls victim to all three males in her life - like you can't trust blokes sane or insane!? I wonder about that cop at the end too, wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him.

"All the Colour of the Dark" is yet another Martino film to make the heroine the main protagonist, but it follows the route of having us assume that the heroine, Jane Harrison (Edwige again) could be unbalanced, so you're not sure if everything is real or in her head; this is somewhat distancing and like "Sweet Body of Deborah" and "The Red Queen Kills 7" Times" you're not quite immersed in the heroine's world.

I don't think any other Giallo I've seen (and there are still plenty more of me to see) matches "Wardh" for depth of characterisation and motivation. The victim becomes the victor in a round about twist and has much more to do with her persecutors' demise than most other rescued heroines.

Edwige is important in this respect too. In the other Martino Gialli, "Your Vice" and "Scorpions Tail", the victim is played by Anita Strindberg who doesn't have that vulnerability. Hers is a rather fragile, febrile victimhood and indeed with the twist in "Scorpion's Tail" this suits the character. You feel sorry for her in both but there's something about Fenech's depiction of fear that is almost voluptuous - she wallows in it, in fact is almost galvanised by it...there's nothing lightweight about her screaming.
So there's me thoughts, somewhat incoherent but you get the picture.


  1. I think you're onto something... seems like every female that i've suggested this movie to has adored it (and these are non-gialli loving, even casual horror fans).

    Personally I could watch Edwige eat a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich for 40 mins and be enthralled. I need hobbys.

  2. Hah!! You have a hobby - Edwige watching.
    Have you seen any of her sex comedies?
    I saw Secrets of a Call Girl ( or rather: Anna, quel particolare piacere and NOT a comedy), that was quite good, mainly because of her and Corrado Pani, there was one bit in it that made me larf out loud though...

  3. Yes i've seen a handful of her comedies as well, Secrets of a Call Girl definitely had some 'unintentionally' funny moments...i agree. She sure got smacked around a lot in that one!

    One of my favorites is the Virgo, The Taurus, and the Capricorn (1977). Just prior to watching it a friend of mine told me that the director, Luciano Martino, is the brother of Sergio Martino and also Edwige's EX !