Strip Nude For Your Killer
For the screenshots and the review of the previous Blue Underground DVD, click here.
We’re so used to postmodernism, irony and self-referential horror films that it’s easy to forget when the genre had clarity of purpose that, looking back, seems almost naïve and innocent. Although my knowledge of the subgenre is admittedly limited, in my experience no form represents this clarity quite like the giallo. I have to admit that my understanding of giallo was largely academic. I knew of the style and clichés that distinguished the subgenre from other flicks- bold use of color, ultra-violence, black leather- but I simply hadn’t seen many gialli. My excursions into the subgenre were limited to the most popular entries, mainly Dario Argento’s early filmography and select films from Bava and Fulci. I still wouldn’t consider myself an expert but I’ve been given a crash course in giallo by Strip Nude for You Killer. It is every trope of the subgenre writ large: stylish, brazenly sleazy, in-your-face-violent and almost entirely nonsensical.
So, of course, I loved every minute of it.
In a seedy room drenched in blue a doctor (Filippo La Neve) gives a young, unwed woman gets what amounts to a backroom abortion. Unfortunately, the procedure doesn’t goes as planned: she has a massive heart attack and dies while still on the operating table. Panicked, the doctor calls photographer Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo) and both men conspire to cover up her death, taking the body to the girl’s home and callously dumping her body in the tub in the hopes the authorities will think she died of natural causes (uh huh). The men leave and although they think they’ve gotten away with it, someone knows what they did. Soon after, the doctor is murdered literally on his own doorstep by a figure clad in a black leather jumpsuit and back motorcycle helmet.
Meanwhile, Carlo is living his life, blissfully unaware of what’s about to transpire. In addition to covering up accidental abortion deaths, he’s the kind of sleaze bag that would try and dupe naïve girls into having sex with him as a way to jump start their modeling careers. This is exactly the game he runs on Lucia (the indescribably hot Femi Benussi) when he sees her at the health club. Their first encounter culminates with some steamy (and medically unadvisable) sauna sex. However, the agency’s owner, Gisella (Amanda) and Carlo’s girlfriend, photography assistant Magda (Edwige Fenech, also indescribably hot), are less than impressed with both the girl and Carlo’s philandering antics. No matter. Immediately following an abusive lesbian tryst with Gisella, Lucia is murdered by the same black leather-clad killer responsible for the death of the abortion doctor. The murders clearly have something to do with the young woman who died, but what’s the connection? As the bodies pile up, that’s exactly what Magda and Carlo begin investigating. The question is: can they find the key to solve the mystery before they fall under the killer’s blade?
The film starts off with a botched abortion and moves on to a sleazy photographer extorting sex from a prospective model. From the start, the audience is sent a very clear message: Strip Nude For Your Killer isn’t interested in fucking around. By the end of the film, almost every woman in it has done a full frontal scene, had sex with at least one person and been murdered in an exceedingly gory way. To top off this buffet of debauchery, Strip Nude ends with the hero of the story pretending that he’s going to anally rape his girlfriend.
What I found positively refreshing was the surprisingly playful tone to a lot of the film that makes much of the sleazier aspects more palatable. Despite having more explicit nudity, sex and bloodletting, when compared to more mainstream films by David Lynch or Paul Verhoeven, Strip Nude for Your Killer seems, at times, almost sweet natured in comparison. When Carlo extorts sex from Lucia in the sauna, or when his violent temper leads him to forcefully choke his lover in bed, he comes across more as a mischievous scamp than a misogynist asshole. There’s no wonder Magda can’t stay away from a charmer like Carlo.
Sadly, the film seems intent to spend any goodwill it builds up in these early scenes with the extremely distasteful scene where Maurizio (Franco Diogene) tries to rape Doris (Ema Schurer) and she prevents him from doing so, by consenting to have sex with him. Ugh. At least the filmmakers have the good sense to immediately follow this scene with one of Maurizio being cut to ribbons by the killer giving the audience an earned, if disproportionate, sense of justice. The film recovers after this point, but the whole scene leaves a lingering bad taste after the film’s over.
On the positive side, the set up for this scenario is exceedingly well done. When the Maurizio gives Doris a ride through crowded Roman traffic, it’s a great guerilla style shot. If it the footage wasn’t stolen then the amount of logistics required to pull it off are impressive. A lot of low budget genre films take place only in a couple of rooms and, while that’s mostly true of Strip Nude, the aforementioned chase scene as well as some short scenes under an overpass and by a fountain at night gives the film a sense of scale that other films lack. We get a feeling that a world exists beyond the bounds of the frame and that the characters’ actions have an effect on that world, even if it’s not a huge one.
It’s odd that Benussi is killed off with nearly an hour left in the film. In addition to the expected character introductions, the first act centers largely on Lucia’s “discovery” and her introduction into the world of modeling. To have her killed off so soon was a genuine shock. Not a Psycho level game-changer or anything like that, but still a genuine surprise.
Some might be tempted to read a pro-life message in the killer’s motivation, and I suppose that’s a legit take on the film. I’m not willing to go that far; I think that the rest of the film lacks enough of a connection to the opening scene that any underlining message is essentially rendered moot. The abortion was likely chosen not for a social message, but simply to have the most shocking opening scene possible. The killer’s motivation is completely arbitrary. The abortion was the just the sleaziest excuse the filmmakers could think of for having attractive women sliced and diced.
The film is ostensibly a whodunit but, like Friday the 13th, the final revelation of the killer’s identity is pretty arbitrary and doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. If you’re paying attention you can guess the killer’s identity before the actual reveal through the process of elimination. Not that it really matters; the ride is what is important here. At any given moment the film doesn’t seem to care what has gone on in previous scenes or seem much concerned with what will happen in subsequent scenes.
And you know what?
As long as I’m being entertained, neither do I.
Strip Nude for Your Killer employs some bold visual flourishes and they’re more or less done justice by the transfer on this Blu-ray. While the image is a little bit soft and even the boldest colors can be a bit muted at times. Night scenes are fairly grainy but detail is strong even in the darkest areas of the frame. Whether the scene is drenched in lurid reds, or oppressive, inky blacks, it’s free of compression issues. As always, Blue Underground struck this transfer from what looks to be pristine source material. Not the best I’ve seen from the Underground, but still very good.
There’s not much to say about the DTS-HD Master Audio mono tracks, really. Both English and Italian dubs are included and both sounds exactly as you’d expect a film of this vintage and provenance to sound. The dialogue in the English dub is slightly sharper, while the music in the Italian version displays a bit more presence. Either choice will likely satisfy you. It’s not going to shake the foundations of your home, but it does its job well.
Befitting a film about the photography business, talent from both in front of and behind the camera are on hand to reflect on its making in Strip Nude for Your Giallo (11:44). First up is co-writer Felisatti. Considering Italy’s reputation for being a trailblazer at the forefront of avant-garde and envelope pushing, it’s funny to hear him ruminate on how chaste Italian cinema was back in the mid -60s. It was funny to learn that director Bianchi received story credit because he so heaped on the gore and sex that the other writers wanted him to take some of the heat if the film was received poorly because of its extreme content…though I don’t think even today that Strip Nude can be described as mediocre, in any sense of the word. Also proving once again just how well European women age, Solvi Stubing adds her perspective on her involvement in the film.
The International and Italian Trailers (both 3:41) are included and besides the language and font used, there’s not a huge amount of difference between that two. They’re both equally enjoyable. Even a red-band Internet trailer wouldn’t be as ballsy as these trailers.
A comparatively unremarkable Poster & Still Gallery rounds out the supplemental features. Call it unreasonable expectations, but I was disappointed that the North American distributor didn’t try to sell Strip Nude for Your Killer as a sequel to Psycho, complete with Anthony Perkins’ face on the one-sheet and a font borrowed from Death Wish.
Despite using an artistic medium as window dressing for the story, Strip Nude for Your Killer doesn’t have any pretensions about aspiring to be art. It is stylish exploitation sleaze, doled out with reckless abandon. While I have to attach a huge caveat with regards to some of the more sordid plot details, I have a tough time imagining any genre fan not having a good time with this one. Blue Underground serves up another great disc that should please fans.
This Killer is killer and comes highly recommended.
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