The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

"A wall is no use against Jean. What I need is protection against myself."

Julie Wardh (Edwige Fenech) is, outwardly, the respectable wife of the American ambassador to Austria, Neil Wardh (Alberto DiMendoza), but in secret, she hides S&M fantasies and a kinky blood fetish. Upon returning to Austria, Julie begins an affair with the rakish George Corro (George Hilton), cousin of her friend Carol (Conchita Arioldi). At the same time, a razor blade-wielding maniac is terrorizing the city, murdering beautiful young women, and Julie thinks her stalker, ex-boyfriend Jean (Ivan Rassimov) might be responsible. Someone has been leaving bouquets of roses for Julie with  vaguely menacing notes, Julie is being blackmailed over her affair, and before long, Julie herself is being chased by the killer. Is Jean responsible? Or maybe it's someone else in her life?

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (not to be confused with Vice has Black Stockings) is equally well-known as Blade Of the Ripper and is Sergio Martino's first giallo. It's also one of his best. In addition, this is the first of four films to star giallo's "golden couple," Edwige Fenech and George Hilton.  While the film starts off hitting all the standard beats, the last 20 minutes really shake things up with some fantastic twists and double crosses, making this film a standout of giallo storytelling.

  • There's a shower scene which was obviously influenced by Psycho. We see the killer's shadow slowly creep up on a shower curtain before he tears it open and hacks up the poor victim. But it's over pretty quickly and it's missing the pathos of the Hitchcock version.
  • Besides Psycho, there's a clever take on Strangers On a Train as well.
  • Carol is a great sidekick. In the tradition of giallo films, she's the free-spirited, worry-free counterpoint to the more sensible main character.
  • One of the notes on a bouquet of roses includes the phrase "Il tuo vizio é una stanza chiusa dal di dentro e solo io ne ho la chiave." This line became the title of Martino and Fenech's next collaboration, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.
  • Some of the music from Mrs. Wardh was used in Kill Bill Vol. 2.
  • Ivan Rassimov re-joined Martino, Fenech, and Hilton a year later in the film All the Colors Of the Dark. It's not a giallo, but rather a supernatural thriller in the same vein as Rosemary's Baby.
  • There's a scene where Carol goes to an empty park at closing time in place of Julie in order to pay off the blackmailer. She is chased through the woods and murdered by the killer – a scene which closely resembles a memorable part of Dario Argento's Four Flies On Gray Velvet. Argento's film was released only 11 months after Mrs Wardh hit theaters, but production schedules were fast. Did Argento "borrow" ideas from Martino? I'll leave it up to you to decide.
  • Director Sergio Martino is known for his Westerns and that style of film making permeates this giallo. This is especially noticeable during the one-on-one desert showdown at the end.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Julie's fantasy sequences are mesmerizing and beautifully shot in slow-motion. Especially the first one in the rain, when we don't know at first what's going on.

At a party, two women are wearing paper dresses.  Along comes some drunk jerk who tears the back of one of them. The other woman starts laughing and the woman with the torn dress just lunges at her. They both fall to the floor shredding each others' clothes until they're both naked, while the rest of the party-goers just laugh and stare.

Fashion Moment

George has an awesome collection of sunglasses. There's this Elvis-inspired pair...

...and these mirrored aviators.

Also, check out the Wardhs' space-age apartment.

This exact same set, with its distinctive wallpaper and architecture, was also used in The Red Queen Kills Seven Times.

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