Thursday, February 16, 2012


In Antonio Bido's murder mystery, THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW, a standard giallo mystery is told, with little effect of differentiating itself from the rest of the genre. Years ago, a young schoolgirl was found strangled to death in a meadow on the outskirts of a small Italian villa. In the present, a young university student named Stefano (Lino Capolicchio, from THE HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS) returns to the villa, his hometown, to visit his older brother, Don Paolo (Craig Hill, from ALL ABOUT EVE) who is now the town's priest.

Shortly after Stefano's arrival, Don Paolo witnesses a murder outside his window. When he goes with police and Stefano to investigate, not body is immediately found... until later. The victim, it turns out, was a local outcast woman who performed seances with some of the town's most hated and feared residents - including a local homosexual pedophile (Massimo Serato, of DON'T LOOK NOW), a gambling addicted doctor (Sergio Mioni, of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC) and a woman known for performing abortions (Juliette Mayniel, of EYES WITHOUT A FACE). Don Paolo and Stefano investigate the murder and the suspects, with the help of another young student named Sandra (Stefania Casini, from SUSPIRIA).

The Bloodstained Shadow is by no means a great entry in the giallo genre, but it is also by no means a horrible edition, either. It is classier than a lot of the later films to come out of the giallo film movement (most films after DEEP RED tended to toss in more sleaze and gore than plot), but it also lacks a lot of originality and suspense.

The main draw to the film, like many Italian movies made during this time, is the scenery. Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. In The Bloodstained Shadow you get to look at the city of Venice and all the canals that go along with it, as well as the vast country and rolling hills set against the bright, blue skies. Venice is not quite as gothic and foreboding as it was in Don't Look Now, but it still is presented in an eerie light that adds to the appeal of the film's atmosphere. The little town itself is quite awesome to look at - the perfect type of place to either retire or, in this case, being a gloved murderer.

The atmosphere is the main draw to The Bloodstained Shadow, and while its impressive cinematography is certainly a draw, it also comes with a couple of dull moments. There are sequences that seem to branch off from the core of the story just to add some kind of social commentary, but rather than making a point about Italy's justice system the film seems to have a few tacked on sequences that don't seem to work. For instance, one of the film's main red-herring's is wrongfully accused and then beaten to death by townsfolk - yet survives - only to crawl up a hill and die in an overly dramatic, overly long set-piece.

While the aforementioned scene is probably the most violent in the film (flesh tearing and beatings that would make Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava proud), there are some creative kills - including a sword through the chest, burning someone's face in a fire, a heart in a sacristy, and of course a chase involving the killer, a victim, and two boats in Venice.

Much of the film is blatantly borrowed from previous films in the genre, including those of Fulci, Bava, and of course Dario Argento - from its Deep Red-inspired soundtrack to the structure of the film to the mystery behind it, much of The Bloodstained Butterfly is a rehash of older works. But that should sort of be expected, considering the film was released in 1978 - several years after the 1970-1974 golden age of the giallo genre.

Hardcore fans of the genre will definitely get a kick out of this movie, but casual viewers might find it to be a little dated. It's a shame that The Bloodstained Shadow falls under the shadow of better-known giallo's like Deep Red, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA, and DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING. Because, at the end of the day, The Bloodstained Shadow is a worthy effort. But it's just not a great effort.

Don't Look Now (1973)
Don't Torture a Duckling (1971)
Deep Red (1975)

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