Color, 1972, 92 mins. 13 secs.
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Starring Antonio Sabato, Uschi Glas, Pier Paolo Capponi, Rossella Falk, Marisa Mell, Marina Malfatti, Renato Romano
Code Red / Kino Lorber (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Tobis (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Though Seven Blood-Stained Orchidsnot quite as celebrated for his giallo Seven Blood-Stained Orchidsoutput as his peers like Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Sergio Martino, filmmaker Umberto Lenzi certainly deserves credit for his many excellent thrillers that managed to span both the sophisticated upscale wave in the late '60s and the more explicit, stylized second movement in the '70s. He first jumped into the giallo fray with a string of Carroll Baker vehicles (Paranoia, A Quiet Place to Kill, and So Sweet... So Perverse), but by 1972 it was clear he would have to change with the times. That year he made both his last Baker film, the more experimental and fascinating Knife of Ice, and the more modern, cutting-edge Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, whose title reflects the more exotic and flamboyant ones given to gialli around that time. In fact this was one of a pair of Italian-German co-productions designed to be sold in Germany as Edgar Wallace adaptations, the other being What Have You Done to Solange? The Wallace connection here is tentative and credited to a possibly nonexistent novel, but it was enough to get this film wide distribution and accounts for the presence of German-friendly actors in the cast.

A black-gloved killer is confounding the police by knocking off a string of women from various social classes, all inked by the presence of a crescent moon pendant left at the scene of the crime. Pretty young Giulia (Wallace German series regular Glas) barely survives an attack on a train ride with her fiancé, Mario (Sabato), and following advice from the investigating detective (The Cat o' Nine Tails' Capponi), Seven Blood-Stained Orchidsshe is reported as dead so the investigation can continue with one advantage over the killer. As the stabbing and drownings continue, Giulia comes to realize that she does have one thing in common with the victims -- but who could be the culprit?

Slick and sometimes quite graphic for the time, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids is a textbook example of a golden age giallo with plenty of red herrings, beautiful women, startling death scenes, and bright colors aplenty. It's fairly superficial and mechanical of course (something you could say about other Lenzi films as well), but that's not a strike in this case; it's a modest pulp thriller par excellence and none the worse for it. Sabato is a bit more bland than the usual leading men in these Seven Blood-Stained Orchidsthings, but the rest of the cast makes up for it with a barrage of favorites like Marisa Mell and Marina Malfatti (whose last shot is perhaps the film's best) solidifying the film's status as a prime Euro thriller. Perhaps the strangest aspect is the score by Riz Ortolani, which is largely comprised of recycled tracks from his previous gialli (most obviously So Sweet) apart from what may be an original main theme. It works fine, but one has to wonder why a new score couldn't have been commissioned from scratch.

After several years drifting around on the VHS gray market, the first DVD of this film arrived from Media Blasters in 2003, featuring a pretty good anamorphic transfer for the time and featuring the usual English dub Seven Blood-Stained Orchidstrack. Also on the DVD are a video interview with actress Gabreilla Giorgelli (2m56s), who briefly recalls her small but crucial role as a murdered prostitute (in the film's most extreme scene), and a chat with Lenzi (7m35s), who covers the appropriation of Cornell Woolrich's Rendezvous in Black for the script, the misguided comparisons to Dario Argento, and the innovative murder by electric drill. A gallery of promotional art (55s) features a selection of posters and lobby cards.

Most interesting is the subsequent German DVD from Tobis, released as part of its eighth Edgar Wallace collection (along with the heavily doctored Wallace-ized version of Solange), which features both the standard English-language version and the altered German krimi cut, complete with fun "Hier spricht Edgar Wallace!" main titles over that moon necklace. It's the most compromised transfer with some significant cropping and vertical squeezing, and the German version doesn't have English-language options; however, it's a fascinating variant if you're a fan of the film.

In 2017, Code Red brought the film back to the U.S. as a Blu-ray release via Kino Lorber sporting a fresh HD scan. The color palette looks the most natural by far of any option out there, and the framing shifts a bit Seven Blood-Stained Orchidswith slightly less on the sides and varying degrees at the top and bottom; it doesn't seem to affect the film much either way. The English and Italian tracks are included Seven Blood-Stained Orchids(DTS-HD MA mono), both sounding very good, with optional English subtitles (which correspond to the English track but work fine for the Italian one). It looks like the film was shot in even more of a hodgepodge mix of languages than usual, with Sabato and some others usually matching lip movements with the Italian one and Glas and a few additional actors clearly speaking English for the most part. Try both and see which one you prefer.

The two interviews, gallery, and trailer are ported over from the DVD, while a new interview with Lenzi from Freak-o-Rama (24m2s) is, as usual, a colorful and self-aggrandizing delight as he covers some of the same material as the old interview but also covers his impact on the subgenre, the Wallace connection, and the various shooting locations around Rome, not to mention the porn background (unbeknownst to him at the time) of one minor actress. However, the big new extra is an audio commentary by Troy Howarth, whose knowledge of the giallo comes in very handy here with a very brisk and informative guide to the film and its players. As usual his sense of humor is welcome (including his delight in saying "Uschi Glas" and his feigned outrage at the lack of J&B product placement) and he draws many connections to other titles like Blood and Black Lace and Lenzi's considerable other contributions. Also included are bonus trailers for Opera and The Dark.


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Seven Blood-Stained Orchids Seven Blood-Stained Orchids Seven Blood-Stained Orchids Seven Blood-Stained Orchids Seven Blood-Stained Orchids

Reviewed on December 22, 2017