Giallo Showdown! STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER Blu-ray / THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A DVD Review
I don't think anyone has ever accused Andrea Bianchi of being an auteur. In fact, as a director, he's pretty much a hack. However, he has managed to weasel his way behind the camera for a couple of the most well-remembered films from the silver age of sleaze. Probably his best known work is the 1981 film Burial Ground (Nights of Terror), an absolutely dreadful zombie film that is most well known for the casting of Peter Bark and the immortal line, "Mother, this cloth, this cloth smells of death." The other film for which he's known most widely is Malabimba, which is in Severin's collection, also not a masterpiece. Before both of these, he took the reins on Strip Nude for Your Killer, proving just how incompetent of a director he really was, and with the film's success, how little he mattered.
Strip Nude for Your Killer has the distinction of being probably the most poorly shot giallo I've ever seen. I suppose one can become spoiled by reviewing the works of Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and other similar giants of the genre, one can forget that this was a potboiler genre most of the time, and a lot of these films were shot simply to keep the lights on. Strip Nude for Your Killer's photography is atrocious, the image is soft, poorly framed, and ridiculously blocked, overall a complete disaster. Yet, somehow Bianchi still manages to salvage the film over and over again just when I thought it was doomed, thanks in large part to Edwige Fenech's glorious nude form.
Yes, Strip Nude for Your Killer stars the inimitable Edwige Fenech. The hottest woman in Italian genre cinema keeps this film from going tits up on numerous occasions. She is the only character in the entire film who is worth a damn, everyone else is a fucking asshole who really deserves to get hacked to pieces, and at times even dis-membered, ifyouknowhwattamean. Just when you've nearly had enough off kilter compositions and half-assed focus pulling, Fenech shows up and makes it all worthwhile.
The plot is a typical giallo scenario: After a model dies getting an abortion, people start dying, beginning with the doctor. Who will survive and what will be left of them? Oh wait, that's another film altogether... The killer is a super skinny person in a leather body suit and motorcycle helmet, we never see their face until the final frame, but everyone in the film makes a good argument for being the murderous maniac by their increasingly erratic behavior. Photographers Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo) and Magda (Fenech) are intent on tracking down the killer before they end up on the chopping block. Oh, and in the mean time they fuck frequently at really inappropriate times.
I have my problems with Strip Nude, as you can clearly see, but overall the film's merits outweigh its faults by the slightest of margins. Really, it's Edwige Fenech's show, I'd watch her making toast if she did it naked. Sorry if that makes me sound like a pig, but it's true. Even the no-talent Andrea Bianchi can't fuck her up, though lord knows he tries. If nothing else, the film is worthwhile for the final gag right before the credits roll, which is so amazingly ballsy, I hesitate to even write it here for fear of spoiling anything. Must be seen to be believed. Come for the title, stay for the titties.
William Rose's The Girl in Room 2A is a very strange beast, and the kind of film that Mondo Macabro was made to share. Also a giallo in structure, the film is not as easily describable as Strip Nude, mainly due to the fact that most of the time, I had no idea what was going on. This is the first uncut version of the film on DVD anywhere, and Mondo Macabro's print is pretty decent, but all the remastering in the world couldn't make sense of this plot. Nonetheless, the film has its moments and is worth checking out for giallo junkies.
The film's opening is incredibly promising, a girl is kidnapped, sedated, and transported to a room where she is then tortured and murdered before being thrown off a cliff to make it look like a suicide. Later on, another girl, who has just been released from prison on trumped up charges, moves into a halfway house with a strange caregiver and even stranger frequent visitors. When more people start dying, and these visitors start getting stranger and more intrusive, the girl in room 2A decides that it's time to figure it all out.
I have considerably less to say about The Girl in Room 2A, not because it's a worse film, but just because it's much less clear what's going on at any given time. Daniela Giordano makes for a lovely victim in the film, though she's about as relatable as a 2x4, and unfortunately both the English and Italian dubs are pretty awful. There is some interesting imagery with a religious cult and a similarly masked murderer to the one in Strip Nude, though Room 2A's villain wears a kick-ass red cape and underpants, making them into a sort of sadistic Superman figure. The cult angle is played very strangely and I couldn't really get a grip on how anyone was related, or perhaps I couldn't be bothered to care too much. Either way, the film's strengths definitely lay in its moments, rather than in it as a whole.
I have to say, that if I were forced to choose between one and the other, Edwige Fenech will almost always win, and the result is no different here. Neither film delivers a knockout blow, but Strip Nude is a tiny bit sleazier, and sometimes that's enough to gain my support. However, never let me dissuade you from picking up a Mondo Macabro title, they are probably the most diverse cult label in the world, and seeing them crank back up like this is very encouraging. The pair of Jess Franco films they released last year were stunners, and the upcoming Countess Perverse looks like a winner, as well!
Strip Nude for Your Killer seems like an odd artistic choice for a Blu-ray upgrade, considering how ugly the film is, however, the title kind of sells itself so I understand the decision. That being said, the film was never going to look good in HD, but suffice it to say that it looks better most of the time. One thing worth mentioning is that on my system I noticed two severe digital glitches on Strip Nude, and both involved what looked like stuck pixels, or the image dragging along the screen, once right at the very beginning an once about an hour in. When I rewound the film manually, the glitches disappeared, but if I did a chapter rewind, it was evident. Hopefully no one else gets this problem, but I was able to repeat it a couple of times and thought it was worth noting. The audio is pretty decent, though nothing to get excited about. There are so many wonderful titles in Blue Underground's catalog that I really wish they'd chosen something a little bit flashier to upgrade, but Strip Nude probably looks and sounds about as good as we can expect.
The Girl in Room 2A from Mondo Macabro is a bit dingier looking, though I imagine that's about as good as we're likely to see any time soon. The film is dark and dirty inherently, though there is good detail, and a nice anamorphic transfer on this disc, so I'm satisfied. There are instances of print damage here and there, but nothing to really take you any more out the the film than the film itself. Mondo Macabro have included both the dreadful English dub and the dreadful Italian dub for the film, neither of which consistently match the mouth movements, but both of which deliver significant differences. In particular, the opening kidnapping and torture sequence in English plays as a very dour and serious bit of grime, while the Italian track plays a jaunty prog rock tune over the torture that really changes the mood of the sequence. Weird stuff, but certainly passable in either case.
Both discs feature interviews with leading cast and crew, and both sets of interviews are decent. On Strip Nude we get co-writer Massimo Felisatti and co-star Solvi Stubing, both of whom are very open about their experiences. Felisatti, in particular, is quite open with his distaste for Andrea Bianchi both as a director and as a human being, which completely jives with my image of the man. On Room 2A, star Daniela Giordano shares her memories of her career and this film in particular, very nice woman who is very willing to share her ups and downs.
Both discs are good, though neither in fantastic. The image glitch on Strip Nude was really surprising, as I haven't seen anything that bad on one of their discs, and I hope it's just me. Room 2A is as good of a presentation as I would hope for from a film with as little fanfare behind it as it has. Giallo fans will definitely want to have both, I know I'm glad I have them.