Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso
aka Seven Blood-Stained Orchids
aka Das Rätsel des silbernen Halbmonds
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Antonio Sabato, Uschi Glas, Pier Paolo Capponi, Marina Malfati, Rossella Falk
Running Time: 92 minutes
Genre: giallo, krimi
What Happens: The only clue in an apparently random series of brutal murders is a crescent medallion left at the scene of each crime. When one of the intended victims, Giulia (Uschi Glas), survives an attack in a train compartment on her honeymoon, she and her new husband, fashion designer Mario (played with wonderfully cock-swinging arrogance by Antonio Sabato) work first with the police (who put it about that Giulia didn’t survive the attack in order to flush out the killer), then on their own to solve the mystery of who is killing these women and why. The pair soon discover that what the victims and Giulia had in common is their presence at a hotel on the same date several years earlier. They immediately begin trying to track down the other women there on that fateful day, but the killer always seems to be one step ahead. To identify him, Giulia and Mario must discover what happened that day that would drive someone to kill. Features a full complement of incompetent polizia, hippies, and boobs.
And?: Seven Blood-Stained Orchids is an exemplary giallo from the height of the genre’s popularity, and–for some–a surprising turn from Umberto Lenzi, often remembered for classy flicks like Eaten Alive!, Nightmare City, and of course, Video Nasty Cannibal Ferox. It begins very nicely, with Riz Ortolani’s sexy score promising plenty of sleaze and a classic killer POV, black gloves and all, and manages two murders within the first five minutes.
Bill: The first is reminiscent of the killers POV from Black Christmas and Halloween, which I loved seeing in a movie older than either of those. And the second is deliciously trashy, a lovely prostitute from Hooker Beach whose bare breasts wiggle tantalizingly as she’s clubbed to death. That’s a great opening.
Most of the other on screen murders are pretty decent, too. There’s a drill scene that calls to mind Fulci’s style of bloody murder and a very well done, complicated, artful murder of an artist that reminds me of Argento’s brand of pretty violence.
Fisty: Marina Malfati’s murder scene is stylish as all hell–and plenty suspenseful. Okay, I’m fond of cats (I love kitties!), but when she finds her cats poisoned, the fright builds palpably as she searches her studio/apartment, the piteous mewlings of a cat echoing in the dark. It’s incredibly disturbing, but impossible not to watch. Also to watch for are the celebrated drill scene and Rossella Falk’s darkly comic turn as a mental patient, but none of the murders are dissatisfying. More subtle than say, Argento, but with an inevitability that pushes them to horrific heights.
Bill: The open eyes of Falk are creepy, though it would’ve been nice to see some nudity in that kill. Actually, it would’ve been nice to see more nudity all together. Uschi Glas is gorgeous, but we never even get a tease. Maybe Edwige Fenech has me spoiled. More gore would’ve worked, too. Or more artsy murders. You really only get a little of any of it. It ends up being like an assorted giallo sampler. There’s a little sleaze, a little gore, a little disturbing imagery and a little fancy art, but not enough of any of them to stand out, in any one way, enough to really be great.
Fisty: I don’t quite agree. I’d call it more giallo-by-numbers, maybe. Though it has all the trademarks of the genre post-Argento while retaining style and originality, it’s also a far cry from Lenzi’s early sexy thriller gialli like Orgasmo and Paranoia. You are right in that it seems restrained, never going over the top with any of the elements that make for good trash or sleaze. That’s not a BAD thing, but I can see where it would disappoint total gorehounds. But Lenzi still keeps it just trashy enough for highbrow disdain, and just bloody enough to please all but the most ardent horror buffs (Plus, they can trace the evolution of certain kills–Driller Killer, anyone?). 7B-SO sustains the tension from its promising start, though the middle drags a bit, when it flirts with Eurocrime and gets bogged down by uninteresting policework–I honestly could have gone to wash the dishes, and not really missed anything–but that’s a common misdemeanor for gialli.
I have to say, I loved to look at 7B-SO. Everything looks damn fine, especially our two leads. Sabato is a fine-ass motherfucker, if wooden, and Glas is adorable (despite the stupid hairstyle). And their house was a hyper-cool mod marvel–I would move in to it in a heartbeat. The whole thing looked the way I imagine Jackie Susann’s Once is Not Enough, when January Wayne’s mind gets blown by swinging NYC. Hott women in wildly impractical costumes, beautiful sets, sexy-ass music. I loved it.
The style isn’t just on set or in wardrobe, either. Lenzi, though not with quite the baroque presence of genre masters like Bava or Argento, gives 7B-SO a style all his own, with plenty of wit and verve.
Bill: There are two areas where the movie stands out for me. Music and story.
Boom-boooom-buh-doo-duhm-boooom. This main theme of 7B-SO is going to be in my head every time I click-clack my platform shoes down the street in my black and white, tiger-striped leisure suit with the oversized collar, snapping my fingers and bobbing my head, for the rest of my life. If I were a pimp, it would be my theme music. It is amazingly funky and smooth.
As for the twisty-turny, red herring-scattered plot, it … it makes sense. The motivations, the actions of the killer, even the awesome title of the movie, all come together nicely and make perfect sense, even to me and my hopelessly non-European brain. It’s a nice little mystery whose pieces all fit together well. Er… Mostly fit together well. The killer does seem able to magically appear anywhere and has magically complete knowledge of where his victims will be at any and all times–unless he already thinks them dead or they have a twin. He can also make ceilings collapse and doors slam with the power of his mind when he isn’t even anywhere near the area, but, hey, those are the kind of things I’m willing to accept from a movie without question. I’m easy like that.
Fisty: Yeah, instead of the usual twisting and turning like some kind of twisty-turny thing for which there is no rational excuse, 7B-SO actually is pretty well plotted; you can follow along and even figure out what’s going on without relying simply on genre conventions or random chance–even the red herrings make sense! That is probably the only way it’s really reminiscent of his pre-Argento gialli. Which brings us to my favorite thing about 7B-SO: While Orgasmo and Paranoia (and to a lesser extent, So Sweet, So Perverse) were inspired by Celle qui n’était plus, for 7B-SO, Lenzi was inspired by and (very) loosely based the plot upon a Cornell Woolrich novel, Rendezvous in Black. If you know anything about RiB, then you know that’s a huge spoiler, but unfortunately, Woolrich doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves, so I’m giving it a shout-out. I found it gratifying to watch the post-film interview on the DVD, in which Lenzi explicitly states his inspiration lay in Rendezvous–like I’ve been saying for years, Europe loves Woolrich! (The interview is also worth seeing for Lenzi’s insistence of his own grandeur and superiority to other directors, all but accusing them of ripping off his work. So rad.) Interestingly, 7B-SO was an Italian/German co-production, and the last of the Edgar Wallace krimi–though the screenplay was one of those “inspired by the works of” types. Huh. I don’t know enough about krimi to comment. But from what I do know, the Glas-Sabato husband and wife team as protagonists probably owes its inception to krimi.
Bill: Another thing. Those cops are woefully inept, but infinitely entertaining. “What do the victims have in common?” “They were both found half naked?” Genius. I can understand why Mario wouldn’t bother going to the police with half of his discoveries in the case. Is Acropolis the answer to that crossword? “Can’t be Acropolis. The second letter has to be a C.” More geniuser. Mario calls to inform them of a new lead? They ignore then hang up on him, “He confessed.” Click. Of course, they beat a confession out of the poor sap. Poor Raoul. Do you remember Raoul? No, of course not. You never met him. It’s easy to believe Inspector Vismara when he says, “I don’t think anything.” But, at least they don’t kowtow to bureaucracy over in italy. This may be one of my favorite moments in any film, ever:
Alright, break it down.
Without a search warrant, sir?
Yes, I’ll get one tomorrow. Hurry up.
But in spite of that “Git R Done” initiative, Mario is much better at polizing than the polizia. He tirelessly tracks down leads and isn’t afraid to get a bit rough. “I don’t feel like messing around and I haven’t got time to smash your face in, so give it to me straight!” He’s also, for a fashion designer, one hell of a police sketch artist. He manages to get a panhandler to recognize a suspect by showing an abstract line drawing of Bob Hoskins to a bunch of artists, hippies and vagabonds. The world would be better off if there were more fashion designer/amateur detectives, I think.
Fisty: Well, that police ineptitude is a classic hallmark of the giallo. Better use could have been made of Glas (why does Mario get to have all the fun?), but all in all, a good-looking, inoffensive flick from Lenzi, who demonstrates a restraint and style largely lacking in the later horror films he’s best known for. That is, if you see little to no redeeming value in films like Cannibal Ferox. Those only familiar with Lenzi’s work in the Italian cannibal sub-genre will undoubtedly be surprised by 7B-SO (and should probably check out his other work, especially 70s crime flicks). As a giallo, it’s a good example without being too … out there. If you want MORE gore, MORE outlandishness, MORE sleaze, you might be better off with another, but Seven Blood-Stained Orchids is a happy medium.
Bill: While Seven Blood-Stained Orchids may not be the goriest, or sexiest, or prettiest, and while it does drag at times, it’s still pretty fun. Mostly because of the cops, a handful of interesting murders and Mario, who taught me that women without scarves look like call girls. If you aren’t too picky about your gialli, you just might enjoy this, for all its faults.
Important editorial discussion:
living0dead0punk: I wouldn’t call [Sabato] wooden. Just… chiseled.
Doctor Kitten Yo: sculpted
living0dead0punk: Yes! Whittled. Ok, maybe he is kind of wooden.
Doctor Kitten Yo: yes. but pretty