Blu-Ray release date: 25th May 2015 from 88 FILMS
Director / Co-writer: Antonio Bido
Starring: Lino Capolicchio, Craig Hill, Stefania Casini, Juliette Mayniel
Runtime: 109 mins
UK Certificate: 18
‘The Bloodstained Shadow’, the second horror offering from director Antonio Bido first released in 1978, emerges later on in the giallo period and is possibly one of the less well-known films of the genre. Now released on Blu-Ray, the film has been well-restored to accentuate the vivid orangey-reds so characteristic of gialli films and sharpen the grey, evocatively bleak backdrop of the Venetian town of Murano during the off-season colder months in which the story plays out.
That story revolves around likeable sheepskin-coated professor Stefano D’Archangelo (Capollichio), who has come to Murano to visit his brother Paolo, the community priest. While there, the murder of a local none-too-popular medium occurs and Stefano learns that a similar strangulation of a teenage girl happened a few years previously in the town, which remains unsolved. Whilst romantically pursuing tiger-eyed beauty Sandra (Casini, whom Dario Argento fans may recognise from ‘Suspiria’), Stefano assists his brother, who witnessed the more recent killing, in trying to uncover the identity of the strangle-happy assailant. However, Paolo is being warned through the subtle mediums of decapitated sheep’s heads and blood-stained type-written notes to keep schtum, and other residents of the town are gradually starting to drop in even more gruesome manners than asphyxiation…
‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ isn’t shockingly original even considering it’s nearing forty – there’s the well-trodden staple threat of the black-cloaked and hooded murderer present and even the quasi-twist of the killer’s identity will be guessed by most viewers before it’s revealed. The acting isn’t brilliant (although the main cast for the most part deliver) and as with many foreign films of the period the dubbing-over of dialogue can be distracting to the audience, but having said that the film isn’t without merit.
I’m personally not a seasoned connoisseur of the giallo but I enjoyed this piece well enough and was glad to get the chance to review a film from this sub-genre. The location of Murano, with its slightly derelict, blankly-decorated buildings and uninviting ports and canals provide an interesting setting and there’s a good use of its winding, maze-like back streets for the killer to carry out the old stalky-stalky action – in fact, there’s a sequence in which Stefano takes a turn about the canals and is watched by various suspicious locals which goes a little into ‘Wicker Man’ territory. Also, the French actress Juliette Mayniel is very unsettling as the matronly, cold-eyed midwife Signora Nardi – it is possibly worth a watch just for her performance.
The music, too, is rather well-placed – of course, it’s the usual blend of Starsky and Hutch-style bass riffs and jarring piano keys at the jumpy bits that leave you in no doubt that you are watching a 1970’s horror film, but the soundtrack here is more memorable than most films of its ilk and the sequence at the end in which the perpetrator is confronted by both their victims and their damnation is very well put together in terms of score and visuals.
The film also has something else going for it in terms of plot that many other gialli arguably do not – the victims meeting their maker are not almost exclusively young, beautiful Farrah Fawcett-haired women – older people of both genders are done in who happen to have become embroiled in the secret behind the murders in various ways, so props to ‘Bloodstained’ for breaking the mould there. Or is the staple of young attractive women being the hunted and often the heroine an essential component of the giallo? A point for discussion maybe, but either way, I found ‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ to be entertaining and charming enough and whilst maybe not a classic, certainly deserving of place in the annals of 1970’s horror history.