Monday, November 29, 2010

The Paul Naschy Blogathon: A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1974)

***Here is my contribution for Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies Paul Naschy Blogathon. I was thrilled to be asked to submit a piece and it was my pleasure to put this together. I chose to focus on a fairly obscure one starring and written by Naschy and I hope it proves interesting for other fans. Thanks again to Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies for hosting such an inspired event honoring a true original.***

A crazed killer, who leaves a bloodied plastic dragonfly as their calling card, is on the loose in Milan wiping out prostitutes, dealers and junkies. A well-meaning, if not always effective, Police inspector named Paolo is assigned to the case and, with the help of his wife Silvana, attempts to get the person or persons behind the brutal dragonfly killings.

An extremely entertaining, if low-rent, Spanish-Italian co-production from 1974, Una libélula para cada muerto (A Dragonfly for Each Corpse) is a relatively obscure Giallo from director León Klimovsky written by and starring the great Paul Naschy. Featuring a truly wonderful cast, including gorgeous Erika Blanc, veteran Angel Aranda and genre-favorite Maria Kosty, A Dragonfly for Each Corpse is a bloody and often overlooked entry in the Giallo canon and a film more than deserving of a decent DVD release.

Argentine filmmaker León Klimovsky was born in early October of 1906 and had worked in the film industry since the twenties. Already in his late sixties by the time he shot A Dragonfly for Each Corpse, Klimovsky was an assured if professionally disappointed man who had hoped to become more than just a commercial filmmaker. A Dragonfly for Each Corpse came at the tail-end of Klimovsky’s most successful run as a director, a run that had carried him through the sixties with a number of Spaghetti Westerns and some Spanish Horror films including the legendary La Noche de Walpurgis (Werewolf Shadow), a jewel from 1971 written by and starring one Paul Naschy.

Considering how wildly popular Werewolf Shadow proved to be it was no surprise to see several films featuring the collaborative powers of Klimovsky and Naschy. These include Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972), Vengeance of the Zombies (1973), Devil's Possessed (1974), Muerte de un quinqui (1975) and Secuestro (1976). It was a fruitful partnership that yielded some truly splendid genre films and A Dragonfly for Each Corpse is one of the most interesting for a number of reasons.

Due to the worldwide success of Dario Argento’s “Animal Trilogy” and works by such distinct directors as Lucio Fulci, Sergio Martino and Umberto Lenzi, the Giallo was one of the most popular genres of the early seventies, so it was a natural one for the team of Klimovsky and Naschy to attempt. With a number of surprisingly brutal murders throughout, the presence of the unforgettable beauty Blanc and a number of past Giallo soundtrack ques from the mighty Cam music Library used for the soundtrack, A Dragonfly for Each Corpse might seem like a major lost classic from just the description alone but it is finally a bit less than the sum of its parts.

If a Dragonfly for Each Corpse is mostly an aping of the classic Giallo, then it is a pretty damn good one. Naschy’s script and story of a killer attempting to wipe out the morally corrupt isn’t necessarily fresh but it’s handled fairly well, even if as a murder mystery though it is finally just functional. A Dragonfly for Each Corpse really comes alive though in the sections involving Naschy and Blanc, who play husband and wife in the film.

Taking a cue from the astonishing Black Belly of the Tarantula (specifically the sections concerning Giancarlo Giannini and Stefania Sandrelli), A Dragonfly for Each Corpse is at its most suprising in how it handles the relationship between the Naschy’s just the facts Police inspector Paolo and his intuitive and very sharp bride Blanc’s Silvana. The two would have made a great crime fighting duo in another film and their interactions while trying to figure out who the murderer is provides the film with its most interesting and, at times, humorous moments. What is most invigorating about the relationship is the way that Naschy and Klimovsky allow Blanc’s character to ultimately be the sharper of the two and seemingly always a step of the head of the macho, if well-meaning, Paolo. It’s a cool little twist that’s refreshing in a genre often accused of misogyny and Naschy and Blanc have a wonderful chemistry together.

Behind the camera Klimovsky doesn’t attempt to out-stylize the Giallo’s most celebrated auteurs and instead just brings to the film an confident and steady visual touch that keeps it moving at a steady pace. He also delivers the film’s more violent and shocking scenes in an almost casual, but never dull, way. A Dragonfly for Each Corpse isn’t a terribly dynamic film but it’s never pedestrian. Klimovsky is a clearly competent director attempting to make an entertaining thriller with enough bloodshed and skin to satisfy fans and he captures the essence of the classic Giallo throughout.

Of course the skin was still a problem in early seventies Spain and two versions of A Dragonfly for Each Corpse had to be filmed. Knowing it would be subjected to the harsh eye of the censors Klimovsky simultaneously filmed a clothed and more explicit version. The version I watched, from an import Spanish DVD, is uncut as far as the violence goes but is the alternate ‘clothed’ print. That, coupled with the sometimes awkward recycled score (a particular bit from Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve threw me out of the story every time it played), gives A Dragonfly for Each Corpse a slightly generic and undercooked feel at times.

While the lack of skin in the more available version will prove frustrating to fans used to more permissive and freewheeling Giallo’s from the time like Torso and A Lizard in Woman’s Skin, they won’t have much to complain about when it comes to the steady supply of blood and mayhem Klimovsky and Naschy deliver. A whopping dozen or so killings are spread throughout the under ninety minute A Dragonfly for Each Corpse, a fact that makes it one of the higher body count films of the period. The gore effects are fairly crude but the vibrant cinematography of the great Miguel Fernández Mila, as usual, make great use of the color red, and the look of the film elevates it at every turn.

As for Paul Naschy's performance, fans will get a real kick of the cigar-chomping machismo he brings to his role as Inspector Paolo Scaporella. Klimovsky clearly loved filming Naschy and his scene-stealing close-ups are everywhere in the film, as is his humor which provides a much needed lightness often at the expense of his own character, who isn't quite as badass as he pictures himself te be.

Ultimately A Dragonfly for Each Corpse perhaps isn’t one of the strongest films that the team of Klimovsky and Naschy delivered in their time together but it's a terrific minor work and will please their fans as well as Giallo-enthusiasts. Why it still hasn't found a wider release is beyond me.


Will Errickson said...

I'm not a Naschy expert or anything but I really had no idea he dabbled in giallo too. Great post, Jeremy, and I love your choice of images.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks Will! I just recently caught up with this and quite enjoyed it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Zachary Kelley said...

Great post Jeremy,

i just caught your comment on my site, and I came over to check out your review. I have to pull out the line " It’s a cool little twist that’s refreshing in a genre often accused of misogyny and Naschy and Blanc have a wonderful chemistry together."

I read some sources that call this film misogynistic, and I think those folks are missing some of the film's subtler scripting. So glad there are others getting a kick out of this film!

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks so much T.L.! I really enjoyed your post on it and appreciate you stopping by and reading mine. I really do think the dynamic between Naschy and Blanc in this makes it far more interesting than most have given it credit for as well.
I appreciate you commenting...thanks again.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Great post, Jeremy! Sorry I'm just now getting around to commenting, but I've been just a *leetle* busy the past week... ;)

I really love your observation about Naschy's humor here, as it's something that a lot of casual viewers often miss or fail to give him credit for. He does clearly send up Paolo's machismo and posturing in several scenes, and Naschy as both writer and actor was never afraid to give the audience a laugh at his own expense. Those who assume he's always meaning his super-macho Lotharios to be taken absolutely seriously are missing a great deal of the fun, imo--and for me, Naschy is all about having a good time in the genre.

Thanks again for being a part of the blogathon!

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Love reading your comments Vicar as it is that sly sense of humor that I love so much about him. I find that a lot of viewers of these films don't appreciate just how smart the folks were making them, so they don't allow for anything not right on the surfae. These are the same sort of folks who like to use terms like "Guilty Pleasure" and "So bad it's good". It really is their loss...
Thanks again and Thanks also for hosting such a great Blogathon!

Nostalgia Kinky said...

That should read, "anything not right on the surface."

eda-88 said...

Main titles/End titles is by Roberto Pregadio

eda-88 said...

Roberto Pregadio - Amore E Violenza (CAM 1971)