DVD - Image A Sound C+ Extras C-
BD - Image C+ Sound B Extras C
starring Edwige Fenech, Nino Castlenuovo, Femi Benussi, Solvi Stubing
screenplay by Massimo Felisatti
directed by Andrea Bianchi
by Walter Chaw It's easy to tag the prurient appeal of Andrea Bianchi's Strip Nude for your Killer (if I'd discovered this film in my early teens, I never would've left the house), but without a lot of effort, its usefulness as a tool for dissecting its audience of voyeurs becomes clear as well. Indeed, it's possible to see the picture as a hybrid of Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (in the equation of scopophilia with rape and murder) and Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (in its protagonist's profession (fashion photographer), its boundaries-testing raciness, and a central mystery that hinges on a photograph), with every scene of obvious leering exploitation balanced by a long look in a mirror, a humiliating photo shoot (something we see in both Peeping Tom and Blow-Up) reflected upside-down in a metal surface, and what seems like knowing interpositions of an idea of retributive guilt at the film's bloodiest moments. Before every giallo set-piece murder, in fact, Bianchi inserts a flash of the woman killed during a pre-credit sequence back-alley abortion. It might not be simple morality, but it does speak to a variety of morality: a championing of demi-innocents undertaken by a heavy-breathing avatar in a motorcycle helmet and leather. Could there be a whiff of the pro-woman picture in the unlikeliest of places?
Of a particular genre tradition, Strip Nude for your Killer indulges in categorical standards like lurid colour and lighting, elaborately choreographed murders, artist/amateur detectives, and the unapologetic feeding of beautiful women into the meat grinder--yet it's impossible not to notice something rich turning over in the subtext. Chief object of fascination is the great cad Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo), an anti-hero given to parlaying his shutterbug status into countless dalliances who nevertheless admonishes a man wishing to do the same with "Go ask your wife, jerk!" He's possessed of the same kind of loose scruples as the rest of the film in this way, exhibiting disgust with his own behaviour as it reflects in others and, in one loaded moment, when he starts to choke his lover, Magda (giallo "queen" Edwige Fenech), after she wonders aloud about his relationship with a recently-slain model. Due in no small part to the post-synch (dubbing was standard for Italian films of the period), the disturbance of the moment plays with campy comedy:
"You don't need to strangle me."
Still, the implication remains thorny. The rim-shot of the piece, so to speak, as Carlo threatens to sodomize his beloved against her will, is by then just another example of the scary, threatening sexual joking in which Carlo engages, shading the film's cheery resolution with pitch black irony. Carlo, our sleazebag surrogate in this world of easy sex and sanctioned looking, has a real problem himself with the objectification of women. In a more vital way than leaving a motorcycle helmet in his closet, then, Bianchi, contriving to cast suspicion on Carlo by having him brutalize his girlfriend, hollers "j'accuse!" at the audience for films like this.
The self-loathing of the lonely masturbator is a conceit illustrated again by a man shown to be impotent upon leveraging a woman into the sack--and of course by Bianchi's decision to mutilate the genitals of the killer's virile, heterosexual male victims and, finally, the breasts of one of the women. Carry it farther and find the picture's "dyke" archetype "marked" by having her ears chopped off while the most sexualized male is castrated and has his throat slit--decapitations metaphorical and almost literal. The other women victims, meanwhile, are stabbed in the midsection and the breast, suggestions, each, of reproductive centres (source and function), pointing to the idea that there's something at work here about not only the connection between cameras and phalluses (and looking and rape), but also the direct punishment of sexual function by an avenging, faceless avatar.
Strip Nude for your Killer is the slasher analog to the James Bond prototype of the arrested male in a world of violence and mayhem, using women and desexualized men (the vengeful response to noir) as pieces in the hero's--and anybody identifying with the hero's--testosterone fantasy, moving like a medieval sheik amongst his harem and its attendant eunuchs while holding over them the constant threat of arbitrary punishment or, worse, sudden concupiscence. It's a horror film about reproduction, about the protean dread of the sound of running water, and, essentially, it's an examination of an arrested male's terror of and attraction to the archetypal "Other." Of course it goes without saying that more than a little of its appeal is due entirely to its kitschy, vacuous sleaze.
That doesn't stop Blue Underground from treating this under-seen genre gem like royalty, blessing it with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer all of lush night colours and crisp shadow detail. A serviceable (but severely compromised) DD 2.0 track meanwhile delivers the dubbed inanities with clarity and volume; the problem is in the soft-porn score, which comes through a little tinny and inconsistently over the front channels, sometimes muffling dialogue--though I'm sure that you're not missing a lot. "Strip Nude for your Giallo" (12 mins.) asks screenwriter Massimo Felisatti and actress (and one-time Peroni Beer spokesmodel) Solvi Stubing to reflect on the film. The former reveals that director Bianchi was something of a "masochist" and that they gave him a "story by" credit so as to distance themselves a little from the picture's content. Stubing expresses strange pride and amnesia ("I didn't remember if I was nude in it or if it was just the other women!"), while the aging Felisatti offers that this film would be totally fine nowadays, but created something of a stir at the time of its release. Right; I'd offer that the opposite is probably true. A long, four-minute-plus trailer is included to round off the laudable exhumation. Originally published: April 18, 2006.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Blue Underground's Blu-ray release of Strip Nude for Your Killer reinforces the notion Bryant Frazer recently put forward in his review of Night Train Murders that the company is compensating for amplified grain caused by faulty CRT scanners with overzealous DVNR. Shot in Techniscope, a format that uses only two perfs of the 35mm frame to achieve a crude form of widescreen, Strip Nude for Your Killer is bound to look soft, as Techniscope effectively has the resolution of 16mm. It's also bound to look gritty, and the 2.35:1, 1080p transfer on this disc is almost anything but; grain is there, but visibly smothered, and dynamic range seems to have become collateral damage. The situation improves when the image is flooded with light (which means you won't miss anything in the way of nudity--this is a film that ensures every inch of skin is properly exposed, in two senses of the word), as it is wont to do, though the back half of the picture practically takes place in shadow. I love Blue Underground and everything they represent, and I can only hope they get back on course soon.
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA tracks, in Italian and English flavours, are comparatively unimpeachable, if detached and slightly harsh in the way of dubbed soundtracks where dialogue is concerned. (Note that the cover misidentifies their configuration as 1.0, although they decode to the centre channel in ProLogic.) The featurette "Strip Nude for Your Giallo" returns (in SD), joined by Italian and international trailers for the film (in HD) as well as a step-frame poster-and-stills gallery that unfortunately wastes a lot of screen real estate on fancy borders. Originally published: March 12, 2012.