Director: Umberto Lenzi
Code Red Releasing/Kino Lorber

Code Red goes giallo with their Blu-ray of Umberto Lenzi's SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS.

The murders of an old woman in her bed, a prostitute (Gabriella Giorgelli, THE WAX MASK) found by the river, and a British artist (Marina Malfatti, THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE) – the latter two found with a half-moon trinket in their hands – have police inspector Vismara (Pier Paolo Capponi, THE CAT O'NINE TAILS) looking for a link between the victims that does not seem to exist. When model Giulia (Uschi Glas, THE SINISTER MONK) survives a knife slashing on her honeymoon, Vismara believes that she would have been the next victim of "The Half Moon Killer" when her fashion designer Mario (Antonio Sabato, ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX) receives the half-moon medallion in the mail believing her to be dead. Giulia recognizes the prostitute as Ines, a waitress at her parents' hotel two years before, and Vismara is quick to investigate the dead girl's boyfriend (Nello Pazzafini, THE BIG GUNDOWN) who was jailed for robbery and held a grudge against Ines and Giuilia for giving evidence against him. When Giulia recognizes the half-moon from a keychain carried by an American guest who frequently dined but did not stay at the hotel in September 1969 when she and Ines worked there, she and Mario decide to do some investigating of their own. Their hypothesis that the man had been visiting someone at the hotel seems to be likely when they discover pages missing from the hotel registry. From the surrounding days in the register, they discover that the artist had been a guest and surmise that four other female guests may also be on the killer's list. They are unable to convince Vismara without a motive for the killings until another victim from the guest list turns up. As the police race to prevent the murders of schoolteacher Concetta (Petra Schürmann, SCHOOL OF FEAR) and socialite Anna (Marisa Mell, DANGER: DIABOLIK), Mario attempts to discover the identity of the American amidst a milieu of hippies, artists, and Catholic priests.

Although this Italian/West German co-production was marketed as a Bryan Edgar Wallace krimi adaptation in Germany as THE MYSTERY OF THE SILVER CRESCENT even today (in one of Univerum Film's Bryan Edgar Wallace boxed sets with a couple other Italian/German gialli), the plot of SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS has more in common with the revenge thrillers of Cornell Woolrich with co-writer/director Umberto Lenzi (NIGHTMARE CITY) and co-writer Roberto Gianviti (A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN) emulating the stalk and kill aesthetics of Dario Argento more so than Lenzi's earlier jet set gialli like PARANOIA and A QUIET PLACE TO KILL. While the plotting is not as tight as it could be, giallo fans will enjoy not only a giallo actually set in Italy but a cast full of familiar krimi and giallo faces including Rossella Falk (SLEEPLESS) – faring no better here than in any of her other gaillo victim roles – Claudio Gora (THE FIVE MAN ARMY), THE PSYCHIC's Bruno Corazzari given more to do as a heroin-addicted American artist, stuntman/actor Franco Fantasia (MURDER MANSION), a speaking part for Argento cameo player Fulvio Mingozzi (SUSPIRIA), and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance from Camille Keaton the same year she would appear more memorably in WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? The Cromoscope photography of Angelo Lotti (VENUS IN FURS) is rather routine but possesses some stylistic flourishes while composer Riz Ortolani both recycles and reworks earlier themes from his score for Lenzi's SO SWEET, SO PERVERSE, with J. Vincent Edward theme song making a late appearance on a turntable. A bloody power drill murder anticipates set-pieces from Brian De Palma's BODY DOUBLE and Carlo Vanzina's NOTHING UNDERNEATH.

Unavailable on home video in the United States apart from the usual foreign-subtitled grey market tapes, SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS first arrived on DVD from Media Blaster's Shriek Show in 2003 with an anamorphic widescreen transfer and interviews with Lenzi and Giorgelli (followed by an unauthorized release from Popflix in a two-disc set with DEEP RED, CAT O'NINE TAILS, and SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS). Code Red's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is derived from a new HD scan with extensive color correction, and the colors are indeed somewhat richer looking but what is more evident from the start is an enhanced sense of depth in the wide angle killer POV shots and the textures of some terrible 1970s fashions. Both the English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono tracks have a layer of hiss underneath the dialogue and scoring that asserts itself during quiet passages. The Italian track reveals that Malfatti's British character speaks dubbed English in a different voice from her English dub. The optional English subtitles are dubtitles with some paraphrasing as well as some transcription errors (the town identified onscreen as Spoleto is translated in dialogue as "Spinato" and Vismara disliking Mario's rashness reads as "you're a rationalist").

Extras include a new audio commentary by horror historian Troy Howarth – author of the three volume giallo film reference SO DEADLY, SO PERVERSE – who notes that the film is packed to the gills with giallo character actors with perhaps an over-reliance on observations about settings and situations that call to mind other (sometimes better, sometimes not) examples of the genre looking backward to Bava and forward to Argento. Appropriately, he does contrast the genre examples of Lenzi with those of Argento (whose BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE certainly influenced the style and structure of subsequent gialli), as well as the film's stab at balancing the police procedural aspect with the amateur detective protagonists. Howarth is yet another recent commentator to make note of Capponi's spectacular head of hair alongside Alan Jones and Kim Newman on their track for CAT O'NINE TAILS.

Also newly-produced is an interview with the late director Lenzi (24:02) who notes that the film came at a time between the finish of his round of giallo efforts and the start of his crime films which also netted the influential MAN FROM DEEP RIVER that would spawn the Italian cannibal subgenre. He notes that the film has more in common with Woolrich than Argento while also noting with annoyance the German marketing as an Edgar Wallace adaptation. He found Gianviti a "useful" collaborator but takes credit for the story and not following the script closely on the set. He also discusses his favorite scenes and shares his recollections of the cast, sharing Howarth's distaste for Sabato who he describes as a "Sicilian playboy who never scored" while noting that he was good in the films he did for Lenzi. Carried over from the Shriek Show disc are the interview with Giorgelli (2:53) and Lenzi (7:35). The disc also includes a still gallery (0:55), the film's theatrical trailer (2:46), and trailers for OPERA and THE DARK. (Eric Cotenas)