This article was last modified on November 3, 2017.


Blu-ray Review: “A Dragonfly for each Corpse” (1975)

A killer (with impressive red pants) is cleaning up the streets of Milan by murdering deviants, prostitutes and members of the underworld. An ornamental dragonfly, soaked in the blood of the victim, is left on each body.

The script was written by Paul Naschy, who was influenced (much like everyone else of the era) by Dario Argento’s “Bird With the Crystal Plumage” (1970). In this story, Naschy creates the mythology that a dragonfly is a Chaldean symbol for someone undesirable. While this is probably entirely contrived and fabricated, it does make for an interesting back story and motivation for the killer.

This is a Spanish/Italian co-production that curiously never got a release in Italy. And while the giallo genre is usually thought of as exclusively Italian, this film proves that rare exceptions exist. Heck, it even has a very “gialloesque” title. Apparently the reason for Italy’s involvement was to get around Spanish censorship. In actual fact, the Italian component is quite slim — the Milan sequences are merely exteriors, with all the indoor shots done in Spain. Being in Spain was helpful, considering that Naschy was appearing in the now-forgotten “Tarzán en las minas del rey Salomón” (1974) at the same time.

The film has been described not only as a giallo, but more of a giallo / poliziottesco hybrid. And with good reason. Being largely Spanish rather than Italian, it could not be a pure giallo in the strictest sense. But moreover, the focus here is on the police and their attempts to catch the killer. In the giallo genre, the police are generally peripheral characters, with the central protagonist being an amateur, someone who just happened to see something or sense something at a certain moment. Rarely in those films is it the police who are successfully tracking the killer.

What you have to love about this film, if nothing else, is the use of an umbrella for a weapon. To me, that conjures up images of the Penguin (the Batman villain), but never before has it been so menacing as shown in this film. “Umbrella as weapon” is an interesting motif, and there are real examples in history of umbrellas modified to be guns. But this may be the first time we see an umbrella knife on film.

The music is from the CAM library, and you may have heard some of it before in Mario Bava’s “Kill Baby Kill” (which perhaps not coincidentally starred Erika Blanc) or Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace”. In fact, much of it sounds familiar, probably because it is so heavily recycled.

According to Mirek Lipinski, “Dragonfly” never saw a theatrical release in the United States, nor did it ever come out on video. Given how strong this film is among Naschy’s filmography, that is slightly shocking, but presumably Lipinski is correct. That makes the 2017 Blu-ray from Scream Factory all the more special. Between the crisp picture and informative commentary, it is clearly a must-have for fans of either Naschy or the giallo film.

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