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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Bloodstained Butterfly

September 10th, 2016

The Bloodstained Butterfly - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Pack

The Bloodstained Butterfly

The Bloodstained Butterfly is a Giallo film made by a director, Duccio Tessari, who is known mostly for westerns. Does this result in a mismatch of tones? Or is the film a prime example of the genre?

The Movie

The movie begins with the camera following around a lot of seemingly unconnected people before settling in on a park. There, we witness a murder done by the world’s most incompetent criminal. He’s spotted immediately by two kids and their mother, before being spotted by a couple making out in a car, a man closing his window, and a balloon vendor while making his escape. Despite this, he managed to elude the police.

There’s plenty of evidence at the scene and we watch forensics deal with that, while a local TV crew films them. They struggle to get a lead, until one of the witnesses comes forward. The woman in the car was the only one who got a good look at his face. It’s Alessandro Marchi, a TV presenter. She didn’t come forward right away, because she didn’t recognize him, because she doesn’t own a TV. The evidence against Alessandro is overwhelming, but Alessandro’s defense attorney hopes to show the court he is innocent.

There’s not much else I can talk about without getting into spoiler territory.

The Bloodstained Butterfly is usually described as a Giallo film, but I don’t think that’s an apt description. When one thinks of Giallo, one usually thinks of films with an erotic, almost exploitative nature to the murders. They share a kinship with the Grindhouse genre and were popular in drive-in theaters. The Bloodstained Butterfly is more of a police procedural than a typical Giallo and that is actually one of its strengths. It treats the murder mystery aspect of the story with a lot more seriousness and that makes the mystery more engaging.

The film was directed by Duccio Tessari, who became famous for his work in early spaghetti westerns. Here he has an excellent eye for detail and highlights both clues and red herrings alike. It keeps you guessing until the end. There’s a surprise twist that is one of the best, and certainly one of the most unique, I’ve seen in a while. It will make you want to rewatch the film to check for clues. The acting is terrific and there’s really no element of the movie that’s a letdown.

The Extras

There are loads of extras on the Blu-ray, starting with an introduction by one of the stars, Helmut Berger. There is also an audio commentary track with two film critics, Alan Jones and Kim Newman. Murder in B Flat Minor is a 27-minute long “video essay” on the Giallo films in general and Duccio Tessari’s work in particular. It’s a great introduction to the genre, although it has too many spoilers for The Bloodstained Butterfly to watch ahead of time. There are three interview featurettes, the longest of which is A Butterfly Named Evelyn, which runs for nearly an hour. It features Ida Galli, the actress who played the wife of the lead suspect. (She went by the name Evelyn Stewart in most roles, hence the name of the featurette.) Me and Duccio is an eight-minute interview with Lorella De Luca, who is an actress and the widow of the director, Duccio Tessari. Finally, there’s an eighteen-minute interview with Helmut Berger. That’s a lot of featurettes and they are all interesting to watch.

As for the film’s technical presentation... the film was made in 1971, so while it has had a full remastering, it still looks a little old. For example, the colors don’t pop they way they would if it were made today. It’s a minor complaint, but one I felt I needed to mention.

The Verdict

The Bloodstained Butterfly is usually included in the Giallo genre of Italian thrillers, but it is less exploitative and more intellectual than that. The Blu-ray Combo Pack is loaded with extras, so it is easily worth picking up.

Filed under: Video Review, Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate, Helmut Berger, Duccio Tessari, Giancarlo Sbragia, Ida Galli