It must have been a great deal of fun dreaming up new titles for the gialli that proliferated in the early to mid 1970's. Never short and snappy (well, bar TORSO (1973), I guess!), but usually tongue-twisters evocative of bloodshed, big hair and those groovy tunes you just can't stop humming. And, A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE is no exception: a catchy title and even catchier incidental musak.
This Spanish/Italian co-production (that curiously never got a release in Italy) is set in fashion capital Milan, where a mysterious killer - in eye-catching red flares, no less - is harvesting the city's 'undesirables' with an impressively eclectic arsenal. The first victim is a drug addict who is splashily dispatched by the killer wielding an ornamental sword (held with the de-riguer black leather gloves), when he returns home from scoring. Next, a prostitute is offed with a deadly umbrella (a blade popping out of the tip). Both bodies are discovered adorned with a glass dragonfly pendant, left as a calling card by their assassin.
The police investigation is led by the barrell-chested Inspected Paolo (Spanish horror icon (Waldemar Wadinsky himself!) Paul Naschy), a cigar chomping, nonce slapping whirling dervish of testosterone. It doesn't take him long to deduce what's going down, "All the victims were directly linked to the underworld.", he muses. "He's cleaning up the city!".
As the bodies continue to pile up (next up three hippies are axed to death in a post sex/drugs stupor), Paolo is assisted in his investigation by his buxom girlfriend, Silvana, the irrepressible Euro-Babe Erika Blanc (so memorable in the semi-giallo THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (1971)). Perky and enthusiastic it seems she likes nothing better than a bit of topless armchair amateur sleuthing! ... Paolo and Silvana are part of Milan's smart set (including a sweaty lipped, mustached professor who's a dead ringer for Jess Franco); they gather at a dinner party and discuss the case and the significance of the dragonfly pendants over garish coloured cocktails. However, it soon transpires that all of the guests have their own 'vices' and secrets to hide, meaning that any one of them could be next on the killer's shit list.
The only firm lead that Paolo has is when a "high fashion" button is left at the scene of one of the murders, presumably by the killer (Chunky fashion buttons? Voluminous red flares? My money was on Jan Brady!). He enlists the help of the flamboyantly camp fashion designer, Vittorio, to try and track down where the button comes from; which, in turn, leads to more bodies piling up as the killer desperately tries to keep their identity secret ...
A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE is an odd fish, as it were. Despite being set in Milan and being an Italian co-production it's Spanish roots shine through. It's difficult to pin-point what sets it apart from other gialli; perhaps it's the fact that it's slightly less polished, not quite as classy as most of other comparable titles. Having said that it is its earthiness which makes it interesting. Naschy makes a likeable, if cocksure hero; more emotionally rounded than first impressions would suggest (he displays a light comic touch with his scenes with Blanc, and it's a nice, if somewhat surprising touch that his character is so comfortable around the evidentially gay Vittorio).
Amidst a soundtrack of easy-listening corkers ("La-la-la!") there's some standout trash scenes: my favourite probably being the exotic dancer who gets more than she bargained for when, post burlesque, she settles down into a nice frilly coffin for some necrophilia sexy game play with a client with a penchant for girls who play dead. Unfortunately for her, the killer has plans to turn the game play into a gory reality! There's also a bonkers scene when Paolo chases a bow-legged - and very unconvincing - transvestite through a fairground, ending up with that old fave: the shoot out on the roller coaster. Add to that there's gang of Nazi bikers running around just to confuse matters.
A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE is certainly no classic: the script is routine, and it trundles rather than sprints between each set piece. However, despite some leadenness, there's plenty of classic giallo slasher action and there's much to enjoy here for Naschy and 70's trash fans alike.
female:4 / male:9
1) Male hacked to death with a sword
2) Female stabbed to death with blade-tipped umbrella
3) Female hacked to death with axe
4) Male hacked to death with axe
5) Female found hacked to death with axe
6) Male found decapitated
7) Male found dead
8) Male strangled
9) Male found stabbed to death with blade-tipped umbrella
10) Male shot and falls from roller coaster
11) Male attacked with golf club
12) Female found with throat cut
13) Male falls to his death and impaled on spikes