11/29/10

Dragonfly For Each Corpse (1974): Paul Naschy Buttons Up His Giallo

When I heard the Duke of DVD and the Vicar of VHS were holding a Paul Naschy Blogathon, I jumped at the chance. It was not merely because Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies is one of my favorite sites, but also fortuitous since I had come into possession of a long awaited  Naschy film, A Dragonfly for Each Corpse [Sp: Una libĂ©lula para cada muerto], thanks to my good friends at Cinema de Bizarre. This Spanish entry into the Italian Giallo genre intrigued me instantly when I saw the title, but once I found it starred everyone’s favorite Waldemar, Mr. Naschy, and Kill, Baby, Kill babe Ericka Blanc, I knew I had to check it out. However, I did wonder if I would just be waiting for the moon to change and for Paul to be in desperate need of a Schick.

Naschy stars as Inspector Paolo Sarsaparilla a hard as nails cop who only shows his tender side when at home with his fashion designer girlfriend Silvana played by Erica Blanc. Paolo is called in to head up the investigation into a string of killings known as the “Dragonfly” murders targeting prostitutes, homosexuals, drug users, and other “deviant” groups. The killings got their catchy name from the only clue, a figurine of the insect left at each murder, but when Paolo discovers a second clue, a “high fashion” button, it draws Silvana into the investigation. When one of her friends becomes a target, she takes a much more active interest. Namely, staying up late into the night, nude and examining pictures with a magnifying glass. On the streets, Paolo continues to find bodies (and finds time to his ass kicked by a Nazi gang.) all of which leads him to believe that the killer is someone he knows.

This is what I would call one of “those” gialli. There’s plenty of sleaze, with numerous Spanish actresses (and Erica Blanc) shedding their clothes. There’s murders a plenty. The body count is high with the killer racking up thirteen kills before it’s all said and done, and the gloved fiend seems fond of everything from axes to sword tipped umbrellas. There’s so many red herrings that you could make an incredible Swedish stew. There’s also no reason to worry about why one of the suspects makes his escape on a roller coaster. Most importantly, Dragonfly for Each Corpse is one of those gialli which upon close examination and rapt attention to the plot makes not a damn bit of sense. This drives some people to distraction, but I was generally so distracted by the film’s oddball set pieces to care who the killer was going to end up being.

Naschy, barrel chested and cigar clenched in his teeth, instantly obliterated all memories of his Werewolf films, and despite the spurious dubbing, I really enjoyed his performance. His loose cannon cop at first (until the murders get personal) seems to condone the killers choice of victim delivering lines like “He’s cleaning up the city.” like it was a good thing. The other delight of the film is Erica Blanc. Her character acts as a more undressed version of Nora to Naschy’s far from suave Nick, and her storyline really keeps the second half of the film from being something more than just a stack of bodies. The rest of the cast, comprised of a generally solid group of Spanish actors, keep the film interesting with a variety of imaginative if not always perfect performances.

Prolific Argentinean (by way of Spain) director Leon Klimovsky, who worked with Naschy on eight occasions, paired with cinematographer Miguel Fernandez Mila, Martino’s lensman for All The Colors of the Dark. I could never accuse Dragonfly as having the same stylish notes as one of Sergio’s giallo, but this Naschy giallo manages to be sleazy, but well shot sleazy. (Though the print, ripped from an early ‘80’s VHS, could use some serious love,) Dragonfly for Each Corpse wins a prize for one of the more evocative names in the giallo genre, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Italian films it seeks to imitate. That being said, I found it to be entertaining, a tad comical, and chock full of enough good flourishes to encourage others to check it out. While Paul Naschy will always be known as the king of Spanish horror, Dragonfly proves that he is an actor full of surprises, and if you don’t believe me head on over to MMMMMovies and check out all the entries to Blogathon. There’s been some amazing stuff, and even more to come!

Bugg Rating 

4 comments:

  1. Very cool, I covered this film as well for the Blogathon! Looks like our copies were different as mine was the alternate 'clothed' version.
    We seemed to enjoy pretty much the same aspects of the film including, "Her character acts as a more undressed version of Nora to Naschy’s far from suave Nick, and her storyline really keeps the second half of the film from being something more than just a stack of bodies." I absolutely agree. I really loved the relationship between Naschy and Blanc and thought it was the highlight of the film. Your THIN MAN reference is brilliant.
    Great stuff...I'm glad I am not the only one who covered this minor, if still cool, Giallo.

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  2. Jeremy,

    Thanks for your comment. I am semi obsessed with The Thin Man films (and specifically Myrna Loy), and I am so glad you approve of the correlation. Thanks for coming by to comment, and I enjoyed your post as well.

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  3. Nice movie review! Looking forward for some of your post!

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  4. I'm way late with my gratitude here, TL, but thanks so much for contributing to the blogathon! And with such a great review, as well. :) People who know Naschy only as "that Spanish werewolf guy" are really missing out on some great performances, and this one is right up there. I loved the Perpetual Cigar gag here (he even smokes in the bathtub!), and his clenched teeth/moustache look reminds me of a beefier J. Jonah Jameson, though the physique is more Kraven the Hunter. (Oh man, just saw the whole imaginary movie version of KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT with Naschy in the lead role in my head! What a movie that would have been!) I also thought the chemistry between Naschy and Blanc was great, and the "escape via roller coaster" had me laughing out loud, and not in a derisive way. As Jeremy pointed out in his post, there's a good deal of humor in this script, and I think Naschy would be happy so long as the audience left the theater smiling. :)

    And thanks for the kind words about MMMMMovies! Proud to be in your company in the LOTT D!

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