Blue Underground // 1975 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // November 11th, 2005
"I'm too hot to be a corpse, baby!"
Title: 10. Movie: 5.
A woman dies of cardiac arrest during an abortion, and the doctor attempts to conceal his involvement by leaving the corpse in a tub of water in the woman's home. That same evening, the doctor is brutally murdered.
Thus begins a series of gruesome murders at the Albatross Modeling agency, the stomping grounds of shagadelic photographers Carlo Bianchi (Nino Castelnuovo) and Magda Cortis (Edwige Fenech), as well as assorted vapid models, scatterbrained assistants and the agency's domineering owner, Gisella Montani (Amanda).
That's plenty of fresh meat for a killer with an ax to grind. But who is behind the rapidly increasing pile of bodies? What is his (or her?) connection to the woman from the abortion clinic? And who will be the next to strip nude for her killer? (Cue bad porn music.)
From its lurid title to the schlocky cover art, Strip Nude for Your Killer makes no bones about its intentions. It promises to set its exploitation dial on full throttle and not hit the brakes until its very last European beauty has stripped for her...well, you know.
And oh! how it tries to fulfill that promise. Director Andrea Bianchi packs his picture with plump breasts and milky white bottoms (this film has more jiggle and bounce than your Aunt Fran's Holiday Jell-O Delight), and a masked assailant, nimble as a jungle cat, does prowl around panting and planting a switchblade in any and all exposed flesh. But, for all its effort, Strip Nude seldom approaches the depraved lunacy or delicious trashiness of its title.
Bianchi adds some effective touches, such as running faucets that eerily herald the killer's arrival, and murder sequences that are interspersed with quick flashbacks to the botched abortion. He also tosses in some blessedly weird flourishes to go hand in hand with the familiar giallo elements. We get the gloved killer, of course, this time sporting black biker regalia like Evel Knievel's naughty twin; a bevy of nude, full-figured ladies; and buckets of phony, Crayola-red blood. But we also get Albatross Modeling's lesbian dominatrix, and an odd -- yet oddly appropriate -- naked handstand (don't try this at home, kids). All this and more, accented with Berto Pisano's dated pseudo-porn score! Even without the benefit of macramé, retro seventies' disco chic never looked so hilariously square.
As Carlo and Magda, the two shutterbugs-turned-amateur-sleuths racing against the clock to expose the killer behind the helmet, Castelnuovo and Fenech find the right tone for the material (the less said about the rest of the cast, the better). Carlo is a swingin' cad, and Castelnuovo (worlds away from Catherine Deneuve and their colorful, music box The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) plays every scene with a wink and a smile as he zips gleefully from sexual conquest to sexual conquest, bloody corpse to bloody corpse. Fenech, a mainstay in European cinema, puts an unexpectedly comic spin on several throwaway lines, and she gamely drops her top for the sake of her art. Come to think of it, between the frequent occurrences of casual nudity and amorous tit for tat, the film's sexual frankness emerges as one of its most endearing qualities.
So why is the enterprise an overall disappointment? Strangely enough -- and may these words never again flow from my fingertips -- it is the film's admirable but unwelcome allegiance to story. Strip Nude wants to succeed as outrageous trash, but not at the expense of its skimpy, unexceptional plot. Who is picking off anyone with even the most tangential connection to Albatross Modeling, and who will be the next to buy the farm? The slutty ingénue? The aforementioned dominatrix? The assistant photographer who is so flaming he threatens to spontaneously combust? Who really cares? Not I.
But Bianchi forces his film to adhere to its rickety plot machinations at all costs (if you want to identify the killer, better to stick to process of elimination, as logic has no place here), and you can feel the film straining to derail and go flying in all sorts of gonzo, off-the-wall directions. Occasionally it does, such as when the killer pursues one portly victim who is clad only in tighty whiteys and clutching a blowup doll. During these moments, Strip Nude embraces its weirdness, and suddenly we're in funny, unpredictable John Waters territory.
Pity there aren't more of these. Instead, we get scenes intended to establish mood, to develop character. But they disrupt the film's groovy ebb and flow, and many are downright mean-spirited. The opening shot, silent and gorgeously filmed through a blue filter, appears to be on the verge of some kind of erotic fantasia, until you realize with distaste that you're witness to an abortion. Perhaps the most unnecessary offense, though, is Carlo's misogynistic tendencies. They're few and far between, sure, and more than likely they are intended to peg him as a potential suspect, but they're off-putting.
Next time, forget story. Forget character. I'll take my sleaze straight up and with a goofy grin, thank you.
Blue Underground has given Strip Nude for Your Killer a beautiful transfer. Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with an anamorphic transfer, the film contains the grain you would expect from a 30-year-old film, but the image is otherwise clean and clear, with bold colors and strong blacks. The Dolby 2.0 mono audio is serviceable, but a disappointment. The sound is muffled in spots, the dialogue occasionally unintelligible (and it's further hampered by some of the worst looping I have ever come across). The film would have benefited from subtitles, but none are provided. In a pleasant surprise for fans, the package includes the film's original, four-minute theatrical trailer, along with "Strip Nude for Your Giallo:" an interesting, 12-minute interview segment featuring actress Solvi Stubing and co-writer Massimo Felisatti. The two discuss the film's notoriety and the impact it had on their careers. It is brief, but well worth a listen.
Strip Nude for Your Killer aims for the rafters of grand high camp, but it never pulls out the stops. Still, this has become a cult film over the years, so there's apparently an audience for it. If you're part of that cult, rest assured that Blue Underground has done right by one of your favorites.
Guilty of not being guilty enough.
Review content copyright © 2005 Bryan Pope; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Strip Nude For Your Giallo -- Interviews with actress Solvi Stubing and co-writer Massimo Felisatti