Duccio Tessari’s 1971 thriller The Bloodstained Butterfly is a great entry point to the genre for those squeamish viewers curious about gialli but not willing to commit to the more violent entries known to more ardent fans. The film is part murder mystery, part courtroom drama and part revenge flick, all stylishly shot and scored to excellent effect.
It’s also a bit of a slow fuse to its conclusion, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The film’s structure where a murder is committed and witnessed, a suspect is caught, tried and jailed, but more murders take place is yes, pure TV drama stuff you’ll see on way too many episodes of whatever Law & Order series you’ve been hooked on for who knows how long. But, Tessari’s confident style comes through in every shot, making for a highly watchable viewing experience.
The film’s focus shifting to a rather offbeat family and their proclivities adds another layer to the film, setting up a revenge angle of sorts that ends things on a more or less strangely satisfying vibe, although fans of closure may have an eyebrow floating above their foreheads. Thanks to the score by Gianni Ferrio, the word “operatic” springs to mind more than once, I’ll venture if asked. Oh, you asked? Well, I ventured. Look, just play along, okay?
The cast here does an overall fine job with the material, but I’d give Helmut Berger the gold star for portraying various degrees of sexy and creepy too well. As the unfortunate victim, Carole André is as lovely as a sunrise and seeing her on screen each time leaves a lingering sadness that permeates the entire film. It’s a somewhat different take on the standard gialli formulae where some women are presented as beautifully disposable commodities (even when a woman is also the killer). In fact, the mostly bloodless crimes here are a direct opposite to many gialli where new viewers will probably have a pillow partially covering their faces during the more shocking moments.
As this is another stunning Arrow Video restoration, not only do you get excellent image quality, you get some essential bonus materials on that Blu-Ray:
- Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original Italian and English soundtracks in DTS-HD MA mono 1.0
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- New audio commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
- Murder in B-Flat Minor, a new visual essay on the film, its cast and crew by author Troy Howarth
- New career retrospective on director Duccio Tessari
- Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
- Gallery of original promotional images
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
I usually find these special features so appealing that I often watch them first, then the films they’re attached to. This time, I stopped a few minutes into the ones here because I didn’t want anything spoiled. Thankfully, I didn’t get to anything too revealing ruining the surprises TBB had in store. If you’re a fan of crime dramas, but not a fan of the flowing vino, The Bloodstained Butterfly should be right up your alley. Bring a few friends along on your little trip to Italy, as those alleys tend to be darker than usual.
Review disc provided by the publisher.