”I believe this is the most sophisticated and crystallized thriller of the entire Spanish filmography.” -Paul Naschy, during an interview with Bob Sargent's classic magazine, Videooze.
Not sure about that at all Paul, my deluded Iberian chum!
Paul Naschy has never been one of my favourite Euro-actors for a number of reasons. One is that he seems to take himself far too seriously in most of his roles, bringing a level of pomposity to his performances that most of his films simply don't deserve. Another is that he is a dead-ringer for my uncle, and seeing as though my Uncle wasn't shagging all kinds of gorgeous Euro-totty during the seventies, I find it a bit difficult to believe that this short, barrel shaped big-mustachioed ex-bodybuilding Spaniard had quite as much luck with the ladies as he would have us believe!
Saying all that though, I really love his film A Dragonfly for Each Corpse. Most of Naschy's best work was directed by Leon Klimovsky, and this particular effort is a real change of pace for the pair of them.
The film is not a typical Spanish production, in that it is a slavish copy of the Italian gialli of the seventies. Even the film's title is designed to sound like the classic Italian films, obviously influenced by the likes of Argento's Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Cat O`Nine Tails, amongst others. The storyline is not unfamiliar to fans of the genre. A masked killer is appalled by the morals of today's society, and takes it upon himself to rid Milan of scum of the earth such as drug-takers, people with loose sexual morals, and hippies amongst others.
He follows and kills a drug-addict, dispatching him with a large-handled sword. He then kills a prostitute with a spiked umbrella to the stomach, and then, to cap it off, he hacks up three drugged up hippies with an axe. At the scene of every murder he leaves the titular blood stained dragonfly on the victim's bodies as a bizarre calling card. Enter Inspector Scaporella (Paul Naschy). His police career has been in the doldrums lately, presumably because he can't interrogate a suspect for more than five minutes without beating the living shit out of him. The case proves to be a very difficult one, but, luckily, Scaporella lives with his girlfriend Silvana, whom he discusses the case with at great detail, and she is quite the amateur sleuth, helping him to move the investigation forward with her intuitive ideas.
When even this doesn't work, he goes to dinner parties with his girlfriend and their friends, openly discussing the finer points of the case with them. Now, I'm not sure exactly what Italian police procedure was in the seventies, but I suspect that revealing vital parts of the investigation to all and sundry was not part of it!
The murders continue apace, the most eye-popping being when a prostitute is hired by a client to play dead in a coffin, but the killer appears and hacks her to pieces while she is still in the coffin.
A Dragonfly for each Corpse is a great thriller, albeit one that contains amusing dubbing and some horrendous seventies fashions, the finest item of retro-clothing being the killers bright orange flares and Naschy's ladies pinny that he wears whilst doing the dishes!
The violence is luridly staged and is well over the top, the dialogue is amusing, and Naschy is far more tolerable than usual. The identity of the killer is not as easy to guess as some of the other films in the genre, and I actually found the finale to be quite thrilling, not a phrase I ever thought I'd use when discussing a Klimovsky/Naschy production. I wish the pair had made more giallos than this one, but the only other Naschy film of this nature that I am aware of is Seven Murders for Scotland Yard which I have yet to track down.
The version I have reviewed here is the UK release on the Video Unlimited label, and, as far as I know, it's the best English language version available by a country mile.
I'm sure that as more Naschy films get a DVD release that this will be one of the first titles to be picked up, but, in the meantime, do try and track this down in some shape or form- it's well worth the effort.