Pretty French student Francoise (Carole Andre) is stabbed to death one rainy afternoon in an Italian park. The police are quick to arrive on the scene but the killer gets away. Several witnesses later report having seen a man in a beige raincoat fleeing the scene.

Forensic tests on the switchblade found beside Francoise's body reveal a set of fingerprints. These lead the cops, led by Inspector Berardi (Silvano Tranquilli), to middle-aged TV presenter and married man Alessandro (Giancarlo Sbragia). He also owns a beige raincoat, knew the murdered girl - she was a friend of his own daughter, Sara (Wendy D'Olive) - and can't account for his whereabouts on the afternoon in question.

In court, the prosecution has a field day: the evidence certainly appears to be stacked against Alessandro. Family friend Giulio (Gunther Stoll) is a respected defence lawyer and does his best to discredit the prosecution's case. But the jury returns a unanimous verdict of "guilty" and Alessandro is thrown into jail. Berardi is confident that he's nailed the right man.

But then ... another murder occurs. In the same park, and in the same manner. With Alessandro safely locked up behind bars, Berardi and his team have to consider the fact that their murderer may still be at large. Among the suspects are Sara's new boyfriend, budding pianist Giorgio (Helmut Berger); Alessandro's cold fish of a wife, Maria (Ida Galli); her secret lover Giulio...

THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY is a lesser-known giallo from 1971. Directed by the late Duccio Tessari (A PISTOL FOR RINGO; PUZZLE), it's an unusual addition to the genre. It fuses expected giallo conventions - a paradoxically soothing score, courtesy of Gianni Ferrio; eroticised violence; sumptuous photography; a plethora of suspects - with intricate police procedural detail and a hefty dose of courtroom drama.

This leads to a non-linear approach to Tessari and co-writer Gianfranco Clerici's storytelling, flashbacks and split narratives muddying the otherwise simple plot wherever possible. Introducing the main characters individually at the film's start is another unusual, if surprisingly effective, move. And yet, because of the unconventional time-hopping and mixing up of genres, we never truly get to know any of them. Giorgio is ostensibly the main character, but he gets to little more than brood intensely or run around for the most part. Alessandro doesn't even speak until midway through the film, his personality kept to strictly one-dimensional even when we start to think we should be sympathising with him. Everyone else feels even more peripheral to proceedings, resulting in a mystery-drama-cop procedural lacking in the focus required to hook its viewer.

Also light on violence and relatively humourless in tone (save for a cringe-worthy running gag between the cops about the quality of the cups of tea at their police station), THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY isn't one of the giallo greats.

Fortunately the whodunit element is just about strong enough to hold the attention, as are Ferrio's grand score (a fusion of lounge jazz styling and proggy rhythms) and Carlo Carlini's exquisite cinematography. The first murder scene is a bravura set-piece moment, while a convincing moment of sexual tension between Giorgio and Sara arrives at the right moment, just as the film is really threatening to drag.

THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY makes its worldwide HD debut courtesy of Arrow Video, who are releasing it in a dual-format blu-ray and DVD package in both Britain and America. We were sent a copy of the blu-ray disc for review.

It houses the film, uncut, as a nicely sized MPEG4-AVC file. Presented in 1080p HD and in its original 2.35:1 ratio, Benefitting from a new 4k restoration from the original negative materials, the film looks insanely good. Clean, clear, sharp, detailed ... all of this while retaining a satisfyingly filmic, natural texture throughout.

Audio is spot on too. We get options of Italian and English-dubbed soundtracks, in HD mono. Both are clean, consistent mixes. The former is clearly the way to go if you don't want your drama to be hampered by the odd inappropriate voiceover. Also, the optional English subtitles which complement the Italian track reveal that the English dubbing takes several liberties in its translation (even going so far as to change certain script details like dress sizes and times of day).

The disc opens to an animated main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection option allows access to the film via 12 chapters.

A fine selection of extras begin with an optional 82-second introduction from Berger. He doesn't seem to like the film much, suggesting Tessari's mind was on other things at the time of shooting. Ironically, Berger seems distracted himself here, appearing to lose his train of thought at least twice. Look into those eyes though: this guy is fierce!

Kim Newman and Alan Jones provide a typically energetic, informative and often amusing audio commentary track. Jones cites this film as one of his favourite gialli, before going on to explain why through discussions on the music, the unusual plot dynamics, and the intriguing cast. It's a great, friendly chat track and is filled with insight alongside funny observations.

Troy Howarth is on hand for an excellent 27-minute visual essay entitled "Murder in B-Flat Minor". He starts with a light-hearted disclaimer warning of the spoilers to come, before expanding upon this film's place within the pantheon of giallo cinema. Going on to proffer more information on the cast and crew, as well as exploring the film's themes, Howarth is an engaging and informed host. His efforts are complemented by clips and stills, chiefly from BUTTERFLY.

"A Butterfly named Evelyn" is a whopping 55-minute interview with Galli. She's credited in the movie as being 'Evelyn Stewart', hence this feature's title. This is a warm, sincere interview which not only spans the gracious actress' career but her interesting life as well. In Italian with English subtitles.

"Me and Duccio" follows - an 8-minute interview with Lorella De Luca, who was married to Tessari. Again in Italian with English subtitles, this offers some most welcome stories about how the pair met, her admiration for the director and how their careers complemented each other's.

Uwe Huber interviews Berger in the riveting 17-minute featurette "Mad Dog Helmut". Both parties speak in English (Huber remains off-screen, until the closing credits); this is priceless stuff, the legendary actor - SALON KITTY, FACELESS, THE DAMNED etc - makes for a brutally honest, charismatic interviewee. Hearing his views on the likes of Tessari, Brigitte Lahaie and Tinto Brass is fascinating, as is his revelation that he turned down the lead role in the latter's CALIGULA. His bemusement at the fact that he hardly has any lines in BUTTERFLY is an amusing highpoint.

A promotional gallery of 10 stills (lobby cards and poster art) is followed by Italian and English theatrical trailers.

Although unavailable for review purposes, this release also comes with a DVD containing the film and extras in standard definition, double-sided reversible cover artwork and a collectors' booklet containing writing by James Blackford, Howard Hughes and Leonard Jacobs.

THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY looks great on Arrow's blu-ray. Fans will be delighted not only by the masterful presentation, but also the fine array of extras on offer.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Arrow Video
Region B
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review