Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guest Review: John Plumley on A DRAGONFLY FOR EACH CORPSE (1973)

Believe it or not, Parishioners, not EVERYONE has a blog. But Naschy-fan John Plumley didn't let that stop him from dusting off the keyboard and banging out a couple thousand words about his love for Jacinto's 1973 giallo! We think everyone should be given a chance to express their love of the Naschinator--after all, we can't all be blogging superstars, now can we?--and therefore we've given John the forum he needs to express his love in public. So parishioners and subjects, please give the man your attention, and your love, and read on!

NOTE: Guest Author John Plumley got the blogging bug after contributing this post to the Naschy Blogathon, and has started his own site. Check it out at!

A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1973): or, Paul Naschy brings the insect giallo thing to a whole new level.

First off, allow me to say thanks to the Duke of DVD and Vicar of VHS for organizing this Paul Naschy Blogathon and for allowing me to guest review a Paul Naschy film on mmmmmovies. It is an honor to (in a sense) graffiti my name onto the walls of the church of Mmmmmovies, a blog I consider to be an excellent source for low budget movie reviews that manage to be hilarious without tearing the films down at the same time. Also, it was great to come across a blog run by reviewers who I felt shared my enthusiasm for Paul Naschy. I’ve always wanted to write a movie review and I feel that this is a great place to start. I am a graduate student who finds a good deal of reprieve from the daily stresses of research and schoolwork by watching horror and thriller films.

The film begins on the streets of Milan with a lovely lounge cue suitable for the films era. We eventually come across some late night activity between 2 individuals on the street where it becomes obvious that they are involved in a drug deal and we get the sense that they are being watched. The buyer is then followed home by a silhouetted stalker carrying what appears to be a scimitar. It turns out that this buyer is a heroin abusing artist who lives with his grandparents and is about to become a victim for the killer. Our victim in this case is tripping balls after sampling the new merchandise and completely helpless when the killer proceeds to strike (although given his current state of Euphoria, I doubt he minds all that much). This results in much blood splatter over the artist’s own painting of a nude on the wall. You know, the type of perverse painting that is bound to cause a faceless, black gloved, scimitar wielding giallo killer to do what he or she does best and that’s to entertain the viewers with a grand death scene. More blood splatter ensues before a bitchin musical piece (that one may recall from another classic Paul Naschy film Human Beasts) begins to play over the intro credits.

An excellent opener just in the 1st four minutes and we’ve already received a good dose of what us giallo fans came for and we still haven’t gotten to Paul Naschy yet, the most likely reason most would go through great lengths to find such an obscure film.

During the following scene, what appears to be a frightened elderly man is being led to an interrogation room where we are finally introduced to a mustached, cigar chomping, tough as nails police inspector who goes by Paolo Scaporella, played by non-other than Paul Naschy. Paolo gets rough with him and grunts phrases like “This time I’ll send you to the judge alive and kicking,” and “the next time I catch you, I’ll split your head open.” This scene would be bound to induce screams and cheers in a movie theatre setting which would then be followed by laughter when we learn that the old man being interrogated is an exhibitionist who can’t help exhibiting himself in front of women and children???!! As always, Paul has made one hell of an intro by already delivering in spades (script wise and acting wise) in just the first 15 seconds of screen time.

You did not just crap your pants in my office!
After dealing with the exhibitionist, Paolo is sent to the commissioner who reveals to him the photo of victim #1 in this giallorrific piece of entertainment, and claims that the victim was a professional drug addict!!! I haven’t the slightest idea of what would qualify one as a professional drug addict, but I am impressed that the Milan police department considers drug addiction a profession. Anyways, we find out that he is not victim#1 but is a second victim with a similarity from a previous killing where a dragonfly was found on the corpse, this justifying the film’s title.

"Honey, we need to talk....It's either me, or your precious cigar."

The film then cuts to a night club that is full of that 70s euro night club atmosphere fans of the genre (like me) find very attractive and irresistible. We eventually come to a delicious looking red head, sitting alone at the bar complaining to the bartender about how not one guy has come near her all night. Listening to this you can’t help but wonder what type of night club this is, where a beautiful young lady is left alone all night at the bar. Well we learn she is actually a prostitute when the bartender alerts her that her pimp, who goes by Mohammed, will have an attack if she doesn’t bring the money in. The bartender then reveals that he too is in the business of girl managing and insists that she work for him. After an argument ensues, she leaves and is followed out of the club by Eduardo Calvo an actor I see frequently in Naschy’s films. Hmmm…..corrupt, immoral, and attractive. It should be obvious who the next victim for our dragonfly killer will be.

After walking out of the bar alone before much else happens she is murdered via a pointed umbrella to the stomach. The killer then proceeds to drop the rubber dragonfly calling card and we immediately cut to the commissioner and inspector Paolo contemplating the motives of the dragonfly killer. At this point it becomes apparent to the good inspector that the killer is targeting people with vices. This presents a conundrum, because if you think about it the killer is helping the police in a way by helping eliminate drugs and prostitution from the streets but it’s through means of a crime considered much more serious. You can’t help thinking Inspector Paolo would agree when he refers to the drug addicts and prostitutes the killer is targeting as “all garbage.” Nonetheless, the commissioner puts Paolo on the case and thus begins the investigation.

"If it’s a severed head, I'll be very upset."

We then go to Paolo’s apartment where he is playing the role of homemaker, cooking spaghetti for he and his wife while catchy childlike music (I heard before in the ending to Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood) is playing. This gives this setting a feeling of nostalgia and atmosphere worth dying for. Speaking of worth dying for, it is a great honor to introduce someone who I believe to be a much underappreciated actress. This being the actress playing Paolo’s wife Silvana, the fiery red headed, bootylicious, Italian horror eurohottie, Erika Blanc (Check out The Devil’s Nightmare, The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave, and Kill Baby Kill, which was reviewed on this site previously by The Duke of DVD) looking űber attractive as always. The following conversation that ensues primarily has to do with a get together amongst all of Silvana’s high fashion friends. We are then bombarded with several names by Paolo’s wife, who are all most likely suspects to this 70’s style Paul Naschy edition game of CLUE.

This tender moment between police inspector and “best wife a man could ask for” breaks away to a 1st person perspective of someone breaking into an apartment. And …, wait a minute…., is that a Mick Jagger poster on the wall and are those naked youngsters passed out on the floor from too much drugs, sex, and rock n roll? "That’s right the immoral vice ridden type guaranteed to offend our dragonfly killer.” So it should come as no surprise when we are treated with a splendid axe murdering. This scene is made more horrific when one victim wakes up to what must be a terrifying sight of his beloved mates being hacked by our crazed axe wielding killer before being axed himself. After the deed is done, the killer doesn’t only leave a dragonfly for each corpse but mistakenly leaves behind a button. This being “a button of high craftsmanship and fashion” and “possibly from a woman’s coat” as stated by the inspector and police commissioner in an investigation scene that follows. This leads to the hypothesis that the killer could either be a woman or someone who wears a woman’s coat. Fortunately for the inspector, his wife Silvana knows a good deal of people who work in the designing world and is friends with a supposed well-known fashion designer who may have a colleague that could possibly know something about the button found at the murder scene.


Later, the film brings all the probable suspects into the same room for the get together with Paolo and Silvana and her high fashion friends she mentioned earlier. Among them are actors (Eduardo Calvo) seen earlier as a prostitute stalking night club frequenter who so happens to be a professor known as Sandro Campitelli, Angel Aranda, a few others I wasn’t able to identify, and Spanish horror regular Maria Kosti who is always a welcome presence as far as I’m concerned. We are able to get acquainted with all the faces of the suspects as they discuss the recent killings and the possible significance of the dragonflies. We learn from the professor that the dragonfly apparently represents ancient Chaldean rites where the dragonfly was a mark of punishment for anyone that was considered immoral. Assuming the killer to be following this ideology, members of this snobby meeting of the minds begin to point out that certain people present had better watch themselves. This suggesting that not all those present lead pure lifestyles and are capable of having the dragonfly badge sewed upon them. It is then pointed out by the professor that no layman could be familiar with such rites and because a professor is in no way a layman he unintentionally invokes teasing from one present that even he could be the killer. The teaser in this case happens to be Silvana’s homosexual fashion designer friend Vittorio Barucci who Inspector Paolo mentioned earlier as possibly knowing who the button, found at the murder scene might belong to. Later Vittorio finds out who makes the button but when Vittorio and Paolo attempt to visit this button designer at his apartment they find out from the landlord that this button designer recently committed suicide. This results in the button clue not yielding any kind of lead for the investigation even though it still ultimately ends up being indirectly related to the killer’s identity.

Somewhere later in the film, we come to very vintage style strip club with yet another scintillating red head on stage, sporting one of those waist bracelets that render her even more irresistible. In the crowd is the professor speaking to Mohammed. Recall that Mohammed was described as a pimp who tends to lose his cool when his girls aren’t making him enough money or as we find out later, pesky police inspectors who meddle in his affairs. In this scene, the professor is in the middle of a deal with Mohammed and is anxiously awaiting an expensive evening with the lovely maiden on stage. The professor demands that she be in a coffin and because of this he must pay even more money because as Mohammed puts it “Necrophilia is a very expensive vice.” As our lovely stage performer is in her room awaiting the good professor to come and collect his due services, she is brutally murdered in a surprisingly gory scene complete with a graphic hand severing. It should become apparent at this point that the professor seems to have a penchant for following prostitutes, with the killer usually showing up in his place. Hmmm, a red herring? Most likely.

While contemplating the identity of the killer, Paolo foolishly doubts a woman’s intuition, as the dragonfly count increases.

Seeing that the latest victim was another prostitute, inspector Paolo decides to question the girls working for Mohammed. Paolo eventually gets information from one girl that he can meet this Mohammed at some warehouse where the inspector later gets roughed up by Mohammed’s Nazi cronies as a warning to leave Mohammed alone. This provides the motive for what occurs in an infamous scene that follows. In the scene, inspector Paolo and his wife are sitting down to dinner, with Erika Blanc looking most attractive by sporting pigtails, a great tan, and a fabulous blue dress. In order to help alleviate all the stress Paolo is going through working on the dragonfly killer case and because it also happens to be his birthday, his wife has decided to have a present delivered for him to their apartment that just happens to be running late. When the present does arrive, Paolo opens it to find that his present is the severed head of Mohammed adorned with a dragonfly. It turns out that Silvana’s present was swiped out for an endearing gesture from the killer. I mean wasn’t it Mohammad who had Paolo beaten and battered recently.

"Check out my new gun flashlight!"

We eventually find out that professor Sandro Campitelli is in fact a red herring after all, when he contacts the killer by phone and tries to blackmail this person claiming to know his or her identity. Anyone knows that the dumbest thing you can do in this type of film is to attempt to blackmail the killer, a surefire way of becoming the next victim. After meeting up with the killer, who happens to be in a gorilla suit, at a creepy afterhours fairground setting, the professor does turn up dead, as do a number of other characters who claim to know a thing or two regarding the killer’s identity.

About three fourths of the way into the film when the J&B Scotch Whisky really starts to kick in, you’ll start to notice that this film is absolutely crazy! There’s so much going on. I mean characters keep turning up dead, you never see Paul Naschy’s inspector character without his cigar, The inspector’s wife gets involved in the investigation, and there are numerous subplots involving characters with double lives. One character who at first seemed pretty level headed, turns out to be a drug dealing transvestite who completely loses it while being pursued by the police, hops onto a rollercoaster ride (possibly to become a moving target??) and starts shooting at the police before being gunned down!!?? The plot is just a great head spinning mystery that ultimately leads to a killer climax (pun intended). A Dragonfly for each Corpse is how a great giallo should be and once again proves as the Vicar made a point of before in his review for The Hunchback at the Morgue that there isn’t anything Paul Naschy could not do. Yes, Paul Naschy pulled off a fine giallo (not just this one, but also 7 murders for a Scotland Yard, and Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll). I rate it 10 out of 10, 3+ thumbs, 6 out of 6 toxic barrels (points to anyone who can recognize what now defunct website that rating system belonged to), and 5 stars. Be sure to check it out.

Muchas gracias y adiós.


The Duke of DVD said...

Bravo, John! A most hilarious and thorough rundown you have given us! I'm quite the giallo fan, and the fact that Naschy has given the world a few to watch just warms my ancient bones.

Good work, sir, I loved it very much, and thank you for participating!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Duke, I am very flattered by your comment. I have enjoyed many or your works as well. I did have a lot of fun writing it and am thinking about starting up my own blog page sometime in the future. Thanks again, and keep the MMMMMovie reviews coming.

John Plumley

Giovanni Susina said...

Hello everyone, it’s the future and I have finally started my own blog. It's called AT THE MANSION OF MADNESS and I am writing under the nom de plume Giovanni Susina. If you enjoyed my review, you can find more at

Thanks to the Vicar for allowing me to post this link,
John Plumley

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