Hispanic horror stalwarts Leon Klimovsky and actor-screenwriter Paul Naschy - a.k.a. Jacinto Molina - gave werewolves a rest to try their hands at a Spanish-made giallo. Of course with General Franco still on the scene a Barcelona-based bloodfest was out of the question hence Una libélula para cada muerto (A Dragonfly For Each Corpse) is set in Milan. A hippie heroin addict becomes the latest victim of a mysterious killer seemingly out to rid the city of its “undesirables” in various gruesome ways. A maniac who leaves behind a small glass dragonfly on each corpse. Assigned to investigate is cigar-chomping, mucho macho Inspector Paolo Scaporella (Paul Naschy) whose sole clue is a discarded button his sultry fashion designer girlfriend Silvana (Erika Blanc) deduces comes from a woman’s coat. The trail leads Scaporella deep into a seedy underworld where it transpires several of his wealthy, respectable friends harbour dark secrets that may have something to do with the maniac’s murderous rampage.
This was actually Naschy’s second attempt at mimicking Italian horror-thrillers, coming after his modern day Jack the Ripper tale: Seven Murders for Scotland Yard (1971). Naschy and Klimovsky have clearly studied their giallo films very closely and include all the usual ingredients: outrageously convoluted mystery, a high fashion jet-set backdrop, killer’s P.O.V. shots, plus the genre’s typical simultaneous condemnation and wallowing in sadism and sleaze. The film proves rather more garish than most Italian efforts and is distinguished by several notably eccentric aspects: a killer who pairs the regulation giallo black coat with blazing red flared trousers; Scaporella’s shootout atop a rollercoaster with a transvestite drug-trafficking clown (?!); a Nazi street gang of white slave traders led by a high class pimp whose severed head the killer sends Scaporella as a birthday present!
As screenwriter Naschy is dwells on a theme that the haute bourgeois are wanton hedonists who basically deserve what they get. Scaporella is cast as a Charles Bronson style tough guy, barely restraining his outrage while he trawls through the underworld. He seems to endorse the murderer’s activities, referring to victims as “scum” and remarking “we’ve got to admit this killer is cleaning up the city.” As if to underline this point every one of his friends turns out to be leading a seedy double life. There’s Vittorio the camp homosexual in a flamboyant yellow caftan whose apartment is an even bigger eyesore. Married Claudia (Susana Mayo) is having an affair with playboy Armando, whose own wife Ingrid (Maria Kosty) is carrying on with the aforementioned transvestite drug-trafficking clown. What’s more the token intellectual in the group, the elderly professor who provides a frankly incoherent explanation for those dragonflies, is unmasked as a sleazeball who frequents strip clubs and has a necrophilia fetish. And he’s a blackmailer to boot!
Though it’s never dull, Klimovsky’s direction is off-form and Naschy’s script meanders through a lot of tedious soap opera sub-plots between killings. Euro-horror vamp Erika Blanc is initially wasted in a cutesy role until she turns detective (whilst studying clues naked in bed!) and deduces who the killer is. Of course Naschy ensures she still plays damsel in distress throughout the rather perfunctory climax.