Diplomat's wife Julie Wardh (Edwige Fenech) has just arrived in Vienna with her husband, who is taking up a post there, but she may have shown up at the wrong time for the city is gripped with terror thanks to a serial killer on the loose and murdering young women in the area. Mr Wardh (Alberto de Mendoza) is a busy man, and is stopped at the airport by his staff who ask him to head to the office immediately, so he has to leave his wife to go on alone to their home. On the taxi ride through the night, she is alarmed when the car stops, but it's the police doing the stopping - the killer has struck again...
Also known by the snappier title Next!, this was one of the giallos that Fenech made for director Sergio Martino, securing her place as one of the actresses most strongly identified with the genre. This wasn't among her more celebrated roles however, as it failed to reach the twisted heights of some of the better regarded efforts from this era, although the twists were there should you be looking for them. With a title like The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, you would have thought her main character was a bit of a perv, and that was what the filmmakers were counting on to draw in the punters, but the truth is a little different.
Sure, Julie has some very odd dreams of a sadomasochistic variety, but not that many, and much of the time is dedicated to her applying herself to pursuing as normal a life as she can. Making this difficult is an old boyfriend trying to insinuate himself back into her life, and we see in a quick flashback that he was very rough with her, which is both the cause of those dreams and the reason she is so embracing a life with a boring, older diplomat who can provide her with a quiet existence from then on. There are hints that Julie has a secret yearning for a more exciting life, though not so much that she is prepared to give up her fresh start.
It's just that she needs more company than her husband can offer, and this becomes a particular problem when the razor killer starts on people she actually knows, making her suspicious that one of the men in her life could be the culprit. She's sort of right about that, after all the premise of many a giallo was a whodunnit, and also wrong, such are the convolutions of the last act which see a few revelations designed to leave the audience reeling, yet put over with such matter of factness that they may amuse you, but you couldn't really call them all that shocking. If anything, the paranoia that they illustrate is more absurd than likely to give you the chills that were evidently intended.
When Julie visits a party early on, she is pleased to be introduced to George (top-billed George Hilton), the cousin of her best friend Carol (Conchita Airoldi), both whom have newly inherited a large sum of money. Carol is about the only friend she has as far as we can see, but being a young woman with plenty of time on her hands Julie begins to contemplate an affair with George, and he's suave and sophisticated enough to look like a decent proposition, plus, you know, the money. Alas, that bad boy from her past Jean (Ivan Rassimov) is at the party as well, and though she manages to avoid him she wonders if it is he who keeps sending her flowers, and more importantly, as she knows he likes it rough, could he be the killer? And does he have Julie on his hitlist? Say this for Martino, he did come up with something that could have been strictly by the numbers and spun it off into a bizarre direction, yet it's not quite enough to make for unmissable entertainment. Music by Nora Orlandi.