In Dublin, a maniac splashes acid on a young woman’s face before slashing her to death with a razor. Her mutilated corpse is discovered in the back of a limousine belonging to haughty Swiss ambassador Sobieski (Anton Diffring). The ambassador, his family and their employees all become suspects, even though all have diplomatic immunity. Faced with this problem, the supervising investigator enlists help from John Norton (Luigi Pistilli), an ex-Inspector known for his brutal methods. While Norton develops a romantic attachment to the ambassador’s beautiful daughter, Helene (Dagmar Lassander), the gruesome killings continue.
Veteran Euro-horror director Riccardo Freda was more comfortable with gothic fare and costume adventures, but since such genres were out of fashion by the early Seventies he gave giallo thrillers a go. His previous effort, Double Face (1969) had been a largely listless affair which leaves the marvellously-titled The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire somewhat livelier by comparison although still slipshod and no example of Freda in his prime. Indeed, it’s a matter of some dispute among fans how much of this film Freda actually directed since it hails from a period when he is alleged to have let his daughter handle production duties and merely signed the end result.
Regardless of who was working behind the camera, the skilful scope framing is undercut by occasional incoherent editing and lots of none-too-subtle crash zooms on seemingly vital clues and shifty-looking supporting characters. Here, everyone is a suspect including Freda himself in a cameo as a hilariously over the top suspicious behaving doctor, and Inspector Norton whose elderly mother finds a bloody razor in his bathroom cupboard. Italian actor Luigi Pistilli is dubbed with a ridiculous oirish accent (“Well now my fleet-footed filly, are we going to have it off in the bushes?”) and despite mention of a murdered wife and traumatic flashbacks to the suspect who died in his custody, carries out his investigation by hanging out in pubs and shagging one of his chief suspects. Nice work if you can get it, but Norton makes for a less-than-scintillating hero.
Pleasing eccentricities like the old woman who fancies herself an amateur sleuth and a striking chase through the fog-shrouded streets of Dublin that ends with Helene dangling from a drawbridge, sit uneasily alongside pure sleaze. Notably an off-the-wall climax that finds a crazed, bald transvestite menacing Norton’s half-naked adolescent daughter. Freda amps up the gore with victims faces shrivelled by acid attacks, a close-up on a head wound being sewn up, a mangled cat’s corpse found in the fridge and at least two characters getting their brains splattered against the wall. If you’re down with that it’s a wild ride but those craving a coherent mystery should look elsewhere. At least giallo regular Dagmar Lassander makes a fetching female lead, disrobing for some steamy sex scenes or else modelling some seriously slinky fashions. The smooth grooves by Stelvio Cipriani are just as slinky.