Arrow Video: Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975) - Reviewed

Fran├žois Truffaut once said of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, "It was impossible not to see that the love scenes were filmed like murder scenes, and the murder scenes like love scenes...It occurred to me that in Hitchcock's make love and to die are one and the same."  Ever since films have been made, there has been a perverse connection between the violent and the erotic.  From 1931’s Dracula to 2016’s Neon Demon, instances of this connection have only intensified, and no genre exemplifies this better than that of the slasher film.

Andrea Bianchi’s 1975 giallo slasher flick Strip Nude for Your Killer is perhaps one of the most blatant films to show this sex/violence parallel.  It is sexploitation in the purest sense, enticing the viewer with bosoms galore, and then quickly revolting them with homicide in some sort of balancing act between arousal and terror.  It might not be fine art, but it is most definitely sordid excitement for the right audience.  

Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo), a somewhat lascivious fashion photographer, becomes entangled in a series of murders when people start showing up dead at the modeling agency for which he works.  The helmeted, black motorcycle outfit-clad murderer is hard for the authorities to pin down.  Alongside Carlo’s raven-haired assistant and eventual lover Magda (Edwige Fenech), the two attempt to identify the murderer before they become the killer’s next victims. 

This film is not for the prudish.  In the opening sequence, we bear witness to a botched back alley abortion, followed by a scene where we are introduced to our protagonist nearly stalking a buxom bikini-clad girl, taking photographs without her permission and ultimately screwing her in a steam room.  If this description makes you flinch, then stay away from the film.  For us perverts that decide to stick it out (no pun intended), we are inundated with more of the same:  unapologetic gore and gorgeous naked women (none of whom actually strip nude for the killer, contrary to the title). 

Despite being more flagrant in its sexuality than some of its peers, Strip Nude for Your Killer is nothing new.  Breasts aside, several elements of the film make it stand out and worth a watch for fans of the genre: the first of which is its decision to have no score during some of its kill scenes.  Suspense builds as we hear the murderer’s accentuated breathing beneath the helmet and nothing else.  This is a particularly effective strategy for building tension and quite different from a traditional horror film where composers make scores intensify and then climax during a murder: the Jaws theme, for example. 

The other aspect of this film that is noteworthy for its genre is its sense of female empowerment just beneath what one could easily deem complete female objectification.  The character of Magda, despite being sexually uninhibited, has a confidence and career-focused mentality about her that distinguishes her from many of the vapid victims in this film.  Speaking broadly to avoid spoilers, by the film’s conclusion, one could say there is an implication that feminine strength is a force to be reckoned with and not taken for granted.

Regardless of its somewhat redeeming qualities, the film lacks any sort of focus or depth.  None of the characters are empathetic (in fact, they are mostly deplorable), the tone is largely inconsistent, and the premise isn’t anything new.  At its worst, it feels like a softcore porn, and at best, it feels like a subpar giallo film.  Giallo is known for its rich visuals and creative kills, but this film has none of that.  If it weren’t for its stylish-looking killer, investigative nature, and the fact that it’s Italian, it bears no semblance to a giallo film, despite being referenced as one quite frequently.

The recent Arrow Blu-ray release is the finest this film has ever looked.  The 2K restoration makes the colors warmer and the sound effects crisper.  Like most Arrows, this Blu-ray is choc-full of extras:  it offers the option of either the English or Italian language version of the film, a choice to watch the opening sequence in a blue tint (which some prints featured), and an audio commentary by authors David Flint and Adrian J. Smith.  Sex & Death With a Smile, a video essay by critic Kat Ellinger, delves further into the connection between sex and violence in the giallo genre, in addition to exploring Edwige Fenech’s career.  Many extensive interviews are also included with this Blu-ray:  star Nino Castelnuovo, actress Erna Schurer, actor/production manager Tino Polenghi, and assistant director Daniele Sangiorgi all add insight to the film and their craft, making this Blu-ray a worthy buy for fans of the film.

While Strip Nude for Your Killer is flawed, it is a good time for audiences that aren’t easily offended and don’t mind a little smut.  It appeals to our most primal instincts, and is even good for a few laughs.  Cast your judgments aside and explore all that this Arrow Blu-ray has to offer; it might just leave you with a greater appreciation for the film.      

- Andrea Riley