The Bloodstained Butterfly Review

As gialli go, The Bloodstained Butterfly (Una Farfalla con le Ali Insanguinate) is a slow burner and one that lacks the excitement of the deliriously extreme violence of latter-day Fulci, or the visual excess of golden age Argento and his imitators, but it does boast a tightly plotted script and an effective whodunit. The plot centres on the murder of a young French student, Françoise Pigaut (Carole André), in broad daylight in front of several witnesses. Their testimony helps convict Alessandro Marchi (Giancarlo Sbragia), a television sports presenter who is being cuckolded by his lawyer, Giulio Codrero (Günther Stoll). These extracurricular affairs mean that Alessandro's wife, Maria (Ida Galli), and his lawyer, are both more than happy to let him rot in a cell for the rest of his life. When subsequent murders are committed, however, doubt is cast on the conviction of Alessandro. Meanwhile, simmering away beneath the surface, is a subplot involving Alessandro's daughter, Sarah (Wendy D'Olive), and her boyfriend, Giorgio (Helmut Berger), a gifted but disturbed pianist with a dark secret...

This is all textbook stuff, for the most part, and director/co-writer Duccio Tessari is unlikely to win any points for originality. What makes The Bloodstained Butterfly interesting, however, is that, unlike most gialli, it places a strong emphasis both on the police procedural element and on the trial of Allesandro Marchi. Indeed, while at its heart I definitely consider this to be a giallo, the first act has more in common with the poliziotteschi filone than the amateur sleuthing that is the giallo's mainstay. Following Allesandro's conviction, the film shifts its focus to the antics of the rest of his family, but even then the mystery aspect plays second fiddle to what can only be described as a soap opera, the specifics of which would give any daytime talk show host a run for their money.

The story may unfold at a decidely leisurely pace, but our attention is held by Tessari and cinematographer Carlo Carlini's impressive camerawork. This is one of those films that absolutely has to be experienced in its original Scope aspect ratio to appreciate the intricate compositions, which frequently feature action taking place at the far left and right edges of the frame. Tessari's style is more muted than that of most giallo directors at this point in the genre's cycle, but in technical terms, at least, the end result is incredibly slick and polished. Special mention must also go to Gianni Ferrio's work on the soundtrack, which makes repeated use of Tchaikovsky's Thematic Concerto No. 1 in conjunction with a more traditional giallo score. Tessari also manages to ellicit some impressive performances from his cast, with Helmut Berger doing his best "intensive" routine, while Wendy D'Olive is very easy on the eyes and has the acting chops to match. Only Giancarlo Sbragia strikes a dull note, coming across as spectacularly wooden in even the most intense scenes.

The Bloodstained Butterfly fails to fit comfortably into either of the two general categories of giallo, since it doesn't have the extreme sex and blood required for it to be one of the trashier entries, while it also lacks the substance the characterises the best examples of the more serious affairs of the genre. Still, it makes for an interesting diversion from the usual fare and, while it's not the sort of film that inspires a 1,000 word review, it's definitely worth a look for staunch giallo fans.

DVD Presentation

Manga Films' R2 Spanish release of The Bloodstained Butterfly (as Una Mariposa con las Alas Ensangrentadas) arrives hot on the heels of Medusa's Italian version, which by all accounts boasted an impressive transfer but failed to provide any English audio or subtitle options. This is rectified by Manga Films, who provide an English audio track, but unfortunately their transfer leaves a great deal to be desired. It's non-anamorphic, lacking detail, and has been sourced from a rather beat-up print with faded colours.

In addition, some noticeable jumps in the audio lead me to suspect that this release might have been cut - something which the listed running time of 95 minutes for the Italian DVD, versus 89 minutes for this version, would seem to confirm, although it's unclear whether or not that 95 minute running time is accurate. I will be ordering the Italian version fairly soon, and if it turns out to include material that is missing from the Spanish DVD, I will adjust this review accordingly.

Bonus features on this release are limited to some perfunctory cast and crew listings and filmographies (in Spanish, of course).


At this moment in time, this Spanish release seems to be the only way of experiencing The Bloodstained Butterfly in English and its orginal aspect ratio. Unfortunately, it is a pretty disappointing release all round, meaning that, for those who understand Italian, Medusa's R2 Italian release of the film would appear to be a far better choice. Hopefully, one of the US-based Euro-cult suppliers like Blue Underground or NoShame will pick up the rights to this title before too long.

By the way, most viewers will probably find that Spanish subtitles are forced on this release if they select English audio. There is, fortunately, a fairly straightforward workaround for this problem:

1. Select "Idiomas/Subtitulos" (audio/subtitles) from the main menu.
2. Choose "Ingles" (English).
3. Select "Pelicula" (Film).
4. Immediately, go back to the Main Menu.
5. Select "Idiomas/Subtitulos" (audio/subtitles).
6. Choose "Sin Subtitulos" (subtitles disabled).
7. Return to the Main Menu.
8. Select "Continuar" (continue) to return to the film.

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Last updated: 24/06/2018 08:22:36

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