Italian Horror Blogathon: Seven Bloodstained Orchids (aka Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso, Puzzle of the Silver Half Moons)
Lenzi starts us off with two quick murders (naked women, naturally) leaving us to believe that this is just going to be another piece of lurid Lenzi trash. However, he slows things down and begins telling a story that pulls you in. The procedural aspects of the giallo – influenced by the linear narrative tropes found in the German “whodunits” called “Krimi’s” – are almost tricky and usually convoluted to the point where they drag during these scenes; however, Lenzi’s pacing is really on-point here and the film feels more like the “classier” giallo The Bird with the Crystal Plummage (which had come out a year earlier) than some kind of trashy exploitation flick. Don’t get me wrong, Seven Bloodstained Orchids is trashy and exploitative in parts (what Lenzi film isn’t), but it’s not as trashy as something like his follow up gialli, Eyeball and Spasmo. Here, the story is efficiently told and the denouement – a critical part of any giallo – actually makes sense and rewards the attentive viewer.
The film’s most famous scene, however, is the moment where the black-gloved killer uses a drill to kill a woman. As the killer knocks their victim to the ground, Lenzi’s camera stays glove-level with the killer as it pans over to their selection of weapon: a power drill. Instead of cutting, Lenzi keeps his camera fluid here as it pans with the killer as they turn around to face their victim. Lenzi doesn’t keep the tension as unbearable as, say, Fulci would with the whole splinter-in-the-eye bit from Zombi 2, but he paces the death well enough so that the image of that drill lingers and is effective. To my complete shock, the scene isn’t at all exploitative in the sense that Lenzi’s future films – and the way he would have his camera ogle the deaths in his films – would be. It’s a quick punch-to-the-gut type of death scene (complete with fake-looking blood spurting).
However, when Lenzi decided to get back into the horror genre with the cannibal film, the exploitation shifted towards a violence against women (the Poliziotteschi could be misogynistic but more in that “Oh those pesky Italians” kind of way, whereas his horror films are pretty ugly in the seriousness of their misogyny) and innocent animals. Cannibal Ferox is one of the biggest wastes of celluloid, and his late-era slashers are just the shits. Only his goofy Nightmare City is noteworthy for at least being a fun midnight movie. So, his gialli fall more in step with his Poliziotteschi: stylized, violent exercises in exploitation, and Seven Bloodstained Orchids is one of his best – a worthy entry in the subgenre that would act as a good initiation picture for those unfamiliar with both Lenzi and the giallo. In no way should be considered a “lesser” giallo.