The Bloodstained Butterfly Blu-ray Review

Arrow Video serves up an unusual giallo with Helmut Berger and Evelyn Stewart

When is a giallo not a giallo? When it is director Duccio Tessari’s The Bloodstained Butterfly. The 1971 film is a lurid combination of procedural crime drama and courtroom thriller with some nods to standard giallo conventions. It’s probably wrong to call Tessari’s film a pure giallo in the tradition of Argento and Bava. Arrow Video continues to reissue a slew of Italian films from the early Seventies and this is a more off-beat selection.

A man is arrested and tried for a teen’s murder, only for a similar murder to occur while the man is in custody. There is more to this case, including an array of potential suspects. This mystery thriller anticipates the growing interest in forensic police science seen decades later in film and television. As a giallo it’s a lesser entry in the genre, preferring to save its punches for a gruesome final act. Its suggestive title misleads the movie’s true design.

The Bloodstained Butterfly is almost an ensemble-driven whodunit. Seventies heartthrob Helmut Berger (Dorian Gray, The Godfather: Part III) is featured alongside familiar genre stars Evelyn Stewart (The Psychic, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) and Carole André (Colt 38 Special Squad). It’s a strong cast, one of the film’s biggest strengths. This is a well-acted drama and the cast plays it completely straight. There are no over-the-top performances of the kind you normally see in giallo films.

The film opens with a teen female student savagely being killed in a park. The culprit seems obvious to the police, television sports anchor Alessandro Marchi (Giancarlo Sbragia). It’s revealed Alessandro may have been her lover and his daughter was friends with the dead student. He was seen fleeing the park by numerous eyewitnesses and stands trail for her murder.

The Bloodstained Butterfly grudgingly accepts its giallo designation in its final act with more relish.

The Bloodstained Butterfly’s first two acts are fairly clinical for a giallo, more interested in forensic details of the crime and courtroom exchanges than bizarre murders. A series of revelations come to light at trial that throws everything up in the air and reveals damaging personal information about Alessandro.

Helmut Berger plays Giorgio, a sensitive pianist with a dark personality who likes wandering around town. Giorgio has started up a romantic relationship with Alessandro’s teen daughter Sarah (Wendy D’Olive). An aristocrat with wealthy parents, Giorgio’s role in all this is shrouded in mystery. He is involved with one of the more disturbing sex scenes ever seen in a giallo, which is no small feat.

The police are befuddled when a similar murder occurs while Alessandro is locked up, throwing doubt on his guilt. The Bloodstained Butterfly grudgingly accepts its giallo designation in its final act with more relish. A number of red herrings and loose plot threads then come together in twisted conclusions.

If you come into this movie expecting a slasher flick loaded with mindless deaths and shocking visual imagery, you will be disappointed. The Bloodstained Butterfly is a fairly interesting crime procedural with a few giallo elements, though none are particularly well implemented. The final twist is mildly disappointing. This is for fans of precise forensic science and courtroom drama, done in a more lurid exploitation style.

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Video

Arrow Video’s The Bloodstained Butterfly arrives on Blu-ray from a new film restoration taken from the original elements. This is a solid, film-like presentation of softer cinematography. The 1971 giallo had its original 35mm 2-perf Techniscope camera negative scanned in 4K resolution. The 1080P video offers steady picture quality from stable elements.

The 2-perf Techniscope cinematography is beautifully lensed for vintage Italian genre filmmaking. That format isn’t known for its outstanding detail or lush clarity, which translates on Blu-ray into decent texture and average color saturation. The picture tends to be flat and dull. Contrast and black levels are adequate. Shadow delineation is fantastic for this kind of fare.

The Bloodstained Butterfly looks better than ever in this new restoration but simply isn’t demo material. The transfer shows few obvious signs of overt filtering and processing. This is not the sharpest or most colorful giallo, but it retains a stately elegance. Like almost all Arrow Video presentations, the AVC compression is flawless and perfectly captures every detail.

Audio

Both the original Italian and English mono soundtracks have been restored for this disc. Each is heard in fine-sounding 1.0 DTS-HD MA choices. The mono mixes include clean dialogue and decent fidelity. Some minor sync problems are evident between dialogue and the actors’ lips. That is not unusual in vintage Italian productions as all audio recordings are dubbed.

If I had to pick between them, the English dub sounds better. It’s both technically and subjectively a better listening experience.

Optional English subtitles display in white within the scope framing at all times. Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack are also included.

Extras

Arrow Video’s The Bloodstained Butterfly comes with a DVD and Blu-ray. This is an extensive set of special features with one of the longer interviews recently seen on home video. Ida Galli discusses her entire career in film and remembers what she can about her role in this movie. This isn’t the greatest movie but Arrow Video puts out a nice package of A/V quality and thorough supplements.

Alan Jones and Kim Newman are no strangers to Arrow commentaries, they’ve become regulars by this point on Arrow Video Blu-rays.

  • Murder in B-Flat Minor (26:56 in HD) – A new visual essay on the film, covering its cast and crew by author Troy Howarth. This is a nice piece exploring Tessari’s film in the context of the greater giallo movement of its day.
  • A Butterfly Named Evelyn (54:45 in HD) – Interview with actress Ida Galli in a comprehensive discussion about her career.
  • Me and Duccio ((8:21 in HD) – Interview with actress Lorella de Luca on her husband Duccio Tessari.
  • Mad Dog Helmut (17:33 in HD) A new interview with actor Helmut Berger. Berger speaks in English in this recent interview as he recalls working on the film.
  • Introduction (01:22 in HD) – Helmut Berger gives a brief, rambling intro before the film plays.
  • Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
  • Gallery of original promotional images
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
  • Limited edition 36-page booklet illustrated by Tonci Zonjic, containing writing by James Blackford, Howard Hughes and Leonard Jacobs. It comes with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin and (first pressing only) a 36-page booklet illustrated by Tonci Zonjic.
  • Audio commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

  • The Bloodstained Butterfly
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Summary

An atypical giallo that is more procedural than pure slasher, bolstered by a strong cast.

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