The Bloodstained Butterfly is the latest restored giallo cinema coming at us from Arrow Video, a distributor always showing an appreciation for the genre with the also recently released Death Walks Twice collection and even pinnacles of the genre like Deep Red in the UK. Directed by Duccio Tessari, The Bloodstained Butterfly still has many of the beats and tropes found in typical giallo films, but it also subverts the genre in a few ways by completely ignoring some of the other rules put in place by traditional giallo. Focusing more on the law and order process than lavish set pieces of murder, The Bloodstained Butteryfly feels more like an episode of Law & Order than it does a film like Tenebrae. What this gets us is a movie that, while not as lavish or excitingly violent as Dario Argento or Mario Bava’s field of work, is no less flamboyant, visually appealing, and filled with intriguing story.
The story of The Bloodstained Butterfly is one of criminal process. After a young women is killed in a park a TV personality is quickly arrested and tried for the crime, but with murders still continuing during the courtroom proceedings the real mystery of the killers identity truly begins. The Bloodstained Butterfly is much less concerned with giving us an elaborate murder set piece and instead enjoys focusing on how to mold a suspect’s footprint or showing off new mass spectrometer technology. The only credit at the end of the film is a thank you to an Italian forensics department for their assistance on the film, so the clues involved in solving the mystery are used in a realistic way.
The Bloodstained Butterfly is the antithesis of the giallo genre in some aspects, lacking much of the violence and a central character to drive the unfolding mystery forward. Typically, this role is filled by an attractive female with no relation to the murder or detective background who gets wrapped up in the killer’s world and takes the case into their own hands. The Bloodstained Butterfly works much more like an ensemble, bouncing from point of view to point of view of all players involved. We spend as much time with the accused in the courtroom dealings as we do the young female witness to the crime, her lover, or her mother. It’s definitely a different speed of giallo, moving along much more like a police procedural than the roller coaster spectacle of twists and turns a lot of the genre offers.
While the lack of bloodshed and different approach to storytelling may turn off the more rabid cinema and giallo fans, there is still a lot to enjoy in The Bloodstained Butterfly. It is filled with some clever cinematography that makes a story that could be rather boring more fun to view, and comes with a score that ties everything together perfectly. If you’re a giallo purist (and I’ll admit that I’m in the camp), The Bloodstained Butterfly may not be for you, as overall it does feel a bit dry. If you’re a completionist, then The Bloodstained Butterfly is definitely worth giving a shot if you want to see another side of what the genre can offer. It retains the stylish camera work, excellent score, and the slightly convoluted storytelling the genre is known for while slowing the pace down and letting the performances and criminal investigation process truly carry the film.
Picture quality on The Bloodstained Butterfly is fairly great throughout, with Arrow Video knocking it out of the park with a 4K restoration from the original camera negative. I do question the 4K restorations of some of these older films though, as there is some heavy grain in certain scenes that give the film an overly soft look. The image itself is incredibly clean, with damage or scratches non-existent. The Bloodstained Butterfly is a wonderfully shot film like most giallo cinema with good use of more muted color but full palette, and some swift camera movements that add elegance to this slower paced affair.
Audio on this release of The Bloodstained Butterfly sounds great, with both the original English and Italian audio tracks to choose from. Both dialogue tracks have solid volume levels, and after watching the full English version for review, I can even say the dubbing isn’t the worst thing to hit 70’s Italian cinema. The most important aspect of the audio here (as with all giallo) is the wonderful score by Gianni Ferrio (Death Walks at Midnight). Gianni Ferrio’s funky blues and jazz infused riffs are excellent here and add an almost noir type sound to the films music.
In what should come as no surprise at all to Arrow Video fans, The Bloodstained Butterfly comes in their standard thick clear case with dual sided artwork on the sleeve; it is the the standard of quality we’ve come to expect from Arrow Video. Also packed in the dual disc set are a 30-page essay booklet that Arrow seems to only be printing for the first pressing of all future releases. If you are like me and need to have the booklets for your must own titles, you may want to pre-order those moving forward.
As is typical with these Arrow Video giallo releases there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained here, not just on the films released but the genre as a whole and what The Bloodstained Butterfly does to subvert those expectations. The Bloodstained Butterfly packs its discs with a nice big handful of features that will please collectors and giallo enthusiasts alike that really dive into the filmmaking and what makes The Bloodstained Butterfly stand out in the genre.
– New audio commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
– Murder in B-Flat Minor, a new visual essay but author Troy Howarth
– Mad Dog Helmut, a new interview with actor Helmut Berger
– A Butterfly Named Evelyn, a new interview with actress Evelyn Stewart/Ida Galli.
–Me and Duccio, an interview with Lorella De Luca, actress and wife of director Duccio Tessari.
Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative presented in 2.35:1 1080p HD
Original Italian and English soundtracks presented in DTS-HD Master Audio mono 1.0
1 Blu-ray disc
1 DVD disc
While a long shot from the blood covered spectacles the genre is known for, The Bloodstained Butterfly offers a refreshing change of pace to the typical Italian thriller. For Blu-ray and Arrow Video collectors this gets a recommendation as it continues their high standards of release quality while showing off one of the more under-the-radar gems of giallo cinema. While this certainly isn’t one I’d recommend as the jumping off point for a first comer to the genre, if you’ve gotten your feet wet with the heavy hitters available The Bloodstained Butterfly is more than worth your time.
You can grab your copy from Amazon right now!