Blu-ray Review: The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection (1969 – 1972)

July 27, 2020

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

As you may infer from the name of this collection, Italian horror maestro Umberto Lenzi and Pennsylvania-born actress Caroll Baker worked on a film or four together… and my fabulous freaky fiends at Severin have boxed ’em up with plenty of extras and sent them out the diabolical door!

Let’s kick off our look at The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection with 1969’s Orgasmo!

High-maintenance and horny widow, Kathryn West(Baker), heads down Italy-way to shack up in her rich late old geezer’s posh-ass Villa. And there she stays, painting, lounging, being annoyed by her perpetually bitchy maid Theresa (a fantastic Lilla Brignone) and generally being bored off her tits.

All that changes when equally horny, sports car enthusiast Peter Donovan (Lou Castel) breaks down right in front of our heroine’s front gate; an event that leads to some soggy sexcapades in a steamin’ hot shower (the water of which, must be noted, is drank by Donovan before he starts a-drillin’… “just a quick sip, then slip ya me tip”).

Soon Donovan has moved from his apartment (an environment festooned with pop art, an antique piano, and that bastion of quality design choices; a mannequin torso featuring nippies and a big ol’ biggity-bush… thumbs way up for that decor mate!) to Kathryn’s villa, and the duo are soon joined by Donovan’s hip n’ sexy sis, Eva (Colette Descombes)… well, he says it’s his sister… I mean he definitely fucks her, so there’s that…

Speaking of fucking, soon all of them are doin’ the big “It” together… but while that is going down those sinful sibs keep Kathryn a prisoner in her own home by keeping her plied with booze and pills… but what is their endgame… and are they who they say they are?

Filled with groovy characters, an eclectic score, and  oh-so-mod fashions, Orgasmo is definitely a tacky, colorful product of it’s time. This is pop art film-making by way of Gothic thriller and it’s pretty goddamned irresistible!

Lenzi gets his heroine all wrapped up in the “lone girl in the ornate old dark house trope” and lines up all of the genre’s greatest hits, but sets a lot of the action in the bright sunshine… which in a way makes our amoral characters all the more sinister; they need no deep, dark shadows to hide their crimes… they just do what they want, when they want and simply will not deny any hedonistic excess they can absorb like pleasure vampires.

Adding to the fun is a great performance from Baker who gets to run the gamut from cocksure heiress to strung-out maniac (complete with ghoulish make-up) in a fun, juicy performance. It must also be said that her co-stars are equally up to the task… though they don’t get nearly as much range to play with as Baker.

As for special features, we kick things off with an in-depth audio commentary courtesy of film critic/author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas that is absolutely jam-packed with facts about the film and Lenzi himself during this period of his career.

Following that we get an archival interview with Lenzi, the film’s X-Rated cut (with an equally informative optional audio commentary from Mondo-Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson & Troy Howarth; author of So Deadly So Perverse: 50 Years Of Italian Giallo Films that places an extra emphasis on the film’s varied release history along with the normal cast and production anecdotes), and the U.S. theatrical trailer.

Also included is the film’s soundtrack on a separate CD that takes us through Piero Umiliani’s outrageous score that is equal parts fuzzy guitar, up-beat jazz, and that intermission music from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.



Next up comes So Sweet… So Perverse from 1969 as well…

Jean ( Jean-Louis Trintignant), a richie rich Parisian playboy, sticks his nose (and eventually more of his anatomy) into the affairs of Nicole (Baker)… a terrified young woman suffering at the hands of her abusive boyfriend Klaus (Horst Frank).

As stated, Jean is not one to turn down some trim (marriage is just a piece of paper, right?),so he begins stickin’ it to Nicole… but, darlin’ Nikki is not as helpless as she seems; as she and Klaus have it in their heads to strike it rich by murdering our horny “hero”.

Things get complicated when Nicole develops feelings for her intended victim… but that’s just one twist as the plot sickens my cats n’ creeps! Will Nicole be felled by her own plot, or is she more devious than anyone could have ever guessed?

Now I can hear you lot now: “Uncle Danny XIII… this would be my favorite film of all-time if a woman at an upscale cocktail party just got all naked and shit, and sang a song with giant, misplaced, butterfly pasties on.” I hope your arcane asses are wearing loose trousers…

So yes, we get the above stated madness, but we also get a whole hell of a lot more with So Sweet… So Perverse including a duo of great performances courtesy of Baker at her wicked best, and Erika Blanc as Danielle, Jean’s wife who is living two very different lives… performances that also provide a great chemistry between the two in the scenes they share.

As terrific as the aforementioned thespians are, the curvy narrative they play within is equally fantastic  with a plot that goes places that constantly keep the viewer off guard… and just when you think you’ve guessed how it’s all gonna play out shit changes with the quickness!

Also of note, that signature item of the giallo, the black leather gloves, makes an appearance here.

Once again, this Blu has some great special features, with an excellent and ultra-informative commentary provided by author Kat Ellinger… who as you lot are most likely aware, is my fav commentator in the biz today as she always provides tons of facts in an engaging fashion!

After that we get interviews with Lenzi (a chat from 1999), and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, as well as a duo of trailers (one in English, one in Italian), and the original Italian credits for the film.

Also included is a CD containing music from So Sweet… So Perverse, A Quiet Place to Kill, and Knife of Ice.



Following that we get 1970’s A Quiet Place to Kill:

Helen (Baker) is, insanely enough, a race-car driver who’s hell-on-wheels lifestyle takes a hit when she crashes her high test ride and is ordered to take a powder by her doctor. One stolen car and ditched boyfriend later, our heroine arrives at her ex-husband Maurice’s (Jean Sorel) posh villa which he shares with his new wife Constance (Anna Proclemer).

Turns out ol’ Connie is rich as fuck, and has paid off all of Helen’s considerable debts… and loathes the womanizing, gold-diggin’ Maurice as much as our heroine does. The two bond and plot the demise of Big M, but that plan goes sideways as all fuck when Connie goes tits up during their murder attempt. Oh Helen, you aren’t takin’ it easy at all!

As is the way of this collection, this is a flick filled with beautiful people doing ugly-ass things on the regular. Speaking of that “beautiful” part, this cast has that in spades; Baker and Sorel look great together, and have rock solid chemistry, as does Baker and Proclemer… and Marina Coffa as Constance’s daughter Susan is fantastic too as she begins inserting herself into Helen and Maurice’s biz.

As for the ugly, the murder plot, and the way it gets totally out of control is a fantastic bit of storytelling and the suspense of how it will play out is pretty damn gripping… and Susan’s increasingly vindictive ways of dealing with Helen provide plenty of entertainment value as well!

Also high up on the “entertainment value” scale are the outrageous fashions, tacky interior design, and the obligatory dance club sequence (using the same damn song as Orgasmo) that assault the eyes and good taste in various and sundry delightful ways!

On the negative side, apparently rich people shoot pigeons so they don’t just go around murdering people… it makes zero sense, and is as hilarious in concept as it is revolting in execution.

Naturally we also get a fair share of bonus material along with all of the hot n’ heavy action listed above, starting with a fantastic audio commentary provided by Diabolique magazine associate editor Samm Deighan that provides an in-depth look at the film’s production, themes, and place in giallo history… a great listen that will definitely enhance your appreciation of the film.

Also included are another brief archival interview with Lenzi, an alternate clothed take of one of the film’s nude sequences, the film’s credit sequence sans the psychotronic negative effect it normally possesses (as well as the sequenced sourced from a VHS release of the film), and a deleted scene.



Lastly comes Knife of Ice from 1972:

First things first, Knife of Ice opens with some rather unpleasant footage of a bullfight… I could’ve done without it, but your mileage may vary… anyway, the title theme song is awesome, so there’s that. Anyway…

Jenny Ascot (Evelyn Stewart), one of your famous-as-fuck singer-types, heads out to visit her mute cousin Martha (Carroll Baker) at her pad located in the Pyrenees.

I have to stop the sinister synopsis right here and mention the photo Jenny gives to Martha… it’s supposed to show her emotionally singing a song… but instead looks as if she just gambled on a fart and lost… here, look at it for yourself (also my phone takes shitty quality pics from my TV screen, so ignore that image quality, dig?):



So yeah, Martha can’t speak because she witnessed her parents getting killed-as-fuck in a train crash… moving on:

Jenny and Martha notice a mysterious stranger while heading to the villa, but surely nothing will come of that… well nothing except the murder of Jenny (shut yer ass, this is Act One shit)… and a local teen (who is both blinking and breathing as corpses so oft do).

But fret not, as the local geniuses on the police force think they already have their man; a local transient Satanist (named Mason… but not because of Charles Manson… nope, not one bit… ) they believe is some sort of drug-fueled murder machine… but is he the actual culprit… or could it be the town doctor (Franco Fantasia), or Martha’s chauffeur (Eduardo Fajardo), or perhaps the eccentric occultist (George Rigaud) who’s opinion is sought out about the case… I’m not telling you because you’d get all pissy.

Honestly, Knife of Ice is my least favorite film featured in the set (with A Quiet Place to Kill being my pick for best of the bunch)… that being said, I still dug on it heaps!

The reasons behind my feelings on this are two fold; I really hated that bullfighting footage, and I feel there were a plot point or two that were a tad too on the nose.

Back with the positives; straying a bit from the exotic locales (here the deep woods and mountains take center stage quite beautifully) and the sexed-up lives of leisure of the previous three outings, the fashions and tackiness are tempered some, but the change in setting and tone was refreshing, and seeing Baker emote with only her gestures and expressions proved how solid of an actress she is.

There’s also plenty of Gothic thriller ambiance on display in the form of dark and stormy nights, mist enshrouded grounds, and heavy shadows… but the real winner in this one for yours cruelly is Mario Pardo as Mason; a completely ludicrous hippy with deformed pupils and a real hard-on for black magic… I seriously could have gone for an entire film featuring this freaky fool!

As for bonus material on this disc, there is no audio commentary offered this go around… but we do get another archival chat with Lenzi, as well as an interview with author Stephen Thrower where he examines the Lenzi/Baker collabs in devious detail!

Also present are the film’s trailer and original credit sequence.



If you are lookin’ for entertainment both groovy and ghoulish (the best kind!) look no further than  Severin’s The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection; it’s a colorful fantasmagoria of female flesh and frenzied murder biz that’s sure to please!


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