León Klimovsky, 1974
Starring: Paul Naschy, Erika Blanc, Ángel Aranda
The hard-headed, somewhat controversial Inspector Scaporella is selected to head up the investigation of a series of murders. The only clue is that the killer leaves behind a dragonfly ornament or elaborate buttons on each corpse. The victims are all prostitutes, strippers, and drug users or dealers, dispatched in a variety of brutal ways. Scaporella’s lovely girlfriend, involved in the fashion world, thinks she can help narrow down the clues.
Star Paul Naschy co-wrote this Spanish and Italian co-production oddly set in Milan. As with his previous giallo, Seven Murders from Scotland Yard, this film is not quite as polished or stylized as its Italian brethren. The killer of course wears the trademark black leather gloves and there are some nice set pieces, but the direction from León Klimovsky is fairly pedestrian. He and Naschy collaborated together a number of times, though this is far from their best work.
The script is certainly not perfect, though it is an improvement on Seven Murders for Scotland Yard. This borrows more heavily from the standard giallo and follows the formula used in films like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Black Belly of the Tarantula, Case of the Scorpion’s Tale, and others, though it is held back by some nonsensical elements and a few plodding scenes.
Naschy gives an energetic performance that is far from his tragic, brooding roles in the El Hombre Lobo series or even Seven Murders for Scotland Yard. Here he is unabashedly heroic and spends a lot of time involved with machismo posturing, chomping on cigars, and engaging in fisticuffs. He also has some great chemistry with the lovely Erika Blanc (The Devil’s Nightmare, Kill Baby Kill, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), who plays SIlvana, his girlfriend and crime-solving sidekick. To contrast with Naschy’s machismo, she spends the film changing in and out of elaborate outfits, or simply sitting around at home topless (or naked) while helping Paolo find the killer. Their relationship has a slight Nick and Nora vibe, with plenty of comic relief while Paolo hits the streets and Silvana sleuths at home.
To the film’s credit, Silvana figures out the identity of the murderer before anyone else and keys into the primary clues, which Paolo ignores. Though giallo is a fairly misogynistic genre and there is a certain amount of railing against or exploiting the female characters, Silvana clearly out-thinks her detective husband. He doubts her, but comes around just before it is too late. They also have some adorable domestic scenes that cement their chemistry, including one where he cooks her a pasta dinner.
A lot of what makes A Dragonfly for Each Corpse so enjoyable is the silly acting and ludicrous, quotable dialogue. There are plenty of sleazy elements, including a gang of Nazi bikers who come from out of nowhere, a transvestite chased through a fair and onto a roller coaster, and a fabulous necrophilia subplot that results in the film’s most creative death scene. There are a wide variety of weapons used, including an axe, spiked umbrella, sword, and knives, though the film isn’t overly gory.
This comes recommended to all Naschy and giallo fans, though giallo completists will enjoy it more than newbies. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be available on region 1 DVD, though it is floating around online.