Blu-ray Review: The Bloodstained Butterfly

Giallo movies swept Italian cinema in the early ’70s as the Spaghetti Western craze was losing steam. The new genre traded in horses and gunslingers for switchblade knives and POV killers. Giallo provided both a mystery element of guessing the killer’s identity and fearing whether they will claim their next victim. While The Bloodstained Butterfly (Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate) has elements of the genre, it goes beyond the formula to be its own movie. There’s more here than a stylish body count.

Deep in a park, two little kids are playing hide and go seek. One raincoat wearing kid spots a woman’s murdered body is being dumped. The main suspect spotted racing away from the crime scene wears a beige trenchcoat and hat that makes him looks like a homicidal Inspector Clouseau. Normally in a Giallo movie, the main person pushing the investigation is a non-police detective that either witnessed a killing or was a missed target. Butterfly is all about the cops looking for clues. There’s a lot of time spent with the police forensic investigations unit in an era before CSI. This isn’t just about cops playing a bunch of gut hunches. The film hints that a non-cop character might be the true detective which is the norm for the genre. But we eventually learn that they are the real killer. A majority of the film takes place in the courtroom as a suspect is put on trial. A lot of the action is told in flashback as the investigation and trial proposes how the killing took place. The lawyers pick through the facts and propose the fictions in search of a guilty verdict. The last third of the film snaps things into here and now as another victim is targeted.

There’s no need to give away too much. This film is so amazing that it’s remarkable Law & Order: SVU didn’t rip it off for an episode. There’s just enough misdirection to keep you guessing without feeling cheated when the truth begins to be revealed. The Bloodstained Butterfly is a masterpiece of early ’70s Italian cinema that transcends the genre.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the details of life in Italy. Original Italian and English soundtracks in DTS-HD MA mono 1.0. The movie is subtitled along with any interviews done in Italian.

DVD has all features of the Blu-ray.

Introduction (1:24) has Helmet Berger remind folks that this movie is not for children.

Audio commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman. Jones has written a book on Argento. More important, he’s very knowledgeable about the film since this is among his favorite of the Giallo films. Newman admits he’s there to keep the conversation going. Jones has seen three different cuts of the movie. The one on the Blu-ray is the longest of them.

Murder in B-Flat Minor (26:56) is author Troy Howarth’s visual essay on the film. He warns of spoilers so watch the film first. Howarth gives a sense of history of the genre and how after Dario Argento’s Bird with the Crystal Plummage, producers, studios and distributors went Giallo mad. He gives background to the cast and crew.

A Butterfly Named Evelyn (54:45) catches up with Ida Galli. The interview covers her entire life. It’s in Italian with English subtitles.

Me and Duccio (8:23)spends time with Lorella De Luca. Besides acting, she was the director’s wife. She recounts how they met on a movie set. It was a few years before they started dating.

Mad Dog Helmut (17:33) recounts Helmut Berger’s time on the set. He had just rewatched the movie before the interview and realized how few lines he had. He admits to not worrying about the shoot because Tessari had the best crew in Rome.

Promotional Gallery contains 10 images from the release materials.
Original Italian (3:16) and English (3:16) theatrical trailers. The trailers are very operatic in score and scope of edits. You do get a true sense of the film that awaits.

Limited Edition 36-page booklet illustrated by Tonci Zonjic, containing writing by James Blackford, Howard Hughes and Leonard Jacobs

Arrow Video presents The Bloodstained Butterfly. Directed by: Duccio Tessari. Screenplay by: Gianfranco Clerici & Duccio Tessari. Starring: Helmut Berger, Giancarlo Sbragia, Evelyn Stewart, Wendy D'Olive & Silvano Tranquilli. Running Time: 99 minutes. Rated: R. Released: August 23, 2016

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