American viewers are getting treated to the Italian Giallo genre with high resolution transfers that haven’t been slashed apart like a gloved killer’s victims. Nearly all the top titles have been released in the last few years on home video. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop having fresh delights for Giallo and Gelato night. Because it turns out that there were quite a few second tier titles that were made in order to get booked in Italian theaters that wanted sinister delights on the screen. After the success of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plummage, producers and distributors were ready to jump on the new genre after the Spaghetti Western cycle was cranking down. They were eager to please with a movie that contained blood, flesh, mystery and a title that included an animal. The Iguana with a Tongue of Fire was exactly such a film. I’d recommend you start the viewing with a few scoops of Talenti’s Almond butter & honey gelato before hitting the play button.
The Swiss Ambassador (The Day the Clown Cried‘s Anton Diffring) in Dublin, Ireland wakes up one morning and gets a surprise of a dead woman in his official limo. She had acid thrown in her face and throat slashed so it’s a grizzly scene in the trunk. The ambassador isn’t eager to be drawn into a homicide case so he claims diplomatic immunity. He doesn’t seem a suspect except shortly after this killing, his mistress (All the Colors of the Dark‘s Dominique Boschero) gets murdered at her nightclub gig. Since the cops can’t investigate the ambassador, they bring in an ex-detective John Norton (Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key‘s Luigi Pistilli) to poke around the ambassador’s contacts to see what he can discover. Norton was kicked off the force when during an interrogation, a suspect stole his gun and blew out his brains. Not being a real cop, Norton finds himself getting extremely involved with the ambassador’s daughter (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion‘s Dagmar Lassander). Even with a semi-cop on the case that’s become tight with the family, the killer keeps claiming victims around the town.
The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is a gory mess on the screen in both graphic violence and plot. The razor slashing and acid burns get gruesome with blood flowing and flesh burning away. The script seems to just jump around. It’s probably best to first watch the movie on Blu-ray since you’ll want to replay the last ten minutes to figure out what exactly is happening. The finale does come off as messy as the crime scenes. But somehow the creepy charm of the film is that it’s rather clumsy. It feels as if I spoiled the ending right now, you’d still watch the film and be confused about the true identity of the killer. And if you think looking up the novel will clear up things, forget it. The producers lied that the script was adapted. Director Riccardo Freda (Double Face) also replaced his name with “Willy Pareto” because he was unhappy with the film. However, there’s nothing bland about the film. The weirdness of The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire adds to why it’s interesting to watch and not merely a dull money grab from an uncreative batch of filmmakers.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The resolution brings out the details of Dublin in the early ’70s. The film is a 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. The audio is Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio in both English and Italian. Luigi Pistilli gets dubbed with an Irish accent that seems kind of odd. When you chose the English or Italian version, you also get the titles and credits in that language. The movie is subtitled in English.
Audio Commentary by giallo connoisseurs Adrian J. Smith and David Flint. They have fun watching the film and trying to make sense of the film. It’s probably good to watch a second time with their commentary to get clued into a few scenes.
Of Chameleons and Iguanas (21:55) is a newly filmed video appreciation by the cultural critic and academic Richard Dyer. He tells the story of why the director had his name removed from the film. He talks of his fascination of the film and how it gets so confusing. Best to watch this after seeing the film.
Considering Cipriani (25:58) is a new appreciation of the composer Stelvio Cipriani and his score to The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire by DJ and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon. He feels Cipriani is underrated as a film composer. He was very prolific in soundtrack work including Death Walks on High Heels. Jon breaks down the different musical cues.
The Cutting Game (20:58) interviews Iguana’s assistant editor Bruno Micheli. He got his start working at Technicolor and decided to make the jump to filmmaker instead of developer because his sister was an editor. He and director Riccardo Freda cut the film in 15 days together.
The Red Queen of Hearts (20:38) sits down for a career-spanning interview with the actress Dagmar Lassander. She talks about stripping down on camera and working while pregnant.
Original Italian and international theatrical trailers (2:54) is pretty much the same trailer with different languages. They explain the Iguana business at the front of the trailer.
Image gallery is 22 photos, lobby cards and posters from the film. There’s also the photo novel which is what people had before Beta tapes.
Arrow Video presents The Iguana with a Tongue of Fire. Directed by Riccardo Freda. Screenplay by: Sandro Continenza & Riccardo Freda. Starring: Luigi Pistilli, Dagmar Lassander, Anton Diffring, Arthur O’Sullivan and Dominique Boschero. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 95 minutes. Released: April 9, 2019.
Tags: Arrow Video, Dario Argento, Giallo and Gelato