A knife-wielding maniac with black leather gloves murders an old woman, a prostitute and a party girl in rapid succession. While travelling by train newlywed Giulia (Uschi Glas) is attacked before her husband Mario (Antonio Sabato) chases the murderer who manages to escape. Although Giulia survives the newspapers report she has died as part of a ruse concocted by Inspector Vismara (Pier Paolo Capponi) to lure the killer into the open. Upon recognizing the dead hooker as a former maid at a hotel run by her parents, Giulia deduces the murder victims including herself were among seven women that witnessed an incident involving a sinister American tourist who just might be the killer. With Mario's help the police try to locate and save the other women but prove spectacularly inept as they are alternately strangled with a telephone cord, drowned in a bathtub and eviscerated with a power drill.
Technically Sette orchidee machiate de rosso or Seven Blood-Stained Orchids was the last in Rialto Films series of 'krimi' thrillers adapted from the pulp novels of Edgar Wallace. However, in the first instance the script incorporates a substantial portion from a novel by another celebrated crime writer Cornel Woolrich. Secondly, like its immediate predecessor in the series: What Have You Done to Solange? (1971), this West German-Italian co-production is more or less a giallo. Along with ditching the Edgar Wallace movies' stock cast of lovably wacky Scotland Yard detectives (although cute button-nosed Uschi Glas reprises her regular role as an imperiled heroine) gone is the series familiar, eccentric mix of campy comic book horror and cosy comedy. In its place the film adopts a more serious tone albeit with an emphasis on lurid misogyny and sadistic murder set-pieces. Which was in keeping with the Italian style then-enthusing the European film market whilst leaving the West German-made krimis looking decidedly old-fashioned. No doubt the head honchos at Rialto figured: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em before handing directing duties to Italian workhorse Umberto Lenzi, then in the midst of a run of internationally-successful gialli.
The influence of Dario Argento is evident, not just in the graphic bloodshed but the potentially interesting plot conceit of turning Giulia into an amateur sleuth out to solve her own 'murder.' Thus combining the roles of victim and detective, foregrounding the protagonist's vulnerability and also heightening suspense. Alas, the unfocused narrative dilutes its own concept by constantly switching point-of-view back-and-forth from Giulia to Mario and the police in a presumed effort to seem complex that proves merely frustrating. As portrayed by the near-legendarily charmless Antonio Sabato, Mario is an especially vapid lead. He contributes little beyond arching a condescending eyebrow at the counter-cultural types: hippies, homosexuals and oft-scantily-clad 'loose women' that populate the supporting cast, inviting the conservative audience to tut-tut along while vicariously savoring their excesses.
Each of the glamorous special guest victims are portrayed by past and future giallo scream queens including Marina Malfatti, Rossella Falk and Marissa Mell (delivering a surprisingly bad performance as twin sisters). All disrobe to give the viewer an eyeful of their charms before being brutally slain (in the aftermath of Malfatti's murder, colored paint drips fetchingly onto her bare breasts). Lenzi does a competent if not exactly inspired job handling the suspense sequences. In interviews the notoriously self-aggrandizing director often points out, with some justification, that his razor attack in an elevator and vicious power-drill murder influenced similar scenes in Dressed to Kill (1980) and Body Double (1984). Yet there is no denying Brian De Palma staged them with greater flair. Bright colors and production design along with far-out Seventies fashions leave this among Lenzi's more visually appealing productions though he brings little style to the labyrinthine mystery as it plods from murder-to-murder. The finale is particularly ludicrous as Mario and the police concoct an outrageous ploy using Giulia as bait without her knowledge. In addition the revelation of the killer's identity is curiously casual and lacks the satirical charge Lucio Fulci brought to Don't Torture a Duckling (1972). Music by Riz Ortolani who as an in-joke recycles his theme song 'Why?' from Lenzi's earlier giallo So Sweet... So Perverse (1969).
Prolific, workmanlike Italian director and writer who dabbled in most genres throughout his 40 year career. Started work as a film critic before making his directing debut in 1961 with the sea-faring adventure flick Queen of the Seas. The two decades years saw Lenzi churn out westerns, historical dramas, Bond-esquespy yarns and giallo thrillers among others.
It was his 1972 proto-cannibal film Deep River Savages that led to the best known phase of his career, with notorious gore-epics Cannibal Ferox and Eaten Alive and zombie shlocker Nightmare City quickly becoming favourites amongst fans of spaghetti splatter. Continued to plug away in the horror genre before retiring in 1996.