The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971) | Riccardo Freda’s luridly over-the-top giallo

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire

Talky and torturous, with a totally nonsensical plot, Riccardo Freda’s The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (aka L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoco) is one of several ‘animal-in-the-title’ giallo cash-ins released in the wake of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and now heads to Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video.

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire

Set in Dublin, it opens with an acid-throwing, razor-wielding maniac viciously slaying a young woman. When the victim’s butchered corpse is discovered in a limo owned by Ambassador Sobiesky (Anton Diffring), a police investigation is launched.

It turns out the murdered woman was the Ambassador’s lover, but Sobiesky refuses to cooperate with the police, claiming diplomatic immunity.

Troubled ex-cop, John Norton (Luigi Pistilli), is then brought in to assist, but as he starts up an affair with the Ambassador’s step-daughter, Helen (Dagmar Lassander), his own family are soon placed in danger as the maniac continues their killing spree…

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire

Now I’m not sure whether director Riccardo Freda was just having an off-day when he was making this or whether he decided to say ‘to hell with it’, let’s play fast and furious with giallo convention and spoof the genre, but Iguana is a confusing mess of a film.

Shot with a tourists eye on Dublin’s iconic O’Connell Street and around the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare (acrophobiacs beware), and featuring overblown (vocal) performances from the likes of Valentina Cortese (who plays Sobiesky’s glamourous wife as if she were Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond), plus a rousing score by Stelvio Cipriani, Freda’s luridly over-the-top murder mystery is, bizarrely, also quite mesmerising.

I just got carried away by the visuals, the score and the rather disturbing death scenes. I particularly loved how Cipriani introduced crashing instrumental sounds every time there was a close-up of a pair of glasses or a cigarette lighter. Intentional or not, it’s quite hilarious in a Garth Marenghi kind of way – as is the explanation as to the film’s title (you have to hear it to believe it during a scene between Norton and a shrink).

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire

Now, you can experience Iguana yourself with Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release, which features some excellent extras. My personal favourite was Lovely Jon’s featurette on Cipriani, which has spurred me in tracking down the composer’s other scores (there’s quite a few) iincluding this film’s score which Arrow are releasing on purple vinyl; while I had to laugh that even academic Richard Dyer found the film as messed up as I did.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• New 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio
• Original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles  for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by giallo connoisseurs Adrian J Smith and David Flint
Of Chameleons and Iguanas: video appreciation by the cultural critic Richard Dyer
Considering Cipriani: appreciation of composer Stelvio Cipriani by DJ and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon
The Cutting Game: new interview with Iguana’s assistant editor Bruno Micheli
The Red Queen of Hearts: interview with the actress Dagmar Lassander
• Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet (First pressing only)

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on April 8, 2019, in Giallo, Might-See, Thriller and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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