Friday 11 November 2016

The Flower With Petals Of Steel

Heavy Petal

The Flower With Petals Of Steel
(Il fiore dai petali d'acciaio aka
The Flower with the Deadly Sting)

Italy/Spain 1973 Directed by Gianfranco Piccioli
Dencam Movies DVD Region 0

Warning: Slight spoilers but... no, not really. The really
big spoilers will remain hidden beneath the steel petals.

Okay... so I thought it was time to check out one of the more obscure giallo movies in my ‘to watch’ pile and so, I chose one of the ones with the silliest and most gialloistic titles.

This films starts off with a quite eerie scene of a scuba diver under water, during the credits. For the first half of the credits there is no actual music and the claustrophobic nature of the scene is enhanced both by the sound of loud bubbles on the soundtrack and a camera point of view that sits just behind the diver. Then the music score, by Marcello Giombini of Sabata fame kicks in and... wow, it’s really good. Kind of a stage beyond dissonance... like an atonal, abstract melange of hostility but with a sweet, candy shell wrap. This needs to be issued on a CD soonest.

As the first swimming figure approaches a second figure, the credits finish and we cut to a scene involving more POV shots, tight in on the action, as the camera crosscuts between a speeding ambulance with it lights and sirens blaring (in some cases the camera is literally just behind the siren which takes up the foreground of the shot) and the main protagonist of the movie driving his own car equally fast and in the same direction as the ambulance. There are a heck of a lot of tight shots bordering but rarely quite getting, to the full first person viewpoint in this movie... it seems almost an obsession with the director but, that being said, it gives this its own style and is very effective in certain sequences.

We soon find out that the reason this man is going in the same direction as the ambulance is because he works at the same hospital. The main protagonist being Dr. Valenti, as played by Gianni Garko, whom the Italian genre cinema fans among my readers will recognise had parts in such classic movies as Cold Eyes Of Fear (reviewed here) and The Psychic (aka Seven Notes In Noir)... not to mention his upcoming role as Sartana in Keoma Rises (in which Franco Nero will be returning to the role of Keoma, by all accounts).

As soon as Valenti ‘lands’ at the hospital, he has to go right into surgery as the aforementioned ambulance was bringing in an emergency job. We see exactly what kind of a hot tempered and mostly unpleasant protagonist he is when he fires his main Operating Theatre nurse for not giving him the correct instruments quickly enough. He also has a nasty attitude to his girlfriend... or ex-girlfriend as far as he’s concerned.

Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend is entertaining the company of her lover Evelyn, played by Carrol Baker. Except, it turns out, she isn’t just her lover... she’s also her sister. Hmmm... nothing odd about this one so far. It seems to be a state of affairs that Valenti is quite aware of and, he doesn’t want his ex around anyway... especially since one of the nurses in his Operating Theatre, who also somehow doubles as his secretary, is obviously sleeping with him on the side.

Anyway, when the good doctor comes home from work that day, he finds his ex in his apartment and, although she says absolutely nothing, he goes completely mad and gives her a good dressing down before getting so emotionally unstable that he shakes her around a bit and throws her onto the floor. He also, somehow, manages to knock his 'giant steel plant' which he just happens to have in his living room... and it goes toppling onto the floor as he rushes off to take a good, hard swig of his giallotastic J&B whiskey. You can always tell a good, traditional giallo from the J&B whiskey bottle sighting. However, when he goes back to check on his ex he finds she is dead, stabbed to death with one of the petals of steel on the aforementioned plant or, you know, flower with petals of steel. So, yeah, anyone thinking this was one of the more abstract giallo titles can go think again... this is the actual murder weapon mentioned in the title. Smooth stuff.

Valenti is suitably distraught... well... okay, he’s suitably unimpressed, that he has to now cover up the woman's accidental murder and dispose of the body but, luckily for him, he’s a doctor. So he goes to it in a fairly longish sequence as we half get to see him (most of it is off screen) dismember his ex-gals body with his trusty surgeons scalpel and then load her into bags, in a fairly ‘matter of fact’ presentation. Don’t usually get to see post murder dismemberment in a giallo, I have to say, so this was a bit of a new one on me.

After this he drives to a somehow conveniently located giant grinding machine... possibly some kind of industrial cement mixer, I couldn’t really tell, and pitches the bags full of body into the mix. There’s some great sound design for this similarly long and quite intense scene, which plays out with no musical scoring as Valenti silently watches his former sweetheart get swooshed and pulped in no uncertain terms.

And that’s when thing start to unravel for Valenti. The next day, Carrol Baker comes looking for her lover/sister, Daniella, and he fobs her off with an excuse. However, Baker is on to him and starts getting him embroiled in an investigation over the disappearance of Daniella. Added to this, a package turns up at his home for him and it’s a box containing two of the steel petals of... “the flower with the petals of steel.” Someone knows something and so now Valenti’s being blackmailed by an unseen party on top of everything else.

And then things start to get nicely convoluted but... also confusing.

For example, there’s a totally random scene were Valenti travels to an exterior location with lots of chattering dolls heads and a naked woman pinned, bleeding to an upright structure... she might even be the murdered Daniella. I couldn’t figure this scene out... seems not to be a dream sequence and also seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story. It’s just completely confusing and, as the movie carries on, it seems to get more and more obvious that it was completely superfluous to anything else going on.

However, we also have another plot strand turning up where it seems Valenti also has a wife who he committed to an insane asylum for having nymphomania (Seriously? This is a good reason to have someone committed rather than just buy them a sexy present?). It seems she has been cured and released but, I think, Valenti seems to have had no idea that she’s presumably on the loose somehow... was his accidental murder of the girl all that it seemed? Or is there something entirely more sinister and giallo-like going on behind the steel petals of this movie?

And then even the police inspector starts shifting his amorous attentions to one of the main female characters but... what’s this? Right near the end... just when I was beginning to doubt whether this movie actually qualified as a giallo, we have another murder of a main character and the reveal behind this one is all tied into a scene almost at the end of the movie when we, finally, continue with the scuba diver scene that started the whole affair for us. I don’t want to give away too much about the revelations and plot twist reveal at the end here but... underwater girl on girl action is also included in this sequence, if that’s the kind of thing that floats your boat.

So, yeah, a crazily surreal title which actually means something, a few murders, some nudity, a J&B bottle sighting and lots of self reflection in the main protagonist means this definitely gets itself into giallo territory by the end of the movie. There’s also the visual style to take into account here and director Piccioli supports the whole 'gialloness' of the movie by giving us some nicely designed shot set ups at certain points in the film, where the actors stand in just the right kinds of places in a composition to be highlighted by the structures around them. Together with the minimally spotted but very cool score by Giombini, which definitely deserves some kind of release (unless it’s possibly been tracked in from other Giombini scores?) then The Flower With Petals Of Steel is a nice example of the genre, even with the downright confusing scenes, and really needs a proper transfer, preferably on Blu Ray, sometime soon before this movie slips into even more obscurity. Definitely one I’d re-buy in a remastered edition with, hopefully, a few more subtitles in places which maybe needed them. If you’re a fan of Italian gialli, though, it’s definitely one to check out.

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