Release Date(s)1971 (April 9, 2019)
Studio(s)Les Films Corona/Oceania Produzioni Internazionali Cinematografiche/Terra-Filmkunst (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
When Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage hit theater screens in Italy in February of 1970, it was a big hit and helped to inspire the entire of genre of giallo, but also, produced a slew of European copy cats who were eager to stick the names of animals in the titles of their films. A year after Crystal Plumage debuted, Riccardo Freda’s The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire came along, confusing audiences with its myriad of potential suspects and flat out lying to them about its source, falsely claiming it to be based upon the fictitious book A Room Without a Door by Richard Mann (to be fair, a common practice in those days).
The plot of The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (aka L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoco) is fairly straightforward in its description: murders begin taking place (in what appears to be Ireland) and an inspector with a troubled past is tasked with discovering the identity of the killer. Where things begin to get tricky is with the barrage of would-be murderers – from a drug-induced, unhappy wife to her estranged and callous husband to a doctor who has an uncommon interest in the killer to a socialite daughter to her stepbrother to... well, you see where I’m going with this. It doesn’t help that there’s no real structure in place to lead you down a path of discovery. You’re simply tossed character after character, often perplexed as to who they are, that your interest in the story and its outcome begins to wane.
On the other hand, the film does manage to get several things right, including a terrific score by Stelvio Cipriani, wonderful cinematography by Silvano Ippoliti (highlighting many Irish locales, including memorable cliffs by the sea), and some occasional bits of gore. Since this particular killer likes to throw acid in the faces of his victims before slitting their throats with a straight razor, you’re guaranteed a couple of extremely bloody moments, albeit brief. The most effective scene comes toward the end when a grandmother and her granddaughter are viciously attacked, the latter of which is left wandering nude after her assault. It’s pretty brutal stuff, to be sure.
Purportedly, Riccardo Freda (also the director The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock and Murder Obsession) wasn’t happy with the final product, even going so far as requesting a pseudonym. But in all fairness, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is far from being a bad film, but it does take some time to sort it out, and even then, you still might not be sure if you’ve fully comprehended everything. With some nice atmosphere and a handful of effective scenes, it’s still worthy of a few repeated viewings.
For Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release, the film has undergone a new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Even better, two versions of the film are included: an English version and an Italian version, both of which feature different sets of opening and closing credits. Otherwise, the content of each is identical. It’s a nice, organic presentation with well-rendered grain and high levels of fine detail, none of it containing leftover artifacts or any unnecessary digital augmentation. The color palette is lush – from the seaside cliffs to the city streets, there’s plenty of variety. Blacks are also deep with good contrast and shadow detail. The image is also stable and mostly clean aside from some leftover speckling.
The audio is presented in either English or Italian mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. Both tracks are slightly narrow but the Italian audio isn’t quite as boastful as the English track, even carrying a bit more bass underneath the score. Dubbing is slightly loose on both tracks, but the English track is much wider with more treble to it. Sound effects have decent impact, despite their dated qualities. Both tracks are also free of hiss, crackle, and dropouts, but the Italian audio contains some slight high end distortion around the dialogue.
Extras for this release include an audio commentary with authors Adrian J. Smith and David Flint; Of Chameleons and Iguanas, a 22-minute video appreciation by cultural critic and academic Richard Dyer; Considering Cipriani, a 26-minute video appreciation of the film’s score and its composer Stelvio Cipriani by DJ and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon; The Cutting Game, a 21-minute interview with assistant editor Bruno Micheli; The Red Queen of Hearts, a 21-minute interview with actress Dagmar Lassander; the film’s international and Italian trailers, both presented in HD; a stills, lobby cards, posters, press, and home video sleeves image gallery featuring 22 stills in all; the original 59-page Cinesex fotoromanzo photo novel of the film’s story, reproduced through stills; and a 44-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, The Production of The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire by Andreas Ehrenreich, a Contemporary Review by Leonardo Autera, and presentation details.
The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is certainly an interesting giallo entry, but not all are likely to appreciate some of its better qualities due to its initial incomprehensibility. Nevertheless, Arrow Video gives it the treatment it deserves with an excellent presentation and a nice set of extras. For giallo fans, it definitely comes recommended.
– Tim Salmons