For the Pleasure of Sinning: Strip Nude for Your Killer on Blu-ray
“In our line of work, it doesn’t take long to make friends…”
Strap yourself in, folks, this one’s going to be classy as all hell.
In a review of Sergio Martino’s Torso that I wrote for another venue, I told a story about how I, then a relative newcomer to gialli, watched The Editor at a midnight screening, and how it took me a little while to get the joke of that film’s copious incidental nudity.
If Torso hadn’t already driven that joke home for me, then Andrea Bianchi’s Strip Nude for Your Killer definitely would have.
The back cover copy on the Arrow Video Blu-ray calls Strip Nude “one of the most notoriously sleazy gialli ever produced,” promising “kitschy fashion shoots, back alley abortions, blow-up sex dolls and some very indelicate humor.” That’s a tall order, but Strip Nude is mostly up to the task.
Where Torso is probably less sordid than either its grindhouse-friendly American title or its more accurate Italian, which translates roughly to “the bodies show traces of carnal violence,” Strip Nude gives you pretty much what it says on the tin.
There is, in fact, so much nudity (incidental and otherwise) in the film that it rapidly ceases to feel erotic. After a while, Strip Nude simply takes place in a slightly-adjacent alternate universe where clothes barely exist. (If only I could come up with a word that describes it.)
There are a number of elements in Strip Nude that will feel familiar to giallo aficionados. Of course, there is a faceless, black-gloved killer with a shiny blade stalking the employees and hangers-on of an ostensibly glamorous modeling agency. And there is almost as much J&B Scotch as there is copious nudity. In one scene—one of the many times Bianchi seems to be winking at the audience—a character is positioned in front of a literal crate of the stuff.
One of these familiar motifs is that the film opens with a (blue-tinted or not, your choice) sequence that seems mystifying at first but will provide the impetus for the murders to come.
In this case, it’s that back alley abortion that the cover warned us about, shot from such an angle that you all-but see everything that’s happening. Unfortunately, the woman undergoing the procedure dies on the operating table, and her body is carried into a bathtub in order to cover up her death.
This shot of the faucet and the tub will recur throughout the film, spliced into almost literally every kill. To further emphasize the connection, the killer has a habit of turning on taps as they stalk their victims.
The sound of running water becomes a shorthand for danger, a fact that the director exploits in a late scene when our ostensible protagonists find themselves on the run and in the midst of a square filled with fountains, their noise permeating the soundtrack.
As the killer, who wears a motorcycle helmet and full biker leathers to hide not only their identity but their gender, stalks their prey, we watch the various internecine conflicts of the oversexed world of fashion shoots, where almost literally every conversation takes place in the midst of intercourse, no one ever looks at someone else without ogling them, and clothes are less-than-optional.
Of course, it’s all pretty sleazy, though the essay by Rachael Nisbet that accompanies the Arrow Blu makes the case that there’s a winking self-awareness that keeps the proceedings from becoming too mean-spirited. I’d be inclined to agree.
Even in cases where the audience is encouraged to find a character grotesque or hateful—see the played-for-laughs fate of the film’s one fat male character, who is also impotent and trapped in a marriage with a domineering woman who prefers the company of the fairer sex—there’s almost always a hint of pity, as well.
Our protagonist duo, the chauvinist photographer Carlo and his assistant Magda, are not much better than the worst figures with whom they share screen time. I found myself hoping that the helmeted killer was, in fact, Magda, just because I felt like she deserved better than she was getting.
While Magda (played by Edwige Fenech, who gets a video essay on the Blu-ray) drives much of the investigation plot, she is also rendered passive in a surprisingly literal way—basically drugged—as the film reaches its climax.
As an example of what you can expect from our “heroes,” once just about everyone they know has been killed and the killer has been finally unmasked, how does the film end? With an off-color joke about anal sex. Roll credits!
Gialli, like the slashers that were their successors, are infamous for linking sex and murder, and certainly most of the murders in Strip Nude take place while their victims are in the altogether—it would be difficult for them not to, since no one in the film wears clothes if there’s any way they can avoid it. Yet Strip Nude doesn’t seem to spend nearly as much time lovingly displaying kill scenes as it does shots of people reclining shirtlessly.
The deaths are grisly enough—the killer cutting off ears, a breast, and genitalia, in acts that seem related somehow to details of their pathology to which we are never privy—but mostly we just see a series of stabbings and then, later, a mutilated body. Where the style that might normally be reserved for the kill shot is expended instead is in the film’s stalking sequences.
The motorcycle helmeted killer is iconic on their own, and the film uses them well. An early fake-out with a bedroom curtain which transitions to an attack in a bathroom is a standout, as is a shot of feet following each-other as they walk purposefully toward a clandestine meeting, gradually accruing more and more sets of feet as other followers join the pursuit.
Even a simple shot in which the helmeted killer approaches a car from behind ratchets up tension in a movie that would otherwise be pretty languid, what with all the erotic lounging.
Besides his work as Monster Ambassador here at Signal Horizon, Orrin Grey is the author of several books about monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters, and a film writer with bylines at Unwinnable and others. His stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year and he is the author of two collections of essays on vintage horror film.