Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971) – Film Review
Director: Riccardo Freda
Cast: Luigi Pistilli, Dagmar Lassander, Anton Diffring
by Sarah Morgan
An Italian film set in Dublin with actors in leading roles from Italy, Ireland, Austria and Germany and directed by an Egyptian-born film-maker who was so frustrated with the finished project that he had his name removed and replaced by a pseudonym. That, in a nutshell, is the background of Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, a real curiosity piece if ever there was one.
It was released in 1971 following the success of Dario Argento’s masterful The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, one of the most famous entries in the genre known as giallo – a mix of crime thriller and horror, often with slasher film elements.
Iguana (as it will be known from here on in to avoid its rather lengthy title) isn’t in the same class as Argento’s film, but it’s well worth a look, if only for its rather unusual setting – Dublin wasn’t a popular location for any movie at the time, never mind one backed by Italian financiers!
“So many twists and turns”
It opens in grisly fashion as a beautiful woman has acid thrown in her face before her throat is cut by an unseen attacker. Later her body is found stuffed into the boot of the Swiss ambassador to Ireland’s car.
He immediately claims diplomatic immunity, making the local Garda’s efforts to find the killer all the more difficult. At the heart of the investigation is Norton, a former inspector who appears to have been left traumatised both by the murder of his wife and the suicide of a suspect during questioning. Norton forms a relationship with the ambassador’s stepdaughter Helen, which both helps and hinders his efforts to find the culprit.
There are so many twists and turns throughout that the plot is at times rather confusing. The cast is bizarre too, with Anton Diffring delivering his trademark ice-cold performance as the ambassador and veteran actress Valentina Cortese, who had a long string of acclaimed films behind her by the time Iguana was made, as his frustrated wife.
“Great location shots”
Sadly, Luigi Pistilli is miscast as Norton, his voice clearly dubbed by someone putting on a pretty bad Irish accent. He is simply too Italian for the role.
But there are things to applaud about the film. There is a genuine jump-out-of-your-skin moment involving the Norton’s pet cat, while the attack on his family in the climactic scene is disturbing to say the least.
The print has been restored and looks stunning, as does the east coast of Ireland during some great location shots. There are plenty of special features too, including audio commentaries, documentaries about some of the participants and an in-depth look at the movie itself with critic Richard Dyer.
‘Iguana With the Tongue of Fire’ is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £24.99