Director: Riccardo Freda
Script: Willy Pareto, Alessandro Continenza & Gunther Ebort
Cast: Luigi Pistilli, Dagmar Lassander, Anton Diffring, Arthur O’ Sullivan, Werner Pochat, Dominique Boschoro, Renato Romano, Ruth Durley, Valentina Cortesse
Running time: 96 minutes
Year: 1971
Certificate: 15

In Dublin, the acid burned, knife-slashed corpse of a young woman is found in the boot of the Swiss Ambassador’s limousine. The ambassador, his family and servants, therefore, all become suspects in the woman’s murder. Unfortunately for the investigating police officers they can’t properly investigate the case as their hands are tied due to the diplomatic immunity wielded by said ambassador and his office. The police officer in charge of the case decides to try and get around all the red tape by bringing in an ex-police inspector, John Norton (Luigi Pistilli), who was discharged from the service due to his brutal interrogation tactics, the last of which brought about the suicide of his final interviewee.

Norton’s ‘unofficial’ investigation involves him approaching the diplomat’s daughter at a party, flirting with her, and giving her a ride home. As he begins to develop a relationship with the daughter, Helene (Dagmar Lassander), further murders begin to occur. The usual red herrings are brought out for our delectation, and Norton gets into various scrapes including a fun fist fight in the diplomat’s large house.

It all gets resolved (kind of) in the end, although no one who’s being paying a modicum of attention throughout will be particularly surprised at who the killer is come the big reveal. And keep an ear out for the explanation of the film’s bizarre title part way through the film – it kind of makes sense, but only just, since they surely should have meant to say a chameleon, not an iguana!

Iguana with the tongue of fire is based on an original story called ‘A room without a door’ by Richard Mann, and is a Italian – French – German co-production that was shot partly in the UK (the exteriors) and partly in Rome (interiors), which probably explains why the two don’t really match up and most of the supposed ‘Irish’ accents are pretty appalling!

The acting is variable (to say the least), but both Dagmar Lassander and Valentina Cortesse acquit themselves admirably, as the ambassador’s daughter and wife respectively. In fact, probably the standout scene involves Dagmar’s character being chased through foggy Dublin streets by the razor-brandishing killer – Dario Argento would have been proud!

The tone of the murders is quite nasty – faces are scorched with acid, blood gushes from sliced throats and walls are decorated with brain matter. Probably the nastiest attack has the killer carrying out a frenzied attack on the half-naked teenage daughter of the inspector, and finishing off the poor guy’s elderly mother by bashing her brains out; truly disturbing stuff.

Iguana with the tongue of fire is certainly not the best Italian giallo out there, but it is quite memorable for its kills and truly nutty killer. It also has a decent, hummable score by maestro Stelvio Cipriani, which it frequently needs since Freda’s direction is often found wanting – he certainly fails to keep up the tension in some key scenes, and confuses his audience during a host of others.

Arrow Video is distributing Iguana with the tongue of fire on Blu-Ray. As per usual for Arrow Video there are plenty of special features including:

An audio commentary with authors Adrian J. Smith and David Flint;

Of Chameleons and Iguanas (22 mins) – Cultural critic Richard Dyer talks about his appreciation of the film, explaining that it’s a good example of a giallo revolving around issues of family;

Considering Cipriani (26 mins) – An interesting appreciation of composer Stelvio Cipriani by DJ and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon;

The Cutting Game (21 mins) – An interview with assistant editor Bruno Micheli, who originally started out editing-in hard-core shots into softer porn films!

The Red Queen of Hearts (21 mins) – An interview with actress Dagmar Lassander, who reveals that she was originally a costume designer at the opera before breaking into films.

Trailers (6 mins) – Two trailers, one being the international version and the other, the Italian version.

Image galleries – 23 stills, including lobby cards, posters and DVD & video covers

Iguana with the Tongue of Fire
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About The Author

Justin Richards is a journalist by day and a scriptwriter by night. His work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not sitting hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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