With his kinky thriller Tango Of Perversion, Greek jour­ney­man direc­tor Kostas Karayiannis showed he wasn’t afraid to get lurid to deliv­er the kind of thrills that the sex and vio­lence crowd craves. The same year, he also made a film called The Wife Killer that took things even fur­ther. The results play like a Hollywood thriller premise that over­dosed on ‘70s grind­house sleaze — and the results are like­ly to enter­tain exploita­tion movie fans.

WifKil-dvdThe Wife Killer is built on a dou­ble-cross straight out of Strangers On A Train. Dimitris (Lakis Komninos) is the hus­band of the lov­ing, dot­ing and rich Eleni (Dorothy Moore) but he’s just using her. He real­ly wants to run off with his girl­friend but doesn’t want to lose out on Eleni’s mon­ey. He comes up with a solu­tion when he hires Mike (Vagelis Seilinos), a man ter­ror­iz­ing the city with a secret crime spree as a rapist/murderer. Dimitris wants Mike to add Eleni to his list of vic­tims, with the offer of a pay­out in return. Of course, Dimitris isn’t that hon­est and Mike has a few sleazy tricks up his sleeve that will fur­ther com­pli­cate things.

The Wife Killer deliv­ers all the sleaze its premise alludes to: there’s plen­ty of sex, both will­ing and coerced, and lots of mur­ders, with detailed sequences of Mike enact­ing his creepy rape-and-mur­der plans. However, it’s also worth not­ing that film is care­ful­ly and often clev­er­ly plot­ted by writer Thanos Leivatdis, hit­ting an inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of Euro-style sleaze and sur­pris­ing­ly tra­di­tion­al Hollywood struc­tur­ing and plot hooks (it even bor­rows a key nar­ra­tive ele­ment from anoth­er well-loved Hitchcock title).

Director Kostas Karagiannis crafts the film with same eco­nom­i­cal yet hard-hit­ting approach he brought to Tango Of Perversion: he nev­er shies away from the vio­lence or nudi­ty but he focus­es on a care­ful, steady plot pro­gres­sion in a way you wouldn’t see in a gial­lo film. He also exploits the Greek set­tings nice­ly to give the film a sense of scope and sup­ports his pace-con­scious direc­tion with a melod­ic, dri­ving score by WifKil-posYiannis Spanos.

Karagiannis also brings back some key cast mem­bers from Tango Of Perversion in Komninos and Moore. Komninos doesn’t get to be as glee­ful­ly nasty as he was in Tango but makes for a suit­ably amoral exploita­tion film anti-pro­tag­o­nist here, again giv­ing off a very Hugo Stiglitz-style vibe. Moore is a troop­er in a basi­cal­ly thank­less role that requires her to be ter­ror­ized, man­han­dled, stripped nude, etc. That said, the rev­e­la­tion here is Seilinos as Dimitris’s nasty co-con­spir­a­tor: he gives a sweaty, dead-eyed per­for­mance that dives head­first into his character’s cru­el­ty and obses­sive pur­suit of psy­cho­pathic kicks. He’s a tru­ly nasty piece of work and exploita­tion film fans will mar­vel (and flinch) at his vicious­ness.

In short, The Wife Killer is as grim and bru­tal as any American grind­house flick of the ear­ly ‘70s but also throws in a sur­pris­ing­ly tight thriller plot and some con­ti­nen­tal flair that you might not expect. Anyone into the dark­er side of for­eign exploita­tion fare should give itWifKil-vhs a look.

DVD Notes: This title just made its DVD debut in the U.S. cour­tesy of Mondo Macabro, who released it con­cur­rent­ly with Karagiannis’s Tango Of Perversion. Like that disc, a title card before the trans­fer warns it was tak­en from the best ele­ments they could fine but it actu­al­ly looks quite good, par­tic­u­lar­ly the col­ors. Both Greek and English sound­tracks are pro­vid­ed, includ­ing sub­ti­tles for the for­mer, and both sound nice and clear.

As usu­al, Mondo Macabro also includes an infor­ma­tive set of extras. Carried over from the Tango Of Perversion disc are the “Sunshine And Shadows” fea­turet­te, sev­er­al cast and crew bios and the ubiq­ui­tous Mondo Macabro pre­view reel (click here to read more infor­ma­tion on those extras in the Tango Of Perversion review).

The new extras are also wor­thy of explo­ration. The bios sec­tions adds a write­up for the film’s vil­lain, Vagelis Seilinos: sur­pris­ing­ly, he had pre­vi­ous­ly been half of a beloved Greek danc­ing team in the mold of Rogers and Astaire. A set of alter­nate English cred­its is tak­en from U.S. VHS ver­sion known as Death Kiss, com­plete with video-toast­er gen­er­at­ed main title card, and plen­ty of Anglicized names.

The neat­est of the new extras is a set of U.S. trail­ers: one the­atri­cal and an edit­ed-down ver­sion for the VHS release. This film was released in the U.S. as The Rape Killer and it’s a stun­ning­ly tacky trail­er that makes a sleazy film look even sleazier than it actu­al­ly is. The nar­ra­tion is guar­an­teed to make your jaw drop and its one of the all-time cham­pi­ons among exploita­tion film trail­ers. The VHS spot uses the Death Kiss title card and amus­ing­ly tries to cut around the nas­ti­est excess­es of the the­atri­cal trail­er.

In short, this is anoth­er win­ner for the exploita­tion crowd from Mondo Macabro. If you enjoy for­eign weirdness/sleaze then def­i­nite­ly pick it up.