The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

Directed by Riccardo Freda (as Willy Pareto)
Written by Riccardo Freda and Sandro Continenza
1971, 92 minutes, Not Rated
Released on April 9th, 2019

Luigi Pistilli as Det. John Norton
Dagmar Lassander as Helen Sobiesky
Anton Diffring as Ambassador Sobiesky
Arthur O’Sullivan as Inspector Lawrence
Werner Pochath as Marc Sobiesky
Valentina Cortese as Mrs. Sobiesky
Ruth Durley as Norton’s mother



The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is a 1971 Italian giallo picture released in the wake of Dario Argento’s wildly successful The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Nifty title aside, this film attempts to up the ante of murder mysteries by making every single character a suspect. With the opening sequence we learn that the killer wears dark sunglasses, has a penchant for disfiguring victims with acid to the face and uses a straight razor to finish the job. When the first corpse turns up in the trunk of Swiss Ambassador Sobiesky’s car, the police begin questioning his staff. The crimes continue and tough ex-cop John Norton is brought in to find the killer. He strikes up a relationship with the ambassador’s stepdaughter Helen, and does his best to stop the violence.

As far as I know, this is the only giallo set in Dublin, making for an amusing English dub, as some characters receive rather unfortunate Irish accents. The main suspect is the Swiss Ambassador (Anton Diffring, The Beast Must Die), who has ties to more than one of the victims, but he is claiming diplomatic immunity, so the police focus their investigation on those surrounding him. This is a quirky bunch of strange-acting individuals, including a chauffeur with conjunctivitis and a shifty doctor hanging around various crime scenes. Everyone acts like they have something to hide and are frequently at odds with the law. Luigi Pistilli (A Bay of Blood) stars as Det. John Norton, an ex-cop who left the force in shame following the suicide of a suspect during a violent interrogation. Norton is called back into service due to the importance of the case and he has his work cut out for him. Frequent giallo star Dagmar Lassander (A Hatchet for the Honeymoon) co-stars as Helen Sobiesky, the ambassador’s stepdaughter. She is terrific here and keeps viewers’ attention throughout, as she is herself a prime suspect.


Co-written and directed by Riccardo Freda (Tragic Ceremony), credited here as Willy Pareto, the picture does its best to keep audiences guessing. Not much of a student of subtlety, Freda piles on the clichés and occasionally wallows in sleaze, but delivers what is ultimately an entertaining picture. There are plenty of scenic location shots of Ireland, including one beautiful cliffside sequence where suspicion briefly falls on our protagonist. A nice addition to the script here is the inclusion of the detective’s mother, who is herself an amateur sleuth. There is a lot of buildup with this character to a sight gag at the end, but it pays off. Many of the suspects fall by the wayside as the story hammers on with everybody taking a break as we jaunt off to Switzerland for some bobsledding and a fatal accident.

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is not going to ignite a lot of passion from contemporary audiences, but fans of 1970s Italian cinema will find plenty to enjoy. The lounge music score, the endless camera zooms, the shocking audio stings every time we see somebody wearing sunglasses. Not to mention an unnecessarily complicated plot featuring three minor characters who all look alike sporting similar ginger moustaches. The film is a guilty pleasure trip that is fun to break out with a group of friends on a Friday night. Giallo completists will want to add this to their collection for novelty value alone, but casual viewers may want to give it a rental.


Video and Audio:

Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture has undergone a full 2K restoration and the results are stunning. Colors pop and black levels are well-saturated with flesh tones appearing natural throughout.

The English LPCM 1.0 mix preserves the original mono recording and gets the job done. Music cues and dialogue levels are well-balanced and free from distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

Film historians and giallo connoisseurs Adrian Smith and David Flint deliver an engaging and fun-spirited audio commentary that is both appreciative and realistic in nature. They know a fair amount of this movie can be dismissed as rubbish and are quick to poke holes in the mystery and the excessive amount of suspects before a somewhat disappointing ending. Flint and Smith appreciate the effort and are having a blast watching the film, leading to a satisfying track.

The Red Queen of Hearts (21 minutes) is a career-spanning interview with actress Dagmar Lassander. She shares her thoughts on the Italian film industry of the 1970s and how she transitioned from modeling to acting. There is also discussion on working with top directors in both comedies and gialli and the trajectory of her working life after marriage. In Italian with English subtitles.

Assistant editor Bruno Micheli reflects on his work on the film in the featurette The Cutting Game (21 minutes). He reveals his approach to the material and cutting for the genre. Other topics include working closely with the director and the ability to deliver his vision to the final product. In Italian with English subtitles.

Cultural critic Richard Dyer shares his thoughts on the film in the newly recorded video appreciation Of Chameleons and Iguanas (22 minutes). This segment is in English.

Considering Cipriani (26 minutes) features soundtrack collector DJ Lovely Jon, who shares his love of composer Stelvio Cipriani’s score for this film and provides an overview of his work. This featurette is also in English.

Original Italian and international trailers provide a look at the marketing campaign.

There are two photo galleries, the first containing publicity stills, lobby cards, posters and other artwork (23 images).

The second gallery showcases images from Cinesex magazine, a promotional item that tells the plot through a series of photos from the film.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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