A Quiet Place to Kill

2013 italian film culture blogathon

Yes, things look a little different here today. This review is part of The Nitrate Diva’s 2013 Italian Film Culture Blogathon, a celebration of all aspects of Italian film culture. And as such, we’re including a little background information for those readers not accustomed to giallo. Without further ado …

You know, there are directors who achieve fame or notoriety chiefly through a particular work (or even a couple), regardless of how representative it is of their oeuvre. To the general public, Umberto Lenzi likely means nothing, except perhaps, “What gibberish are you talking now?” but to horror fans, Lenzi means Cannibal FeroxNightmare City. Maybe even Eaten Alive! Which are all … decidedly not good. Some might go so far as to call them worthless trash. And that’s a damn shame, because Umberto Lenzi–and he will be the first to tell you this–has made a number of fine films, or at the least, far better ones over the course of his long career. I’d say the majority of his pre-1980 work is better by far, but it’s Lenzi’s curse to be known best as a purveyor of ultraviolent cannibal sleaze.

Lenzi’s strengths lie chiefly in action and exciting set pieces, and accordingly some of his finest work is in the poliziottesco filone–the “tough cop” crime and action flicks of the Seventies inspired by the likes of Dirty HarryLenzi’s poliziotteschi are easily comparable to the best of the filone by acknowledged masters like Di Leo, Dallamano, and Castellari. But before the rise of the poliziottesco, there was the giallo.

For those tyros tuning in Wikipedia can provide a quick background on the giallo; for our purposes, the essentials are that the giallo was a sort of crime thriller popular in the Sixties and Seventies; it was during the latter decade that the genre peaked (about 1972). In 1963’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much and 1966’s Blood and Black Lace Mario Bava laid out the general narrative structures and tropes of the filone (later playing with those same generic conventions in a string of ever more experimental gialli), while Dario Argento’s 1970 debut The Bird with the Crystal Plumage upped the ante with yet more violence and psychosexual drama–and was an international breakthrough hit. (Note that this film and Bird were released simultaneously, AQP2K coming out one day after Bird.) It is Argento’s work (in the vein of Bava) that is synonymous with the current popular conception of the giallo–complete with elaborate violence, kitschy style, and often impenetrable plotting. Most of the gialli popular today are from the “classic” period of 1970-1975, and therefore are considered direct descendants of Bird, and so the relentless discussion among fans and purists of just what does or does not constitute a “proper” giallo works from Bird’s example. And the Sixties gialli (saving Bava’s work, of course–in MOST instances) often fall victim to the “but really, what IS a giallo!?” nitpickers, particularly the type we’re discussing here, the sexy-thriller lenziani.

(Wait, what? That dude we just mentioned, the one largely reviled by anyone other than ardent gorehounds or fans of Eurocrime ? That guy has like, a film genre filone named after him? Yeah, pretty much. And it’s awesome!)

Differing from the Argento-type gialli in that they’re less mystery thrillers than suspense thrillers, i.e., the killer’s identity isn’t usually a mystery,  but rather the mystery lies in whether the killer will get away with their crime–and sometimes (always?) whether there is yet ANOTHER layer of duplicity. Less Agatha Christie than Hitchcock, these Sixties sexy-thrillers lenziani are also more Clouzot’s Les diaboliques than anything elseThink of the sexy-thriller lenziani as a gorgeous detour on the way from Bava to Argento, one that winds its way through sunny Mediterranean locales populated by the rich and glamorous. Carroll Baker and Jean Sorel will be there, looking fine, and there will be more of the beautiful people–and many of them will be nude! There will be scads of booze and pills, women and song, lies and videotape. We’re going to hop into a sporty little roadster and speed down treacherous serpentine roads until we reach the shocking conclusion of the sexy-thriller lenziani.

sex, lies, & super8

sex, lies, & super8

Paranoia
aka A Quiet Place to Kill
aka Os Ambiciosos Insaciáveis
aka Una droga llamada Helen
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Released: 1970
Starring: Carroll Baker, Jean Sorel, Anna Proclemer, Luis Dávila
Running time: 94 min
Genre: giallo

Women are sometimes silent, but never when there’s nothing to say. Lilian Terry, however, has plenty to say. She begins crooning “You,” the title track to Paranoia, over some Umiliani loungey jazz stylings. As the credits roll, we see  … I don’t even know what, but it sure is exciting! It’s all in Glorious Negativecolor, for one. There are zooms on women walking and staring, and cameras rolling–on us! There are reflections and distortions, rack focusing and women appearing, always staring. There’s a gun! And a crash! And a struggle! There’s running, and slapping, and ominous men in suits! And yet more staring, staring, staring! That dratted camera again! And it’s all tremendously exciting with the crooning the reversed colors and the THINGS HAPPENING. Finally, we see–who? Oh, it’s La Baker, and she’s ready for some Formula 1 fun.

And there we are, transported to a racetrack where Helen is a racecar driver, a veritable Maria Andretti. Only she sees (hallucinates? recalls? envisions? prophesies?) a handsome man (Jean Sorel) standing on the track–all we need now is Mary Weiss shrieking “Look out, look out look out!”–a swerve and a crash! The ambulance rushes the driver away, she goes into surgery, and then it’s … some time later, and Helen’s apparently recovered. Oh, all but her nerves, which are shot per the doctor, she’ll never race again. He also warns her against excitement, sex, smoking and drinking. Allowed to choose one but vice, Helen goes with whiskey, jettisoning playboys and fun. It’s not all so bad, however, as she’s also given a lifetime membership to the Valley of the Dolls–as long as she never takes one on an empty stomach!

Leaving the hospital with her erstwhile flunky/manager/paramour/hair model, Helen gets the bad news that she’s on the hook for MILLIONS (of lira, so who cares, it’s not like it’s real money anyways) for her hospital treatment and stay. Also for even more MILLIONS (see above) for the racecar she wrecked. On the plus side, she’s got a telegram from some well wisher! There’s always a silver lining. Turns out that the telegram is from Helen’s ex-husband Maurice, who’s got a villa in Mallorca, and suggests she visit. Playboy von Glamourhair makes a whiskey stop, and while he’s in the shop, Helen absconds with his sporty little car, headed for Mallorca.

helen was a racecar driver

helen was a racecar driver

you give love a bad name

you give love a bad name

when passion's a prison you can't break free

when passion’s a prison you can’t break free

In sunny Mallorca, however, Helen will find that it was actually Maurice’s WIFE (!!!) Constance who sent the telegram. And though she’s hesitant about joining Maurice and Constance for a little menage, their frolicsome fun in the sun life is just irresistible. As is Maurice. He’s just as deliciously seductive as he was when Helen married him (seriously, have you SEEN Jean Sorel!?), and Helen’s just as much under his spell as she ever was. Also under the influence of a drug called Maurice is Constance–but she yearns to break free. She enlists Helen in the founding chapter of Maurice Anonymous, and under her program the first step is murdering Maurice.

Murder is plotted and a murder occurs, but whose? Will the perpetrators convince the authorities of their story? Was the crime caught on tape? And just what is that untrustworthy nymphette Susan up to? It’s all J&B and jetsetters, women and Wess & the Airedales, upskirts and Umiliani until someone gets hurt–or dead.

A typical European male: selfish amoral, and corrupt. Between Bava and Aregnto there was a school of gialli rather unlike those with which we are more familiar. They are the psycho-sexy thrillers lenziani, and, well, guess who was the master? These gialli by way of Hitchcock and Clouzot–often with a noirish touch–are a breed apart from the post-Argento giallo, although their influence shouldn’t be underestimated.

your very first kiss was your first kiss goodbye

your very first kiss was your first kiss goodbye

psycho sexy

psycho sexy, qu’est-ce que c’est?

who's the hypotenuse now!?

who’s the hypotenuse now!?

Fisty: Let’s talk negatives first, specifically, that credits sequence. Maybe I suffer from short-term memory loss, but that was one of THE most exciting credit sequences I have ever seen. The first time I watched Paranoia, I remember being so jazzed within thirty seconds that I was jumping up and down, jizzing, texting, and tweeting. Then I tore my hair out. And started scream-crying, like footage of girls seeing The Beatles or Danny Bonaduce in person for the first time. I’m kind of getting the urge to start doing that again right now, actually. The music! The action! The cutaways! The crazy colors! SO. MUCH. EXCITEMENT.

You know, normally we wouldn’t spend so much time, either in the synopsis or the actual review, discussing a credit sequence, but in this case it’s absolutely warranted. The brilliant (yes, I am applying that adjective to Umberto Lenzi, more on that momentarily) thing about the sequence is not only how (incredibly) exciting it is, but the way it–well, I’ll let you take this one, Billy.

Bill: First, let me explain to the readers (as if we have those–HA!) what the hell you’re talking about, in case we aren’t being clear enough.

For anyone that hasn’t seen Paranoia (which I will now begin calling A Quiet Place to Kill or AQP2K for short–I’ll come back to that in a second,) the entire opening credit sequence is a montage of scenes from the movie with the colors reversed or, say it with me, “in NEG-UH-TIVE.” Now go back and read Fisty’s first sentence and laugh at her, because she’s funny. You can always trust her to bring the wits and class. She really was as excited as she claims about that opening sequence, too. That is not hyperbole. Her excitement was warranted though. It really is a kick ass way to open the movie … and kind of brilliant. You see all this struggle and violence and trippy, fun-looking stuff that foreshadows everything you’re about to see, while still keeping you clueless as to which things will be happening to what characters, since it’s so hard to recognize people in negative. Once you have seen the flick and re-watch that part, knowing exactly what you’re seeing in the intro makes it even cooler. One negative about the negative (I stole that from you, Fisty,) it does also tend to make everyone look a bit like poorly done CGI characters when they move. But there’s no way Lenzi could’ve have known that in 1970.

a quiet place to--oh, whatever

a quiet place to–oh, whatever

i play my part and you play your game

i play my part and you play your game

an ideal place to--oh, goddamnit, lenzi!

an ideal place to–oh, goddamnit, lenzi!

Getting back to the title thing … Umberto Lenzi’s Paranoia came out in 1969, starring Carroll Baker only to be followed by Umberto Lenzi’s Paranoia, which came out in 1970 starring Carroll Baker. SAY WHAT?! The ’69 film, known as Orgasmo in Italy, was retitled to Paranoia for international release. The ’70 film, Paranoia–that’s the one we’re doing now–was given the same name as the U.S. re-title of Orgasmo. So, to avoid confusion, they retitled Paranoia as A Quiet Place to Kill internationally. This attempt to avoid confusion has failed. I got confused just writing this. Seriously, what the hell, man? Is the “ridiculous” in our “ridiculous re-titles” tag even a strong enough word for this tomfoolery, Fisty? Do we need a new tag? Maybe something with curse words in it?

Fisty: Dude, it gets better! The title of Lenzi’s 1971 giallo Un posto ideale per uccidere translates to An Ideal Place to Kill, though it was released in the US as both Oasis of Fear and Dirty Pictures. So after releasing Paranoia with the international title A Quiet Place to Kill he released another film with a similar title. AND, his original intent was for Orgasmo to be titled Paranoia. What with the reuse of Wess & the Airedales’ “Just Tell Me” in both Orgasmo and A Quiet Place to Kill, I think Umberto Lenzi gets a wee bit fixated on motifs now and again.

Bill: You don’t say? Could you call filming with a glass of red liquid ruining your shot twenty-eight different times in one movie a motif he was stuck on? If so, then I agree. He is a better filmmaker than most people that know him only for cheap exploitative thrills would probably realize, but in this instance, I have to wonder what he was thinking. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why he would intentionally ruin his shot over and over with the glasses. There’s a few other scenes with, like, planters and vases in the foreground that throw you off, too. Is this some cultural thing that I’m not understanding? Just an eccentricity of Lenzi? Was this movie originally meant to be in 3D (with a funky disco cocaine theme song)?

you promise me heaven then put me through hell

you promise me heaven then put me through hell

quit being a bitch and fill one up

quit being a bitch and fill one up

bill is so pissed

bill is so pissed

Fisty: (Inasmuch as disco’s progenitors include funk, lounge, psychedelica, yes. Sort of.) But no. Those shots are hardly “ruin[ed],” Bill. Your use of “intentional” there should clue you in to what Lenzi was playing at with the different compositions –and AQP2K is indeed chockablock with funky yet elegant shots. Lenzi seems a bit experimental, like he’s playing more with different ways of telling the story visually rather than simply through the narrative, and that the tricks aren’t there just to to heighten dramatic impact. That showy rack focusing you find so distracting? Another way for Lenzi to show how the roles of victims and perpetrators become increasingly blurred and overlapping, the ways in which motives are obscured.

Lenzi also throws a lot of mirrored or double compositions and subjective camera shots into the mix, further playing with notions of just who’s doing what to whom here. Some of my favorites involve Helen and Constance, particularly their first scene (featuring a stunning gold crackle mirror tiled fireplace!), in which they’re both wearing green, establishing their jealous natures. Lenzi plays with color quite a bit, clothing Constance–and in one episode, Helen–literally in gold, symbolizing perhaps a deeper motive, and of course the film is practically awash in the red stuff. No, not blood (these Sixties gialli are rarely bloody), but myriad red libations–what are they, aperitifs? Campari or vermouth? I have no idea. Those little red glasses of SOMETHING potent–that’s important, Bill–are some of the worst offenders in those shots you hate. But Lenzi liberally splashes his film with red, the color of passion, anger, and blood.

Bill: I’m down with all the mirrors and the colors and characters dressing as one another and the flashes of memories and imaginings he uses to keep things twisty-turny and have the audience questioning everything. That’s all done very well. But whatever Lenzi was trying to get across by sticking a bunch of blurry crap in our faces, so we can’t even see the actors, he failed. Sure, you can say he hiding the actors behind a mask of colors that  represent their passions to show how those overpowering emotions are occluding their rational selves or whatever bunk you want throw out about it, but really, he could’ve done that in a much less annoying way. I think he did manage the same thing in other films without making me use my rage face. At least I don’t remember it being as jarring in Orgasmo or So Sweet…  So Perverse. I know Fulci has used similar ideas in, for instance, Perversion Story, but it wasn’t as frequent and it came off as cool, instead of … irritating. I don’t want to say this is because Lenzi is a bad filmmaker. Like I said earlier, he’s better than most give him credit for. I like him. But he is kind of eccentric and, I think, has a harder time pulling off ideas like that in a successful way. Or maybe he’s just a genius and he’s too smart for his own audiences. What do I know? I mostly watch these flicks for the sex and violence.

shot through the heart!

shot through the heart!

no one can save me; the damage is done

no one can save me

the damage is done

the damage is done

Mmmmm, violence. But only some! These lenziani tend to be fairly light on violence compared to other gialli, and that’s why they usually aren’t my favs. They do typically make up for it in other ways, however, like adding plenty of salacious kink,  bodacious style, beautiful locales, and vice vice vice! There’s booze and pills and T&A and sexual sadism, like Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion‘s Minou (who would totally be besties with Helen) in her sexy surrender scene in that movie, or the stylistic brilliance of Fulci filming a sex scene from the POV of a bed in Perversion Story. The pop culture hipness of The Sweet Body of Deborah is the big draw for me there, with a comic book themed nightclub and permanent Twister fixtures in the front yard. And Lenzi’s own Orgasmo keeps me rapt with the psycho-sexual torment a cute young couple put Carroll Baker through. AQP2K tries to make up for its lack of a body count by having Helen be naked pretty much every 10-15 minutes or so, which, believe me, I did appreciate. There’s also a fun club scene with a bitchin’ dancin’ girl upskirt (but, ugh, the song almost ruins it,) a fantastically bizarre cavern club, and some crazy, fun other stuff, like Hitchcock nods, Jean Sorel being ridiculously entertaining, and a scene with a stuffed fox monster … thing. And plenty of lovely decor, sets and artsy scenes, not counting those stupid drinking glass in the foreground ones. But, personally, I don’t think it was enough. I liked it and I certainly was never bored, but I don’t think it rises to the level of the other films I mentioned.

Fisty: I know some of his choices irritate you (though you’re TOTALLY wrong), but it’s important to note that Lenzi’s stylistic choices are used consistently and coherently; the style essentially delineates the text.

now part of this complete breakfast

now part of this complete breakfast

paint your smile on your lips

paint your smile on your lips

ohhhhhhh, you're a loaded gun!

ohhhhhhh, you’re a loaded gun!

For me, AQP2K has an elegance, a neatness, a … well, I’m just going to go ahead and quote Margaret Mitchell here: There was a glamor to it, a perfection and a completeness and a symmetry to it like Grecian art. Some–including Bill here–might argue my use of “perfection,” but when we take the concept of perfection back to it’s origins (sup, Aristotle!), we’re talking about something that is not only the best of its kind, but that is a whole, not missing any of its parts, and that it achieves its purpose. Though it might be argued (okay, is argued here) that AQP2K is not the best of its kind, it’s undoubtedly a consummate sexy thriller lenziano, made up of all the requisite parts. And most importantly for this argument, IT DOES WHAT IT SET OUT TO DO. Or rather, what Lenzi set out to do. To it. With it. Or something. Whatever. AQP2K is sexy, thrilling, and entertaining–and that’s exactly what we ask of gialli, be they in the style of Bava or Argento or Lenzi.

And lest we forget, AQP2K is technically excellent in every respect. The cast nails it; they don’t just hit their marks but inhabit their roles–Sorel and La Baker in particular playing signature character types. The psychology of the characters is credible, particularly Helen’s (and to a lesser degree, Constance’s) embodiment of Carlos Fuentes’ statement “Jealousy kills love, but leaves desire intact.” There’s a rococo look to it as well, from the sunny, golden exteriors in Mallorca to the literally glittering interiors–and costumes. And Piero Umiliani’s loungey score repeats the title theme when apropos, and otherwise provides a pleasantly snazzy background.

Bill: I also ask that they not obscure half of the screen with an out of focus drinking glass, but that’s just me.

Fisty: Boor. Swine. Uncultured lout.

ladies and gentlemen

ladies and gentlemen

home movies

home movies

there's something about maurice

there’s something about maurice

Bill: Snob. Are we finished here? Did we get back to how this is a giallo? Because there are a lot of arguments about that.

Fisty: Oh yeah. You’re right, I’ve seen these arguments come up for well, almost every non-classico giallo, it sometimes seems. We’ve touched on it previously with Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, Luciano Ercoli’s 1970 giallo  la femme (that’s not really a thing), and again with Massimo Dallamano’s 1972 schoolgirl giallo What Have You Done to Solange? Along different lines, Luigi Cozzi’s 1973 genre-bender The Killer Must Kill Again labors under the same accusation for different reasons. Shoots, even a prime example of the classico giallo like Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark has had such aspersions cast at it–seriously!–which just goes to show, not only are some people plumb crazy, but the definition of giallo is as nebulous, and ambiguous as the films themselves.

A generic definition that can (debatably) encompass such outliers as Argento’s Suspiria and Phenomena or Fulci’s The New York Ripper can certainly include films of a less fantastical or gruesome nature. But it’s not even about what we can stretch the definition to include, but what films make up an integral core of the filone. In that the Sixties gialli–lenziani or no–tend to be along the lines of the sexy inheritance thriller, referencing noir and Hitchcock and Clouzot, Lenzi’s thrillers absolutely typify this approach. While he did not necessarily innovate–Bill’s BFF Romolo Guerreri busted The Sweet Body of Deborah out in 1968, not to mention Bava’s previous contributions–Lenzi absolutely refined and realized the generic potential of these thrillers when he dominated the filone.

This type would flourish mainly in the Sixties, and the beginning of the Seventies, but would continue to affect the filone even after Bird’s excesses. Later gialli that place the emphasis on suspense as opposed to mystery, the inheritance thriller-type giallo, the gaslight giallo, the intimate giallo based on internal concerns–adultery, incest, etc–instead of the eyewitness, these are all related to the sexy thriller lenziani and its success. I dare say that virtually all of Sergio Martino’s classic gialli bear the imprint of the sexy thriller lenziani, and traces are found throughout many post-Argento films such as Forque’s In the Eye of the Hurricane or Picciolo’s The Flower with Petals of Steel.

probably an entire reel of blurry glass footage

probably an entire reel of blurry glass footage

ring ring ring ring ring ring ring giallo phone!

ring ring ring ring ring ring ring giallo phone!

party time, excellent

party time, excellent

Bill: I really did love The Sweet Body of Deborah. And going back to the cast “inhabit[ing] their roles,” you didn’t mention her, but Marina Coffa as Susan is just perfect. She embodies Susan so well that the second she’s on screen, before she’s even had a chance to act, I knew she was trouble. I’ve never seen her in anything else and I kind of wish she’d done more. Now, about the debt Martino owes Lenzi… Yeah. I can’t deny that. And I love Martino. Everything you’ve said about Lenzi and about this movie is true. I’ve been kind of critical of it and it isn’t my favorite lenziani, or even my favorite of the So Sweet… So Perverse/Orgasmo/Paranoia trilogy–I liked Orgasmo better–but I want to reiterate: I LIKE THIS MOVIE. My criticisms are minor, mostly adding up to, “I think this other movie is better,” and, “Blurry cups!” But just because I don’t consider it perfect, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. It would definitely surprise anyone that only knows Lenzi from his later films. But maybe it shouldn’t. He adapted to smaller budgets and changing audience desires and his later movies, while maybe not showing quite the technical proficiency he does here, are still precisely what he meant them to be and perfectly typify the times in which he made them. I can’t ever remember being bored while watching a Lenzi movie. Bottom line: He’s better than he gets credit for being.

Don’t worry about me, you’re the one sitting in the death seat. Ultimately, A Quiet Place to Kill is a fine film, a perfectly typical sexy thriller lenziani. With fine characterizations perfectly played by its cast, exotic and glamorous locales, a jazzy score, and a delightfully intricate yet tight storyline. While not as bloodily thrilling as later, post-Argento gialli, AQP2K–and others of its type–create a sensual atmosphere brimming with lasciviousness and intrigue. They are dependent upon not only the looks and attitudes of their characters, but also the psychology; instead of witnessing violent tableaux, we explore the ambiguous relations between the characters. The success of the sexy thrillers lenziani lies in the deliciously trashy spectacle of pretty people doing ugly things to one another in glamorous places.

 

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Evil Eye

nothing to do with anything?

nothing to do with anything?

Malocchio
aka Eroticofollia
aka Más allá del exorcismo
aka Blutige Magie
Director: Mario Siciliano
Released: 1975
Starring: Anthony Steffen, Jorge Rivero, Pilar Velasquez, Pia Giancaro, Eduardo Fajardo, Richard Conte
Running time: 93 min
Genre: giallo, fantastique

Men like him are certainly in no need of psychiatry. American playboy Peter Crane is living the life of Riley in Rome as King of the Expats, partying by day and orgying by night. One morning he awakens in his nude partygoer-strewn pad to the sound of the telephone ringing. When he answers, it’s his girlfriend Tanya, wondering where the hell he was last night when he stood her up. Oddly, all Peter can remember is the bizarre dream he was having, a dream of a Black Mass and screaming demonic suppliants. Putting that aside, he resolves to get up and face the day, so he puts a funky Stelvio Cipriani record and summons his butler houseboy majordomo Walter (Boris Karloff Walter Vernon Eduardo Farjado) to kick out the jams guests. This is the last coherent scene in the film.

From the opening orgy we follow Peter as jet sets (in a tiny car, natch) off to the fuggest fashion show in all of history. As his girlfriend Tania (Taga? Tarda?) MCs the event, Peter retires to the VIP lounge, where he proceeds to mack the first woman he meets, the piercingly-gazed Yvonne. Quicker than you can say, “Peter Crane will murder you,” he’s hitting on the widowed Yvonne and they meet up for a midnight tête-à-tête at his fly bachelor pad. Mid-grope, however, Peter goes bananas–the statues start moving, doors blow open, things fall apart, the center cannot hold, and he starts throttling Yvonne … and wakes up the next morning as if nothing has happened. Has it?

From this point on, Peter dashes through Rome, trying to figure out just what is going on, and sexing up every woman he meets–and then killing them! Possibly. At least, they end up dead. We think. Statues and other inanimate objects wiggle, ghosts appear, and Peter phlegmatically freaks out. Can the Doctors Stone and Turner help him? Is Dr Turner really Salieri? Will Dr Turner commit a gross ethical violation by sleeping with Peter? (Duh.) As the bodies pile up, can Inspector Ranieri uncover the murderer? Can Peter wear a shirt AND jacket? What does the Black Mass signify? Who was under that pile of bricks? Or on the train tracks? Where did that frog come from? Is it Tania or Taga? Or Tarda?

Tom Jones or Beethoven? Malocchio is Mario Siciliano’s surrealist canoe trip through the nightmare rapids of the mind of a man who is potentially insane, possibly possessed, just maybe haunted, definitely infected with the clap, and … oh, fuck it. We have no idea what’s going on with this movie. Can’t even fake it.

i'm too sexy for your party

i’m too sexy for your party

romper bomper stomper boo

romper bomper stomper boo

peter crane will look through your shirt

i’m too sexy for my shirt

Bill: Fisty got me all excited for this movie. She was talking about ghosts and Pigozzi and likening it to All the Colors of the Dark. She only called it Eroticofollia at first, instead of the much more boring Evil Eye [Fisty: Lies!], and she  showed me posters with red-hooded cult figures and red-eyed wizards throwing up triangle gang signs and she was talking about Guillermo del Toro.  So I was all hyped when I started the movie. I was initially disappointed when the ringing church bells turned out to not be the beginnings of an AC/DC song. Then, later, I was disappointed by almost everything else. Fisty is a dick.

It starts off well enough, with the aforementioned red-hooded Klan figures and red-eyed wizards throwing up triangle gang signs and there’s a bunch of naked people screaming, which is always nice. But this is all a dream? It may not have even happened. It’s the image on the fucking poster and it’s seemingly completely unrelated to anything else in the movie. The red-eyed gangster wizard…? I HAVE NO IDEA WHO HE WAS! The Klan guy in the red hood…? BEATS ME! What does this have to do with Peter other than possibly being a bad reaction to something he ate before passing out? How do I shrug with text? But maybe I’m focusing too much on THE FUCKING POSTER OF THE MOVIE. I mean, at least it was actually a scene in the movie. So it’s not quite as misleading as, say, the They’re Coming to Get You poster for All the Colors of the Dark. But, really, why does the most dominant image in the movie (other than Peter’s bare chest) have nothing to do with anything else?

Wait. Is that a spoiler, revealing that the dream is completely pointless? I’ll tell you: No, it isn’t. I’ll tell you  why it isn’t:  Because I could go minute by minute explaining everything that happens in the entire movie and if you sit down to watch it, you still will have no clue what is happening. To paraphrase the cat from Pet Semetary, “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, basted in confusion and roasted for 93 minutes at FUCK YOU degrees!” Fisty, you are a dick. And I’m pretty sure this movie had no influence on Pan’s Labyrinth.

i'm with the band

i’m with the band

peter crane is my mouth and i must scream

peter crane is my mouth and i must scream

you're tearing me apart!

so sexy it hurts!

Fisty: I didn’t actually say it did! [Bill: You did, too!]

I think we came away from Malocchio with two divergent experiences, because despite the insanity, I enjoyed myself. Yes, it is the kind of movie where, if you nod off unexpectedly for a few minutes, you can’t be entirely sure what was dream and what was film. It’s often brought up that there is a certain amount of incomprehensibility expected of gialli, that their plots are unusually convoluted or even nonsensical. (I’m not going into this in any depth, but there are definitely reasons for that in many cases, beyond the simplistic accusations of shitty film-making, such as the emphasis on character, mood, or sensation above America’s almighty Plot.) But anyone who has ever complained about the impenetrable, labyrinthine plots of gialli should watch Malocchio to really drive it home how easy they’ve had it. It’s really not so much convoluted as it is enigmatically BATSHIT INSANE. Or in less evocative terms, it seems made up of bizarre set pieces, rather than plotted.

But those set pieces are fun! I love orgies (really, who doesn’t?) and Siciliano gives us several. Jorge Rivero isn’t my kind of studmuffin, but I appreciated the devotion Siciliano had to showcashing his chesthair AT ALL TIMES. And though the technique is imperfect, I still enjoyed the Dance of the Inanimate Objects that would occur to signify Strange Happenings. Though often ludicrous, those bits often gave me a little thrill. They were just SO WEIRD. Of course, then it’d get to be a little much and end up looking like the “I Got My Mind Set On You” video. But still!  Admit that that stuff was fun.

stop staring at me as if i were some kind of manimal!

stop staring at me as if i were some kind of manimal!

orgy hijinx

orgy hijinx

peter crane WILL murder you

no way i’m disco dancing!

Bill: I admit nothing!

Okay, I did laugh a bunch of times, because the movie is just totally nuts, but also because of your live-tweeting as you watched it and the texts we were sending back and forth. So maybe I’m exaggerating my annoyance a bit. I like French Sex Murders and really enjoy The Visitor (with Franco Nero as Jesus!) and Malocchio is the same kind of nuts that they are. Those movies, however, seem to have something that Malocchio doesn’t. Charm? Malocchio maybe has some. Stars? Pigozzi does not count as a star. Competence? Oh, there is none of that here. At one point, I thought the guy filming was going to fall down and take the camera with him. A single thread of coherence? Th0se other movies at least try to tie all their crazy together. This movie doesn’t. You might as well just watch a series of bizarre YouTube videos all edited together. They have WTF elements, some WTF setpieces, but this is an entire WTF movie. It never even tries to make sense of anything going on in it. I mistakenly thought it was going to, right up to the end. I was wrong. I was SO wrong. even something like The Beyond, which is meant as a series of nightmare images strung together with minimal to no plot, has more of a cohesive narrative than Malocchio. I don’t need a linear narrative. I don’t need everything to make sense. But it would be nice to have at least one thing in the movie that I understand.

Another problem with Malocchio is that it lacks a decent editor’s sense of time. I didn’t even notice this when I was first watching it, because I was sitting with phone in hand, on Twitter. Later, in trying to explain the movie to someone, I was going through different scenes and, oh god, do they drag! Even the stuff I like, like the crazy dream scene just go on and on. That guy at the very beginning, arms outstretched, listening to the bells, is standing there doing that for, like, three minutes! Peter’s murder scenes cut back and forth from the victim’s face to Peter’s clenching and unclenching hands and staring eyes over and over. Maybe that was Siciliano’s way of trying to build suspense, but it really didn’t work. If you’re not texting and tweeting through these slow, slogging scenes, they are interminable. You can’t dispute that either, because I’m pretty sure you did fall asleep at one point. And I know that there were cultural differences in how the Italians and Americans watched their movies; I know lulls were often intentional, meant to be talked through until the good parts were on screen by people that may come and go without even staying for the entire movie. But when even the good parts drag, you can’t point to that and claim that as an excuse.

fashion by the house of sophia petrillo

fashion by the house of sophia petrillo

i'm too sexy for my shirt

i’m too sexy for my car

will the real inspector ranieri please stand up?

will the real inspector ranieri please stand up?

Fisty: On my second viewing when preparing to write, it actually seemed to go a bit faster. Granted, most people won’t want to wait for the second or third movie for a movie to be intelligible–or entertaining. And well, it was still weirdly interminable.

I agree with it not being the prettiest picture, either. The print on the Grindhouse DVD is pretty awful, but it’s likely the best around. But beyond that, though there are some cool shots and compositions, so much of the movie is just not attractive. The actors were fine, but the clothes and surroundings were unabashedly hideous. Even the giallo stand-by of the fashion house was shockingly unattractive–not outre or unconventional, but actually grotesque. My appreciation for Sixties and Seventies fashion is only lightly flavored with irony, so this was a particular affront to me, though I doubt anyone could even ironically think the red brocade bathrobe gown stylish. The characters’ outfits were usually on the blander end of the offensiveness scale. And other than the fur bedspread (a must for any really swinging bachelor), the interior design was also of the Inelegantly Dull School.

Peter was pretty much the most visually interesting object in the movie (is there a gay subtext we missed?). His were always divinely tasteless; I found his bizarrely-dyed Canadian tuxedo and his shiny tan suit especially enticing. His lustrous hair appeared to move of its own accord, while his chest hair was resplendently luxuriant. I don’t think there are enough adjectives for his chest hair. Body hair, really.

Everyone but Peter kind of blended into the tastelessly beige background. Anthony Steffen’s expression was so masklike that it took me a few scenes to recognize him; I know “wooden” is the usual descriptor for him, but I’ve enjoyed his work in Westerns and thought he was great in An Angel for Satan. Richard Conte looks distractingly like Fred MacMurray’s turn as Salieri. Aside from Lone Fleming (Tombs of the Blind Dead) and her piercing green gaze, hardly any of the actresses stood out to me. They were pretty, sure, but the bad print does them no favors ; also, I could hardly tell them apart, especially Doctor Sarah Turner (Pilar Velázquez) and Tanya (Pia Giancaro). Elizabeth (Daniela Giordano) probably stood out the most to me, not just because she’s lovely and was also in Bava’s Four Times That Night, but she was hilarious as Luciano Pigozzi’s shamelessly amorous wife.

i wish he were too sexy for that phone call

i wish he were too sexy for that phone call

tresemme, tresemme, ooh la la!

tresemme, tresemme, ooh la la!

so, you drive a smartcar?

so, you drive a smartcar?

Bill: I told you! Interminable! If it weren’t for your tweeting and texting, I’d have killed myself.

Some of the women stood out for me more than they did you. I really liked Tanya. She kind of has a ’70s era Daisy Fuentes look that I was very into. And she has no problem with Peter spitting toothpaste spit into her face, which is a good sign. I was also (maybe strangely or surprisingly?) struck by Eva Vanicek, who plays Sonia, though she is only credited on IMDB as, “Not sure.” She had a very atypical, but sexy look and she was just so nice and caring at Robert’s orgy. Maybe they’d have been more memorable for you if they’d had more screen time, but Peter (and Robert) go through the ladies so fast that none of them get to stick around long enough to matter. Most of them are in a couple of scenes, then they’re dead or forgotten and never mentioned again. Tanya just disappears when Peter starts sticking it to the lady doc, despite her supposedly being his “favorite chick.” Actually that happens with the men, too. I still want to know what happens to the cop after his car breaks down. And what’s up with the doctor? Could he perhaps be … Satan? I’ll never know, because they just drop his storyline at the end, too, without fully explaining it. So many loose ends!

As for visually interesting Peter’s awesome, non-chest-covering wardrobe, my favorite piece was his bright yellow Hai Karate pajamas with the kanji on the breast. Even Eduardo Fajado looked spiffy in them. Fact: Inspired by Peter, I almost went to work this week with no undershirt and showing off my chest hair. He really is the sort of guy you want to emulate, you know? Like when he measures time by chain smoking in a hospital. Or when he finds the silver lining in the death of a woman’s husband by telling her that her beloved hubby died so that he could inherit her. That’s sensitivity. Or when a wanton housewife comes onto him, telling him how he was the greatest sensual adventure of her life and he doesn’t even remember her at all. Who doesn’t want to be that guy?!  But none of Peter’s fashionable clothing or entertainingly tactless existence, nor a few pretty girls, and not even the whole mess of crazy WTF-ery in Malocchio was enough to keep it from being a movie that’s funner to talk through and talk about than it is to watch. While not as offensively bad as, say, Don’t Answer the Phone!, I don’t think I’ll be revisiting this one, unless I have someone to watch it with as a goof.

stay close a little longer

stay close a little longer

my hai karate jammies smell too sexy, walter!

my hai karate jammies smell too sexy, walter!

i just washed them, sir!

i just washed them, sir!

Fisty: It was aliens! Maybe? And Stelvio Cipriani’s score wasn’t bad at all, either; I’d even call it pretty good. Not the best–and sadly, it seems to peak in the opening orgy scene (still love it), but it’s usually pretty enjoyable.

Malocchio is really a case of the parts being greater than their whole. Describing any–or several– of the aspects of it (Cipriani score! Peter’s chest hair! Moving statues! Orgies! Tom Jones or Beethoven!) make it sound really, really, REALLY awesome. But all together they end up a mystifying mishmash; instead of a glorious trifle, you’ve got a bowl of salmon, blueberries, chocolate pudding, and rye crackers.

Pure WTFery, Malocchio is no lost gem, but it’s also not without a peculiar charm. Recommended with reservations for the most conscientious of Eurosleaze devotees–or those who want to understand just how good they’ve got it with di Leo, Martino, and Lenzi. 

The Killer Must Kill Again

because if he didn't, there wouldn't be a movie

 L’assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora
aka Il ragno
aka Matador Implacável
aka The Dark Is Death’s Friend
aka The Killer Must Kill Again
aka The Killer Must Strike Again
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Released: 1975 (filmed 1973)
Starring: George Hilton, Antoine Saint-John (as Michel Antoine), Femi Benussi, Cristina Galbó
Running time: 86 min
Genre: giallo, suspense thriller

Divorce Italian-style. A gaunt figure carries what appears to be a sleeping woman toward a car with its engine running and lights on. It’s dark out, and the pair could be a groom and his new bride for all the tenderness he shows as he gently places her into the car’s passenger seat. But when he enters the driver’s seat and tenderly strokes her hair and face, we see by her waxen pallor that this woman is no longer living. The gaunt figure abruptly becomes sinister, then shocking as he suddenly gropes the dead woman’s breast. His long, slim fingers tense as he gazes upon his handiwork, and then he turns and drives toward us, and into the night. The screen goes black, illuminated by only a tracery of red spiderweb as the ominous music kicks in. We are watching The Killer Must Kill Again.

The movie resumes, this time on a quiet city street, perhaps even on that very night? It’s dark and peaceful, and the only person we see is an anonymous man strolling his bicycle down the sidewalk. But as the camera pans across the boulevard, zooming in on a lit window, we hear the angry voices of a domestic argument. The camera dissolves into a shockingly AWESOME yellow (GET IT?) apartment, and here we are introduced to Norma, who may or may not be stupid or hysterical. Seated on the genuine Muppethide sofa is Giorgio (George Hilton, of All the Colors of the Dark, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, etc), sporting silver wings in his hair that give him the air of an elder statesman Lothario. From their bickering we come to understand that it’s Norma who holds the pursestrings in their marriage, and that she’s sick of Giorgio’s shit. Women calling day and night and talking in sexy voices, lies, debts … Though he denies the shenanigans, citing “business” and “clients,” Norma is through with him. She’s closing his bank account, cutting him off with a mere ten thousand dollars. Enraged, he calls her sick in the head and tells her he’s leaving. As he storms out, he asks her to tell that woman who’s been calling that he’s on his way. SICK BURN.

To calm himself, Giorgio drives through the city, ending up at a payphone, where he parks and tries calling Frederica, the putative sexy-voiced woman. After leaving a message with her roommate, Girorgio looks out over the water to reflect. In the distance is a red Beetle, and Giorgio notices our sinister gaunt figure. Without even checking that the coast is clear, our dear killer arranges his victim in the driver’s seat, then casually rolls the Beetle into the water. Our Dear Killer pauses to enjoy the sensation of a job haphazardly done–and the refreshing flavor of Marlboro Country: Where the flavor is–and it’s then that we really get a good look at this curiosity. Our Dear Killer is long, tall, and ugly, one of the oddest faces in film, one that only a mother–or casting agent–could love.  Antoine Saint-John’s (The BeyondMy Name is Nobody) features are both skeletal and simian, and they are brutally shocking when Cozzi finally reveals them. Giorgio, however, knows a good thing when he sees one. Approaching ODK like a playboy would an ingenue, Giorgio takes ODK’s lighter, offering him a light–WITH HIS OWN LIGHTER. And then he makes an offer ODK cannot refuse.

They discuss the arrangement in what may be the world’s only late-night ice skating rink: ODK will murder Norma and dispose of her in such a way as to suggest that she’s been kidnapped. Giorgio will collect a ransom, which he will pay to ODK for his help, and the two will part ways, ODK to continue molesting dead women and disposing of them in a slipshod fashion, and Girogio to spend his dead wife’s inheritance and talking to sexy-voiced women. The perfect plan, yes? No! This being a thriller, nothing will go quite the way it should, and both Giorgio and ODK will play their own individual games of cat and mouse with a wily police detective and two joyriding teens, Luca and Laura. There’s a Woolrichian twist, and suddenly Giorgio must scramble to protect his hoax, while ODK pursues Luca and Laura, perhaps for his own reasons. Round and round it goes; where it stops, nobody knows.

a cunning place to hide a murder car

paradise by the dashboard lights

they say i'm ugly but it just don't phase me

What you are is an hysterical lunatic! Not only is The Killer must Kill Again (henceforth referred to as TKMKA) a taught thriller by any standards, it is also a unique giallo, one that upends genre conventions and alternates between asking hard questions and reveling in black humor. It’s a must-see for your gialli checklist. Or is it? Do its antecedents blind the viewer (read: Fisty) to its flaws?

Bill: Oh, man, I gotta say, I love how sleazy this one starts out. You have to admire a film that has Skeletor feeling up a dead slut in a red (the color of sluts) Volkswagen before you even see the title screen. Kind of a bad choice of car for aqueous body disposal, however, as Fisty has told me they float. Well, Beetles anyway. I don’t know if just any Volkswagon would float. Fisty?

Fisty: As far as I know, Bill, it’s just the old Beetles that were airtight. When I was little, we were driving my stepsister to her mom’s house in Ewa Beach, which still had a lot of undeveloped (read: dirt n’ gravel) streets when we came to an intersection that was one giant puddle. I mean, the ENTIRE intersection. My mom kept driving her ’78 Beetle Cabriolet through, and midway across we began to float. Fortunately, we had enough momentum so that the tires hit ground after a few minutes, and we continued on our merry way.

Enough digression! The Killer Must Kill Again! By the way, that’s kind of a terrible title, even in a genre known for bizarre international retitles and generally obscure titling practices. Actually, so is the original Italian title, Il Ragno, The Spider (which explains the title sequence). Well, it’s not great; perhaps something referring to the constant cat and mouse games would be better. I suppose the killer must indeed kill again, not only because he is apparently driven by unknown forces to kill, but also to cover his and Giorgio’s tracks. Our Dear Killer is not only a Man Without a Name–perhaps the initials DA on the lighter are his, or perhaps it belonged to a victim, we’ll never know more than Cozzi’s allusion to mentor Dario Argento–but also a Man Without an Apparent Motive. We learn nothing about him, not even in the film’s coda, but that he is driven to kill and that he makes what legions of my past arithmetic teachers would call “careless mistakes.” (I especially love the twist sequence, when he’s cleaning up after himself post-Norma and leaves … well, you’ll see.) Most gialli make at least a nod to compensating the audience’s interest in knowing the the motive, the why, the reason everything happened. In TKMKA we understand Giorgio’s motive–a wonderful spur of the moment one, and very mercenary too, also contra to the usual elaborate and long-cherished giallomotive–but never ODK’s. And Antoine Saint-John, what a great killer. He could just rely on his bone structure to sell the inscrutable murderer, but he never does. His body language, his eyes, they sell his role. Even in moments when he doesn’t speak a word–a particular one we’ll discuss later–he communicates an essential humanity. And damn, he is funky looking.

Saint-John and Hilton really carry the film. Not that the rest of the cast sucks, by any means. No, Cozzi assembled a band of professionals. I find Cristina Galbó’s (What Have You Done to Solange?Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) Laura a bit too passive a nonentity but fine, and Alessio Orano (Lisa and the Devil) is competent with his slimy Luca (and he really looks weirdly familiar to me; perhaps he just looks like he could be hanging out on the North Shore–I don’t know). Femi is Femi, god love her. Tere Velázquez’ (The Night of a Thousand Cats) Norma is well-played, taut and histrionic. And of course veteran villain Eduardo Fajardo (DjangoThe MercenaryCompañeros) has a good time with his clever police inspector role. BUT! The bulk of the movie concentrates on Giorgio and ODK; in fact, we presume that Giorgio is the protagonist, only to discover with a Cornell Woolrich-worthy twist that ODK is the real heart of the movie–in more ways than one. Hilton’s Giorgio is the framing story, though he does end up being the baddest of the bad men, and a cold motherfucker, too; despite his extramarital affairs, he lusts only for money. We even see him tenderly caressing the filthy lucre at one point. His motive for doing away with Norma has nothing to do with the other (sexy-voiced) women, but is all about the Benjamins. I daresay he married her for it, after all. ODK, on the other hand, is a man consumed by his passions. Granted, those passions amount to rape and murder–not always in that order–but his is the emotional core of the movie. He kills because he is driven to it for whatever reason, and is shocked and exhausted by his biggest murder scene, while Giorgio calculatedly kills because he wants to, because it gains him something. He is the really nasty one.

they've got GIALLO FEVER

protip: killers cannot afford monograms

the dynamic supertrustworthy duetto

The two have a strange relationship, with a kind of a maybe gay subtext. Look at how they meet, Giorgio picking up ODK like a john with a streetwalker, particularly the very sexually charged gesture of lighting ODK’s cigarette, WITH HIS OWN LIGHTER. (I cannot emphasize that enough. Where are my ULTRACAPS?) Now, moving along, when they first hash out The Plan, it’s an the all-night ice skating rink, a date location. And Cozzi treats us to some splendid play on the male gaze and class consciousness with his featuring an ice skater throughout their conversation; there are some really nifty edits here, too. Their second date is in a movie theater (Fun fact: The movie playing is The Tunnel Under the World, Cozzi’s indie first project.), where they all but hold hands as they finalize their plans. And lest we forget, all Giorgio can think about while making love to Norma is ODK (and The Plan, yes yes, I know). This is not unfamiliar territory for Hilton, who played with gay subtext in several of his spaghetti Westerns (see Every Man for Himself and Fulci’s Massacre Time), and he is the essence of all that is smooth whether with the ladies or the gents. As per uszh, amirite? Though ODK also is hetero-not-so-normative is his attentions to women, he is easily seduced into Giorgio’s plan, because it is something he’s into all along. Both men are flexible, able to insinuate themselves into whatever role is necessary.

They’re both devious, and fiends in their own ways, ODK somewhat less so. But so are all the men in the movie. They’re all liars, intent on playing their games with each other, and the women are merely the means to their ends. Giorgio toys with ODK, who toys with Norma, then Luca and Laura. Luca plays with Laura, and the Inspector plays with Giorgio. (Another upending of genre convention: The police inspector knows all along what kind of game Giorgio is playing, he’s just cynically setting a trap for him. Not so much the bumbling polizia of other films.) Every woman is a hapless victim and sexual object; interestingly, they all outrank the men with whom they are paired, too. Sexual and class warfare mingle in a commentary on contemporary Italian society.

Bill: Digression? Moi? No way, Mrs. Homo-Subtext. I was totally giving you an in to talk about all the killery blunders, like trying to dispose of a body in a car that’s still going to be visible at the surface of the water days later without even looking around to see that some dude is watching you. Like you said, however, despite his “careless mistakes,” ODK is a great baddy. I love that we never get to know his story. He is a total old school mystery murderer, like The Shape or Leatherface or Billy from Black Christmas. Why does he kill? Because he does and that’s all you need to know.  One little action of his, even more than the killing and corpse groping, provides some meat for your ‘magination about just how ‘”off” he is, and maybe why, and that’s the way he tenderly, even believably, professes to love one of his victims as he’s brutally attacking her. Man, what a creep! And, yeah, he looks like an emaciated Seal in whiteface, which helps.

Fisty: Now, I gotta stop for a moment, and call your attention to something. I’m not sure you realize how AMAZING it is that TKMKA is so good. Because it is, if you have a passing knowledge of its director, Luigi Cozzi. You see, Cozzi is perhaps most well known for his Video Nasty, the inoffensive Alien meets Zombie sci-fi schlocker Contamination. He also did Starcrash and some Hercules flicks, among others. What these later films have in common is that they’re all pretty bad. Fun, incoherent, harmlessly silly entertainment for devotees of Italian genre films, and MST3K fodder. Even knowing that he worked with Argento on Four Flies on Gray Velvet, among other projects, seeing his name attached to a giallo, and then discovering that the film in question is undeniably GOOD would be like finding out that Chris Sivertson directed Silence of the Lambs. Which he did not. Because he makes not good movies. Get it?

step off, i'm doin' the hump

oh yes, ladies, i'm really being sincere

i get laid by the ladies, ya know i'm in charge

Bill: Dude. You forgot to mention the Italian Godzilla. How could you forget to mention Cozzilla?

Fisty: One way in which TKMKA is dissimilar to other gialli is the style. Simply put, TKMKA is somewhat lacking in that department. Not to say that it’s ugly, not at all. But it has far fewer of the striking (and campy) fashion and set dressing to which I am accustomed from other notable gialli. One exception is the Mainardi’s giallo apartment–which isn’t a set, but someone’s actual living space! It’s amazing, a swankily tacky modernist’s tacky dream/nightmare, all glossy surfaces odd angles. The low budget precluded a lot of elaborate sets, and Cozzi sets most of the action in the apartment, or the stolen car, or at a few random locales like the canal. The only other noteworthy location is the seaside villa, which is not so much stylish as ominously bizarre. Did Hieronymous Bosch decorate?

Fashion-wise, there are only two ensembles I even remember: ODK’s and Femi’s. The former is a sleek, all black bell-bottomed look, later accented by the classy Mercedes he drives–the one L&L steal. ODK has a low-key luxe air, which sharply contrasts with Giorgio’s antiseptic tastelessness. I only noted Femi’s because it was reminiscent of her police interview ensemble in Strip Nude for Your Killer–but less slutty. So TKMKA strays from the giallo mold (ha!) in making stylishness part of the landscape, rather than a focus.

I had about enough digression earlier, but I’m gonna digress again over here for a minute. It’s still blowing my mind a little about Cozzi making TKMKA. I’m fascinated by how a director with such an assured, skillful film debut could have gone on to a career like his. If I’d never heard of Cozzi, or seen anything else by him, and had only seen TKMKA, I would expect him to either have a lot of genre output like most other directors of the period, but specializing in horror or thrillers (Bava, Martino, Lenzi, etc). or to have stayed within the horror/thriller genre, rather than going on to science fiction, fantasy with science fiction flava, or horror with science fiction flava. But after seeing him interviewed on the DVD, I now understand. Cozzi is a thougtful, intelligent, well-spoken … fanboy. A sci-fi fanboy like whoa. And unfortunately, he was a) plagued by too many grandiose ideas on too-small budgets, and secondly, not good at that thing he loves. Which is sad. If only he’d continued with gialli

i'd like some water...with a side of MURDER

showdown at the ok giallo

who is your daddy and what does he do?

Bill: Enough about enough digression! I think your familiarity with Cozzi’s other work is leading you to over-praise TKMKA a bit. Yes, it’s a good movie, Saint-John is great, Hilton is great, but it does have a really big flaw: The middle third of the movie is BORING! The first third is great, introducing you to a charmingly amoral husband, a creepily creepy killer, and a sort of Hitchcockian, Strangers on a Trainish plot that’s pretty unique for a giallo. The last third, starting with a nasty rape/murder scene that is intercut with some fun car sex (the standout scene in the movie,) is pretty great, too. In between, however, is a lengthy stretch of teen carfeefs, Luca and Laura, just driving and not having sex and talking and not having sex and going to the beach and not having sex and exploring an old villa and not having sex and trying to make the place comfy and not having sex and being hungry and OH MY FUCKING GOD, LAURA, WOULD YOU JUST GIVE IT UP ALREADY! The movie is only 86 minutes long, for fuck’s sake!

Exhale. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. … Ok. I’m fine now.

So, yeah, TKMKA is kind of like The Toolbox Murders in that regard. It’s not ruined by the slow crawl through the middle, but it is kept from being really great.

Fisty: I think you’re being a little hard on it. Yes, it does drag a bit, but less than a lot of gialli that are too busy throwing red herrings around and showing how stupid the polizia are and how clever the general public in comparison. And I feel Cozzi actually keeps moving things along during that section: Though I  give a rip neither about Laura putting out and Luca being a steaming turd of a person, nor the subtext of those things, we’ve got Giorgio and the police inspector’s amusing little cat and mouse game going on, and Cozzi using ODK’s search for Luca and Laura to slowly amp up the suspense. We know he will have to find them, and that SOMETHING will happen when he does, but Cozzi stretches out that suspense unbearably; the whole reason things slow there is to increase the tension. And this is a remarkably tense thriller.

And it’s funny you should mention Hitchcock. Like the Master, Cozzi eschews the surprise factor so integral to the giallo, to the mystery, and concentrates on the suspense in the story, playing with our expectations as the maestro would. After all, as I’ve previously mentioned: For the most part, we know what will happen in TKMKA. We just don’t know how. Cozzi slowly increases the tension steadily throughout, sustaining and building on everything prior until we reach that final, standout scene. Norma is particularly useful for that. First there’s the scene where ODK comes to kill her. We know why he’s there, though she doesn’t, but she senses the inherent wrongness in ODK. Her nerves, and the way he toys with her makes the scene incredibly creepy–and in sometimes unexpected ways. When she returns from fetching him a drink, she doesn’t see him. But it’s not because he’s no longer in the room, or is sneaking up behind her, he’s simply moved elsewhere, throwing her off balance (along with our expectations).

they once got busy in a burger king bathroom

not quite general hospital

"murder house DOES sound like a nice place to stay."

Her corpse provides more of that unexpected tension. There are so many near misses, moments when you’re just SURE she’s going to pop out of the trunk, changing the game … but she doesn’t. It’s only at the final act that Femi Benussi, in her role of “Dizzy Blonde” (And oh, is she dizzy. And irritating.), FINALLY opens the trunk and Norma is FINALLY discovered. ODK appears just then, and Femi is just stricken. You see a glimmer of suspicion, but she wants to believe ODK too much, and she goes with him into the villa to her doom. It’s an absolutely riveting moment in all its inevitability. From the moment we met Femi, we knew she would die, that it was foreordained and only a matter of when and how. But standing there on that grey, beach, before that decayed villa, Femi is so glowingly vital and alive and–despite her irritating character–so human that it’s almost unbearable to see her go off to her end, especially when it seems that she is unconsciously aware that it IS her end. But the movie doesn’t end there, and we get no relief from the tension.

Bill: Luca isn’t that bad. He’s very patient with Laura, even when she’s yammering on at him about the rich dudes that take her out joyriding in their daddy’s cars, knowing that poor Luca has to steal a car, just to take her out. And he always stops to help stranded motorists. Especially ones he wants to have sex with behind his girl’s back. Or in a threesome with his girl, who he will leave behind if she doesn’t consent. Okay, the guy’s a turd. But at least he’s handsome. He  looks kind of like that Jordan Catalano kid would if Jared Leto had darker hair and was male.

Anyway… I still think the movie needed a little something extra–some titties? some murder?–some kind of action to liven up the plodding middle. The worlds slowest car chase and the world’s most laid back cop just weren’t cutting it. Sure, the ever-threatening to pop out Norma corpse adds some suspense, but that wasn’t enough to keep me fully engaged. While you’re spot on about the stalking/slayings of Dizzy Blonde and Norma being tense stuff and way more competently handled than you’d expect, given Cozzi’s other flicks, those scenes are at opposite ends of the film and probably have a good hour between them. And, a minor gripe: In the aftermath of the attack on Dizzy Blonde, Cozzi did linger a bit too long on Femi continuing to breathe after she was supposed to have been dead. I got a laugh out of that.

We’ve got ahead of ourselves though. We’re talking about the Femi stalk and discovery of bodies already, when we’ve only passingly mentioned the roughest, most vile, most powerful scene in the movie. After taking forever to get there, ODK finally comes into contact with our trio of young innocents and you get to see how really depraved the skull-faced bastard is. He spouts off about “love” while brutally attacking and raping one crying girl. That’s bad enough, but the scene isn’t just played out straight. Instead, it’s interspersed with scenes of a different couple having empty, carefree, backseat sex in a car parked just off of a nearby road. I’m trying not to spoil too much of the movie, so it’s hard to talk about this scene and how it will make you feel for the victim and what it will make you think, besides just yo-yoing you between titilation and revulsion. It’s this scene that kicks off the violent climax of the movie and has you retracting your wishes from just a few moments before, that something would happen already. Now you feel bad for, and are praying for mercy for, characters that you were previously annoyed with.

the humpty dance

just grab 'em in the biscuits

femi shows laura some of her "groovy tricks"

Fisty: The last thing TKMKA needs is more murder, and I’d usually grant you the titties on general principle, but in this case, I just can’t. One of the reasons the finale is so effective is because when the killing suddenly begins, it is shocking because we suddenly realize how little blood we’ve seen so far. And since we as viewers of gialli have expectations about the amount and type of gore and violence we will see, it is especially disconcerting, adding to the shock value of the finale.

The rape scene is nasty, powerful stuff, one of the grimmest scenes in a often grim genre. I’ve seen a lot of rape scenes in movies, and this is perhaps the worst of all. Not necessarily because it’s explicit–no, Cozzi is extremely circumspect. It’s because the rape scene is the apogee of a technique and idea Cozzi has been using to toy with us, the viewers, throughout the entire film. Or, depending on your perspective, it’s the absolute nadir.

Now, I’mma back up here for a minute. Cozzi uses a cross-cut technique several times in TKMKA, including in the rape scene, and always to great and disturbing effect. After Giorgio and ODK make their plans, Giorgio returns home, well pleased with himself, and proceeds to take an essential step: Making nice with Norma. In order to allay suspicions and especially to prevent her from making any financial changes to his detriment, he must seduce his wife all over again. And, being George Sexy Motherfucker Hilton, he does. But all the while, as Giorgio makes sweet, sweet love to Norma, Cozzi cross-cuts to the previous scene with OH NO, NOT THAT FACE ODK. Cozzi juxtaposes Giorgio’s outward and inward feelings, the passionate lovemaking and the calculated plans for murder, and it’s extremely disquieting. Cozzi further plays on our feelings of unease during Norma’s murder, cross-cutting again, this time between ODK toying with and then killing her and Giorgio setting his alibi, partying and laughing it up with friends. Then, ages after those sequences, nearing the finale, we’re suddenly assaulted by another cross-cut, this time of the rape/lovemaking scene Bill mentioned above.

On the one hand there’s Luca and Femi going at it with sensual abandon, and it’s good stuff to look at: sexy, beautiful, fun. And on the other there’s Saint-John’s harsh, impassive features and Laura’s eyes streaming tears–which is about as much as we ever see of the rape, which is neither exploitative nor explicit. But her terror and pain is so explicit, and the humanity Saint-John projects so pitiful, that the brutality is heightened to an unbearable degree. Thanks to superb direction and editing on Cozzi’s part, and Saint-John’s acting, ODK is implicitly human; this savage rape is as close to a normal human interaction as he is capable of, and perhaps the only way he can feel feeeeelings. In contrast, Luca’s essential vapidity, callousness, and lack of humanity makes his lovemaking with Femi empty and shallow. Who is the real monster, ODK or Luca, the little Giorgio in training? And beneath even that is Cozzi’s great joke on us all: As spectators, we can enjoy neither the sex nor the violence we came to see and take pleasure in, and furthermore, we are complicit in the crimes by our very act of watching.

Cozzi knows his audience, the giallo‘s audience. Not looking so much for art or story, they/we came for shocks, style, sex, and violence. Hence the beefing up of so many gialliwith red herrings and drawn out, ever increasingly gory and elaborate murder sequences and nudity. Hell, some movies were only made to surround the murder setpieces someone conceived of beforehand. I’m not looking at anyone in particular, DA. Cozzi throws those expectations out with the bathwater and implicates the spectators in the violence in TKMKA.

yo ladies, oh how i like to funk thee

Bill: Ahem. “Then, ages after those sequences…” Exactly my point. The majority of the praise you’re heaping on the movie is for scenes at the beginning of the flick and at the very end. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do like TKMKA. A lot. Every nice thing you’ve said about it is spot on. THIS IS A REALLY GOOD MOVIE. Bold. Underlined. I just think the pacing was a little off, the middle a little too slow. It’s not a long movie. It doesn’t need any cuts, but just a tad something extra to pump you up when it lags. Now I’m harping on the problem, like it’s the worst fucking thing ever. It’s not, it just seems that way, because I don’t have anything else to bitch about, because, again, it’s a good movie. It’s got savage violence, a menacing baddie, suspense in excess, a few fun, unintentional laughs, and an original plot. Great at both ends and okay in the middle.

Oh, and one last thing from me: That Giorgio may be one scummy fuck, but he sure knows how to handle himself with class, even when he’s backed into a corner.

Fisty: He’s Beverly Hills classy.

Also: YOU’RE NOT LISTENING. But, I’m done. There’s so much we barely touched on, but we’ll leave that for someone’s dissertation.

I think it’s safe to say we agree that The Killer Must Kill Again is a bravura giallo, worth your time and consideration. Luigi Cozzi demonstrates surprising mastery of the genre, jettisoning many tropes and deconstructing its ass off, occasionally even outdoing his mentor, Dario Argento. Clever use of a low budget, skillful photography and editing, subtle direction, a good soundtrack, and excellent performances all make for a gripping and merciless thriller, with nods to Hitchcock, Leone, Tourneur, Truffaut, roman noir, and Universal horror, among other allusions. The only real disappointment for me is that Cozzi did no more. Perhaps if it had been released when it was made at the height of the giallo craze we would have seen more fine work from him in that genre. Oh well, at least we have Cozzilla.

French Sex Murders

better than portuguese handjob assaults

Casa d’appuntamento
aka The French Sex Murders
aka Das Auge des Bösen
aka La brigada del inspector Bogart
aka Maison de rendez-vous
aka The Bogeyman and the French Murders
Director: Ferdinando Merighi
Released: 1972
Starring: Anita Ekberg, Rosalba Neri, Evelyne Kraft, Barbara Bouchet, Howard Vernon, and Robert Sacchi
Running time: 83 minutes
Genre: giallo, exploitation

It all began on the last day of Carnival: The silhouette of a man leaps from the Eiffel Tower! Cut to the base of the Tower, where a man dashes toward it from one direction, while several cars full of men and gendarmes pull up from assorted directions. Then HUMPHREY FREAKING BOGART jumps out of a car, and they all give chase up the Tower! Upon reaching the observation deck, the man/silhouette leap (again), and Bogey lights a cigarette, then looks pensively down. A noir-ish voiceover tells us when it all began …

Jewel thief Antoine leaves the scene of the crime to shower baubles on his favorite hooker, Francine (Bouchet), at Madame Colette’s House of Ill Repute. Unfortunately, the very concept of a hooker doesn’t seem to sit well with the deranged Antoine, and he smacks his bitch up upon realizing that she does indeed make the sex with other men. Antoine is clearly crazy and a dick. He absconds, and her body is found bludgeoned to death. It seems obvious that Antoine is the killer, and he is pursued accordingly by Bogey–sorry, Inspector Pontaine (Sacchi). Antoine goes to his ex-wife Marianne (Neri) for help, but she and her lover/manager Pepi want none of that, and the hapless schmuck is soon caught, protesting his innocence all the while. Upon his arrest and sentencing, Antoine vows revenge upon all those who helped to convict an innocent–albeit derange and woman-beating–man. To further his vendetta, Antoine escapes prison and flees, only to be decapitated in a grisly motorbike accident. His head is handed over to the creepy Dr Waldemar (Vernon) for some totally pointless “experiments,” and we’re briefly distracted by some intrigue between Waldemar’s assistant Roger and his daughter Leonora (Kraft) before the Inspector pronounces the case closed.

death stalks la ville-lumière

Everyone can rest easy now, right?

Since this is a exploitation murder mystery, no. People continue to die right and left, all with a connexion–sometimes so entirely tangential as to appear invisible–to Madame Colette’s House of Happy Endings. Who could the killer be? Is it the pipe-smoking Professor of Prostitution? A hooded Satanic cabal? The Killer Nun–err, Madame Colette–herself? Could it be sleazy Roger? Or even Boris Karloff–I mean, Doctor Waldemar? Who knows? Merighis sure doesn’t seem to! We will visit scene after scene, murder after muder, and the cast will drop like flies until someone realizes a murder mystery requires a killer–and all will be revealed, culminating in the final chase we … already saw. Twice.

Play it again, Samuele: Not all gialli were created equal, and French Sex Murders is one of the most disadvantaged orphans of the genre. It has none of the style or visual flair key to stars in the giallo firmament, nor any suspense, and not very much gore. The plot is more confused than convoluted, and makes even less sense than that of most gialli. But a cast that’s a virtual Who’s Who of Eurocult cinema, a swinging score by Bruno Nicolai, insane edits by Bruno Mattei, and the nonsensical gimmick of a Humphrey Bogart-lookalike make it a worthwhile diversion for the (very) tolerant fan.

when worlds collide

Bill: Remember that awesome scene in Point Break, when Johnny Utah is chasing a president through back yards and alleys and they’re leaping fences and throwing a dog around and it’s exciting and fast-paced and gets you all pumped? French Sex Murders starts off exactly like that scene, only it’s not awesome and it doesn’t have the same excitement and action or even a dog, but it does have some cops making a big deal of jumping over a chain that was so low they could’ve easily stepped over it. Oh, and Johnny Utah is Humphrey Bogart and the man in the president mask is a cartoon silhouette. Yes, Humphrey Bogart. Or, rather the man with Bogart’s face, Robert Sacchi. He’s not the only familiar face. Just as Point Break had an awesome cast of recognizable actors (at least to mainstream American audiences,) FSM’s cast, while maybe not the Eurosleaze all-star team, could definitely be the Eurosleaze all-stars B or C-team. This cast, the complete absurdity of the movie, and some laughably inept acting, however, are all the movie has going for it. French Sex Murders, I mean, not Point Break.

Fisty: I especially like the cast credits over the laissez-faire chase scene; excitement is created by all the infamous names flashing by, but not by the chase itself. It’s a very subtle way to distract viewers’ attentions from the many shortcomings of not only the opening scene, but the entire film. After all, one can coast on the pleasure of seeing Evelyne Kraft, Rosalba Neri, or Barbara Bouchet for quite a while–or Howard Vernon if that’s your bag.

"oh, nothing much. 'sup with you, girl?"

That amazing cast influences the wacky plot, too. Apparently, it was common practice to feature alternate edits–sometimes differing wildly–for different countries, often focusing on a star who was particularly popular in a given country. A cheap exploitation flick like French Sex Murders (I’ll never make an initialism of that title because I enjoy saying it too much) would milk that dodge for all it was worth, as you can see if you try to follow along with French Sex Murder‘s plot. The good folks at Mondo Macabro took practically every inch of footage from every version, stringing it all together in what is touted as the longest, most complete version of French Sex Murders ever distributed, but whether that creates any clarity in the storyline, I’ll leave as an exercise for your divertissement.

Basically, nothing in French Sex Murders makes much sense. I know, I know, you’re saying, “But Fisty, how often do gialli make sense?” Yes, yes, as a genre, gialli do not have a reputation for being sensical. With all the red herrings flying about like fish at the Pike Place Market, and the boobies, and the psychedelica and the camp, the gore and the boobies, the crazy visual style and editing tricks, well … the actual story can get lost. But most have at least a pretext of plot, and the greats have more. French Sex Murders is not one of those. Everything in it is a red herring for exploitation’s sake, until they decided to just wrap it up already.

i'm not crying, i'm wondering about tony. wondering where he could be, who he is with, what he's thinking, whether he's thinking of me, and whether he'll ever return someday.

Ordinarily, you’ve got some amateurs investigating a murder (or murders), hindered by the hilariously incompetent police force. French Sex Murders has no amateurs doing anything at all but wandering around living their varied lives: Leonora and Roger have their affair and worry over it, Marianne sings and worries over her cheatin’ man, Waldemar messily mashes up a sheep’s eye for no particular reason, etc. Inspector Fontaine wrapped up the case after Antoine died, so he’s really not doing a whole lot after that other than the occasional narration, other than looking uncannily like a cross between Bogey, Nixon (Bill: like in Point Break!,) and my ex Sean. Ugh. People die. This isn’t even really explained as subplots, because they’re just the faintest traces of such. It’s more like the bare bones of five different movies (read: familiar and/or pretty faces) are all tossed together haphazardly till they stick in a semblance of a story. Mostly, people die that you’re expecting to die, so there’s not a lot of tension because, well, you’re already expecting it. Occasionally, someone else of no apparent import dies. Even the murders themselves are pretty tame, too, with some laughable effects, so the payoff for waiting and watching is insignificant.

it's a sexy party at madame colette's!

Bill: Antoine’s escape from the law is possibly the most useless twist in the film. He’s captured and tried and sentenced to die by the guillotine, which, shockingly, France was still using until 1977. I looked it up. This all seems to happen in, like, a day, by the way, with the trial – a murder trial with no real witnesses and a man’s life on the line – lasting all of two minutes! Nice courts, dick. Anyway, he lays a curse of revenge on everyone that allowed an innocent woman-beating thief to be executed for Francine’s death. This is cool. An innocent man is put to death, swears revenge and people start dying. I can dig that, only, in the next scene, you’re being informed that he’s escaped. They don’t show you this happening. They tell you with a news report. One second he’s screaming about a curse and the next, he’s on the loose. Now the supposed killer is on the loose and ready to carry out his revenge for the beheading he escaped. Fine.  Not as good of a story, but I’m still down. Only, then, they cut to him running from the cops. He steals a motorcycle and we get a really shitty motorbike chase with the cops that ends with him getting in an accident and losing his head.

WHY?!

If they were going to cut off his head anyway, why not just do it with the guillotine? Why was this chase even necessary? All his escape did was lessen the impact of his curse rant, make for even more of a convoluted plot and pad the run time with boring scenes of Antoine riding a motorcycle. Did Dick Randall just show up on set one day and demand a motorbike chase? (Fisty: Yes.) Did they not have a kung fu professor handy to shoehorn in that day? “Hey, Merighi, someone’s letting me borrow a motorcycle, write it in.” I mean, I could at least understand it if Martellanza was the kind of actor you just wanted to see more of, but he’s not. He’s terrible! His dick-flappingly angry explosion of man on woman violence against Francine should have been upsetting, but he’s so outrageously bad that the scene becomes unintentionally hilarious.

pb&g does not condone woman-beating, ever. unless she's really uppity.

Fisty: As a card-carrying humorless feminist who likes to shriek, “Misogyny” whenever she gets the chance, I must say that it is amazing how woman-beating becomes high comedy in the hands of skilled artisans. I love that Merighi keeps Bouchet fully dressed while Antoine’s willy waves in the wind–and that Martellanza desperately tries to keep it covered. His performance is nothing short of uh, remarkable. French Sex Murders is full of moments like that.

Bill: Like when one girl is accosted and all but raped in the club, and Marianne and Pepi just watch. And when Pepi finally does step up to stop the guy, Marianne interprets it as a sign of infidelity! And seduction in French Sex Murders seems to boil down to snatching a bitch up by the arm, spinning her around and slamming faces together, busting her lips with your teeth. I am surprised everyone walked away with all their teeth intact. There really is a lot of crazy to laugh at in this flick. We did mention that, right? Every murder flashes over in rainbow colors, like some twisted Skittles commercial. The courtroom scene flashes to negative. At one point, while the aging judge is on the verge of collapsing, looking like he’s having a heart attack, Waldemar, the DOCTOR, just suggests he go home and have a shot of Cognac. Alcoholism is the BEST heart medicine!

But it’s Bogey that really takes the prize. Inspector Pontaine just has to be the wackiest thing in the whole movie. One of these things is not like the other. He feels like he was snatched out of a completely different movie and dropped into this. It’s like having a Ru Paul impersonator play Gary Busey’s part in Point Break.  Even his dialog is out of place, with lines like, “You run a tight ship, Pepi. Better keep it on an even keel.” He just does not fit in this movie. Whoever had the idea to cast Sacchi and use him like this (probably Randall) is either completely mental or a true visionary. Either way, the total nuttiness of French Sex Murders is the saving grace of an otherwise stupid giallo that, despite its cast, can’t even manage to be sexy.

Fisty: Whoa, whoa, WHOA. Brandy IS medicinal, Bill. And lest we forget as Dr Johnson said, “Claret is the drink for boys, port for men, but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.” Clearly, Waldemar is a hero. Acting out a Donkey-Skin fantasy, but a hero nonetheless.

definitely not an oedipal reference

I want to get back to where you were going with sex and the French murders. Considering it’s a giallo set in part in a brothel (and ostensibly named for it), French Sex Murders isn’t seductive in the least. There isn’t much nudity or sex–comparatively speaking. Merighi also keeps the focus largely on male characters; though the camera does follow Marianne and Leonora around for a while, it’s content to chase others as well. It’s an interesting turnabout from a more usual female-centric giallo, where a woman is an integral part of a sleuthing duo, or the main character. Rather than dissecting the male gaze upon women as in films like Blood and Black Lace–or even Strip Nude for Your Killer–Merighi seems more interested in gazing upon males and their activities; women are only incidental. They’re on par with the hideous faux rococo knickknacks scattered around the sets to class up the place.

Bill: Ugh, I know. All that eye candy and no one bothers to take the wrappers off. Neri may be your girl, but I am all about Evelyne Kraft. She was stunning as Leonora, way hotter than stupid old Lori Petty was in Point Break. But sadly she isn’t given a whole lot to do in the movie and Roger can never seal the deal (not surprising, considering he pronounces Roger ROH-jhay,) so she never sheds her kit. The second half of the movie is a bit spicier, however, including the sex scene where we get to see Doris’ magnificent pit-crops hanging like the damp black hair on a pair of Japanese ghost girls’ heads. Typically underarm ‘fro on a girl is something I’d complain about, but here, it adds some extra hilarity to a sex scene that was already made pretty funny by her bearded hippy man’s lovemaking style. It kind of looks like he’s in a wrestling match that he can only win by climbing over her and licking her shoulder blade.

oh my god, i left the baby on the bus!

Fisty: I might venture that the main failing of French Sex Murders is that it doesn’t fetishize anything at all; not the blood or kills, not the mystery, not the women or even the sex (and if you can’t fetishize sex, what fun are you?). Even with all its myriad faults, look at how another purely exploitational giallo like  SN4YK worshipped its women; they were stunning and active–look at the camera’s love for Femi Benussi; she exists to be sexy and beautiful (which is likely sexist, but who doesn’t enjoy watching that woman walk? or move? or breathe?), her introductory scene is a paean to the confident and sexually liberated woman. There is no woman like that in French Sex Murders. And the sex is perfunctory, like they realized they were over halfway through the movie with barely any action, and so they threw in a sweaty sex scene.

With such flaws, can we still call it a giallo? Sure, why the hell not? It nominally features many genre conventions: Black-gloved killer, psychosexual motivation for the murders, murders that re-enact or compulsively repeat a trauma, camp fashion, incompetent cops, red herrings, casual sex, etc. We’ve got a ludicrous narrative, staccato editing, tacky settings, and performances that vacillate between labored and melodramatic, but we also have a film that is rarely dull due to its defiance of conventional (or good) filmmaking. Dick Randall (look for his cameo as a few-wearing sheikh!) et alia set out to make a campy and preposterous exploitation giallo, and they did just that.

If you’re looking for middle-brow Art or intelligence, you won’t find it in French Sex Murders. You won’t find much sexiness or style, either, or even blood, but you will find total absurdity.

Bill: It’s no Point Break, but it’s ok for a watch with some MST3K style ribbing.

they're all going to laugh at you