Friday, September 25, 2009

The Frightened Woman



Frightened Woman.

Original Title: Femina Ridens

Aka: The Laughing Woman

Directed by: Piero Schivazappa

Thriller/Drama, 86.03min

Italy, 1969

Distributed by: Shameless Films Entertainment.


Story:

A young woman spends the weekend with a Doctor in an attempt to unveil his evil ways, although get’s more than she bargained for when the erotic game takes a serious turn. Slowly but surely roles are changed and a fiendish plan is set in motion.



Me:

Femina Ridens could easily be viewed as being degrading towards women, as it does deal with a topic that will at first estrange women and could be perceived as objectifying them. This would be an easy statement to make about this movie and many like it in the ”exploitation” genre. But if you where to claim that this movie is an insult towards women, then it’s a fair guess that you have missed the point of the movie (or fell asleep before the final reel) as I would claim that the major plot twist makes this movie a highly feminist movie. After all who is using whom for their own needs here? Who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist?


Maria [Dagmar Lassander] is an eager journalist who get’s an opportunity to spend the weekend with Dr. Sayer [Philippe Leroy, who you possibly saw in Dario Argento’s pale finale to the Mother’s Trilogy, The Mother of Tears, Umberto Lenzi’s splendid Gang War in Milan or Lilliana Cavani’s The Night Porter, yeah the one that jumpstarted the Nazisploitation genre], whom she plans to spend a few nights and days with so that she can get the scoop on him. She suspects that he is a murderer who kills his victims as he climaxes during sex, and she's going to bring him in. Or at least that is her initial plan...


Getting into action, Maria goes home with Sawyer but soon finds that he’s once again setting his sinister plans and sexual fantasies into action as she's lured into a fiendish world of sadomasochistic eroticism. At first she resists, but with time she starts to come around, only to learn that Sayer instead rejects her once she has submitted to him. Maria becomes desperate, and continues to play along with Sayers sadomasochistic games, and in one weak moment he confides in her and shows her photographs of his previous victims…



Now terrified of becoming Sayer's next victim, Maria tries to commit suicide by downing a fistful of pills instead. This is where things start to get really interesting. When Sayers realises that Maria dying would deprave him of his latest sex slave, he saves her. But this rescue isn’t salvation but instead becomes his damnation. He starts to feel emotional towards Maria, after all he shared his secret of the murders with her, and she listened to him tell the tale of his childhood memories, she knows him on a deeper level. (Which could be of use for her invest gory newspaper article!)


Dr Sayer, also grows as a character, in his fear of loosing his sexual play thing, he tends to her and nurses her back to health, and the two find themselves growing closer and closer. But subtly Maria is taking the dominating role instead of Sayer. It is now she who resists his approaches, as he moves in for intimacy, she backs off, taunting him in the same way he taunted her earlier.


Finally the climax to their erotic sadomasochistic game, in a sudden twist that you possibly may have seen coming, but at the same time a highly satisfactory climax, and the same one I claim makes this movie a feminist movie. Ages ago academics like Cynthia Freedland and Laura Mulvey argued that classic filmmaking is dominated by the “Male Gaze”, i.e. Women are only objects on screen for a male audience to google at, hence the starting accusation of this piece that it could easily be seen as a classical movie where females are only there to bring a voyeuristic and erotic element to the movie. But as I also pointed out the roles change and with the final scenes the tables have been turned on “us” the male audience, and if we follow Carol J. Clover’s writings on the female role in “horror cinema” she points out that we actually accept the fact that we identify with the “final girl/women in peril”, hence rendering her an active, valuable character and in no means passive and unimportant. That is exactly what happens here, as the final scene is played out. The rush of insight makes us realise that Maria is not a victim in yet another cheesy chauvinistic exploitation flick, but a strong, determined predator with a very obvious agenda that she is following in a splendid genre piece that plays with traditional gender roles and prejudice inherited from previous entries in the genre.


Trashy, 60’s pop arty, bold and an excellent movie to say the least. The cinematography by Carlo and Sante Achilli is fabulous, often reminiscent of Gialli photography, and relying heavily on symmetrical compositions to create stern images that go hand in hand with the strict and spartan modernism of Dr. Sayer's house of sin.


Producer Guiseppe Zaccariello only produced a handful of movies, among them Mario Bava’s milestone Giallo A Bay of Blood [1971], Rino Di Silvestro’s Nazisploitation Deported Women of the SS Special Section [1976], and Joe D’Amato’s Jungle war/Spaghetti Western hybrid Tough to Kill [1978]. Zaccariello not only produced, but also wrote scripts, and got a screenwriter credit on all three movies which all, by coincidence, just like Schivazappa’s Femina Ridens feature great scores by maestro Stelvio Cipriani.


If you are into that Freudian analysis thing, then you’ll have field day with this movie. It’s riddled with male/female emancipation as it uses archetypical gender roles and the prejudice that lies within those roles, subtle symbolism, especially the fabulous scene where Dr. Sayer walks into the crotch of a giant statue of a woman lying on her back only to have razor sharp sliding doors slam shut behind him in a monstrous Vagina Dentate. Once the doors open, only Sayers skeleton remains… Make what you want of it, but it’s a marvellous scene.


The Sculpture - Installation ”Hon-en Katedral” (literally she-a cathedral) by the artist collective Niki de Saint Phalle / Jean Tinguely / Per Olof Ultvedt was re-produced for the movie, as the original once stood at Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1966. After entering the giant sculpture through the vagina visitors could enjoy a cinema, a rollercoaster ride, gaze upon a goldfish pond or buy soda from a vending machine. Now that should give you an impression of size!


As you may recall from my bit on Luciano Ercoli’s The Forbidden Photographs of a Lady Above Suspicion, Dagmar Lassander never really made an imprint on me in any of her movies, (even though she was in two Fulci movies and that first tickling Ercoli Giallo) but this is possibly one of the exceptions, as she really makes this movie work and her acting is top notch as she slowly shifts from victim to perpetrator. She really sells the part perfectly, and instead of the regular “Oh I’m in Shock!” face, she actually manages to act with her facial expressions here too. She is fully believable as she curiously sets foot into Dr. Sayers world, terrified as he starts to enslave and break her down, flirtatious and sexy as she gives in to his plan, only to set her own in motion and stand victorious and content after her triumph. Once again this transition and performance is what sells the shift into a feminist theory discussion held above.


This edition claims to be a restored version, and for a change it’s not a marketing trick (which the UNCUT – UNRATED stamps usually signal to me when I’m choosing editions to buy), as the team at Shameless with the use of a varied bin of source materials, and constant dialogue with director Piero Schivazappa. This all led up to their screening for him, where he held with script in hand, later responded; “It is as faithful as it can be to the original script”, “This IS the version of my film to watch.” Once again Shameless bring a fascinating movie back to the intended vision of the filmmakers and make it available for fans of the genre after a painstaking labour of love is presented.


Image:

1.85 : 1, Remastered for 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen


Audio:

English Dialouge, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo


Extras:

The customary assortment of Trailers for other titles available from Shameless: Tonino Valerii’s My Dear Killer, Corrado Farina’s Baba Yaga (which Shamless also restored to HIS vision of the movie, not the butchered version available previously), Lucio Fulci’s Black Cat, Guiliano Carnimeno’s RatMan, and both of Massimo Dallamano’s Venus in Furs, and What Have They Done to Your Daughters. There’s also the Shameless Redux trailer for The Frightened Woman, but below I give you the original grindhouse trailer for your entertainment.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie


Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Original Title:

Non si deve porfanare il sonno dei morti

Aka: The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue,

Breakfast at the Manchester Morgue,

Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead,

Don't Open the Window and many more.

Directed by: Jorge Grau, 1974

Italy / Spain, 95min

Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment




Story:

An antique dealer plans on spending a quiet weekend in the countryside but finds his plans shattered when a young woman accidentally crashes into his motorbike at a gas station. Edna offers George a ride to his destination, but on the way plans are changed once again and he ends up driving her to her planned visit to her sister who lives in the countryside. The road there unfortunately takes them the wrong way and as they stop to question at a farmyard a stranger wanders up from the river and towards the car. A stranger who has been dead for a month!



Me:

Jorge Grau's excellent “Undead” (I'll be saying undead from here on, as nobody in the movie ever says the word zombie. But we all know that they are zombies don't we!) movie Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, with all of its many a.k.a. titles is a great piece of genre cinema, and one of my personal favourites of the genre. Following in the wake of the groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead, it's possibly one of the best entries into the genre brought to recognition by George A. Romero in 1969. Luckily it's one of those Italian-Spanish coproduction’s that relies more on story than gut munching effects of the later wave of the zombie genre. Not that those movies are bad, quite the opposite, the apocalyptic world of the flesh eater is a tantalising one to say the least.


Producer Edmondo Amati, (producer of such greats like Fulci's A Lizard in a Woman's Skin 1971, One on Top of the Other 1969, Alberto De Martino's The Antichrist 1974 and Antonio Margheriti's Cannibal Apocalypse 1980) decided that he must to get in on the zombie niche after Romero's movie became a hit, and in Spain he found his perfect candidate, the young Jorge Grau. Grau had a decent background in movies, not the horror genre per say, but a majority of his works had elements of the fantastic in them and had received an overall fine reception. Amati approached him with the question “Do you like Night of the Living Dead?” A movie that Grau indeed was a fan of, but as he was trying his hardest to get his Ceremonia sangrienta 1973 (aka The Legend of Blood Castle) off the ground since 1964 when he first heard of the Countess Bathory legend during a film festival in Czechoslovakia, the two could not collaborate on the project Amati was trying to pitch. Some years later after the completion of Ceremonia sangrienta, Amati approached Grau once again with the Sandro Continenza penned script, asking if he still liked Night of the Living Dead. Giving Grau a free hand to change the script and take the time he needed to make it more realistic, the two started their relationship, which would end up being Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.


Made in an age before the realistic gore exploded onto screens with movies like George A. Romero’s sequel Dawn of the Dead 1978, Andrea Bianchi’s Nights of Terror 1981, Marino Girolami's eclectic Cannibal/Zombie hybrid Zombie Holocaust 1980 and Lucio Fulci’s epic mother of all Euro Zombie flicks Zombi2 1979, Grau chooses, much like Romero to rely heavily on the realism and everyday drama of the people caught up in this strange new world rather than focusing on the specific gut munching and reigning chaos of a zombie infested landscape.



Let sleeping Corpses Lie is a pretty straight forward story, George [the fantastic Ray Lovelock] sets out for a weekend in the countryside, getting away fro the stress of inner-city life, which is made quite obvious during the start of the movie, the citizens walk aimlessly, stare blankly as they await busses, in the heavy trafficked core of modern civilization. People are seen wearing facemasks to avoid breathing in the fumes (which interestingly enough makes one think of the swine flu pandemic and fear that we are living with right now. It makes the movie contemporary even today) the further George gets out of town on his motorbike, cross cut with images of fuming industrial towers, urban decay, dead birds, the imagery lightens up and instead of the close-ups of decay, we start seeing wide shots of open country, fresh air and swaying fields. George is closing in on his safe haven, but when stopping at a petrol station to fill up his bike Edna accidentally crashes him into. Edna [star of Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? 1972 and Luigi Cozzi’s top notch Giallo The Killer Must Kill Again 1975, and who also won the best actress award for her part in the movie at the 1974 Sitges film festival] offers to drive him to his destination. But they end up going the wrong way, into the middle of nowhere. George gets out at a nearby farm to ask for directions and two important storylines are introduced. The ecological cause of the forthcoming outbreak is established, which has George make a political statement. Don’t mess around with Mother Nature. No sooner has he said his than Edna has her first encounter with the undead, as Guthrie [the recently deceased Fernando Hilbeck], a local tramp tries to attacks her. Edna manages to evade him and runs up to the farm too, but George and the farmer can’t believe what Edna tells them, and laugh off the shocking experience she just had, as Guthrie couldn’t possibly have attacked her. He died almost a month ago.


A subplot with Edna’s sister Katie [Jeanine Mestre] is set in motion. Katie, a recovering drug addict has been forced out into the countryside by her husband Martin, [José Lifante] and Edna is on the way there to convince her to sign into a rehab programme and get of the drugs once and for all. But she just can’t seem to stay of the smack and as she secretly prepares to shoot up in the barn, she finds herself in the dark stood face to face with Guthrie! This encounter leads up to the death of Martin and it’s at this point of the movie that the real antagonist makes his entry, The Inspector portrayed with bravura by Arthur Kennedy. The Inspector quickly makes up his mind that these city folks, these damned hippies with their longhair and drugs, are the real culprits and that they have killed Martin, not the fantasy figure that Katie claims did. Now this in one cop who always gets his man. We can understand that from the way he moves, talks and acts. He isn’t afraid to go out on a limb to bust a case, and his loyal men are always standing by, ready to act on his every demand. Just watch as he lays pressure on Katie, trying to make her confess, not giving a damn that she just watched her husband be killed.


The movie moves forward as George and Edna try to figure out the whereabouts of Guthrie as both sisters now claim he is the real killer After an infant unexplainably in a fit of rage bites George at the nearby hospital he takes Dr Duffield [Vincente Vega] back to the farm where scientists explain the strange experiments they are conducting in the fields outside the village. Using ultrasonic radiation they are fighting off insects and bugs, who instead of eating crops go insane and kill each other instead when they hear the noises the strange machine makes. Really it’s a modified combine harvester, but it looks believable, and it gives a possible reason for the dead rising from their tombs.


George and Edna’s quest leads them to a crypt under the village church, and low and behold, they find him, the undead Guthrie. This is followed by a wonderfully long sequence where they battle their way out of the underground tomb chased by several more undead that Guthrie awakens by wiping blood on their foreheads. Once again their success in the horror narrative is their damnation in the drama narrative as the Inspector arriving at the cemetery finds his officer sent out to trail the suspects gutted and three burned corpses. Yeah, the undead now dead again.


Finally they all gather for a fantastic ending with several shocking events back at the local hospital and the movie comes to its climax with a bang to say the least. In some ways the ending is kind of silly, but at the same time it’s the ending we always wanted for Ben [Duane Jones] in the movie that inspired this one to start with, Night of the Living Dead. Even though the special effects by Gianetto De Rossi are quite restrained, I’m sure that in 1974 they where quite shocking, even the masterpiece from the other side of the Atlantic, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1974 isn’t’ as visually spectacular as this movie is. And the movie is a wonderful time capsule of De Rossi’s realistic effect wizardry only a few years before he really took it to the limit in those splendid Italian genre pieces.


Symbolism and negative counterparts play a part in Grau’s movie. During the very start of the movie we see a fertility stature the symbol of life, a few moments later the camera focuses on a haunting painting which look like a strange blend of the iconic atomic bomb mushroom and a harrowed face of a dead person. Also in a wider perspective it’s somewhat ironic to start a movie that ends on such a down note with a symbol of life. The struggle for human survival is conquered not by the monsters, but by humans themselves. The Cops, who are supposed to be the good guys, turn out to be the bad guys. It’s all wonderfully sinister isn’t it, and one can only imagine the degree of social criticism Grau brought into the movie here, as the idea that the police force represents Franco and his dictatorship over the people of Spain isn’t too far from bay.


Much like The Exorcist 1973, Jaws 1975, and the recent Swedish hit Let the Right One In 2008, it’s the realism of the drama that makes the movie work. The movie is set in a real world and is actually a drama with horror themes and elements. Also i's the very ordinary characters who help drive the movie. George is a simple antique dealer who only wants’ to get to his rural house in the countryside to get away from the hectic tempo of the inner city. Edna is an everyday woman on her way to visit her sister who also lives in the countryside. There are no superpowers at play here, no secret army training, no suitcases full of weapons, just two common people in the middle of a terrifying setting. It’s the simple choices that they make that make them believable characters. Running for their lives, much like you and I would do.


The explanation for the undead coming back to life is also quite reasonable, and in many ways a critical standing point. The human element is to blame, not a freak of nature, but our own need to control our environment. An ecological theme that we are to blame for our own downfall much like in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Jean Rollin’s Grapes of Death 1978. And it works, because we can relate to it, much like we still relate to discussions concerning the environment still today. It’s easier to swallow than radiation from outer space isn’t it?



One of the more sophisticated tools used by Grau in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, is that George is a sceptic, it’s not until we pass half of the movie that George actually believes that the dead have come back to life, and from then on starts fighting with his life at stake. This is a cunning device as we grow into identification with George as he grows into the believer, his scepticism is the same as ours, there can’t be monsters, but as he changes and develops as a character we go along on the ride with him and he bring us into the story. As he comes to terms of the reality of monsters, so do we.


All of these splendid storytelling tools are used to crate a magnificent movie that still almost forty years later makes it a really disturbing, believable, engaging and highly entertaining movie. A masterpiece of the horror genre to say the least. A definitive must see movie for any fan of early European Zombie Horror.



Finally a word on Giuliano Sorgini’s excellent soundtrack. (Sample above!) It’s honestly one of the most impressive scores conceived for an Italian genre movie because where it starts out as a rock funky jazz thing so typical of the Italian movie scene at the time, it quickly degenerates into a terrifying mixture of primitive growling and guttural sounds which are really disturbing and go perfectly with the images of the undead feasting on the bleeding flesh of mankind. Great stuff, perhaps not as proggish as Goblin or as melodic as the Fabio Frizzi and Alexander Blonkensteiner tunes of the later wave of gut-munchers, but definitely a disturbing soundtrack for a fascinating movie.



Image:

1.85:1 widescreen


Audio:

2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo


Extras:

This version is the limited edition tin boxed set so it has the following extras; A few TV spots, a couple of Radio Spots (which I’d love to have had on CD with the Score! That would have been an extra!) A galley of posters and stills, a novelty Toe Tag replica, a small replica of the German poster! (Surely they could have found a Spanish one, that image is beautiful!) And the best, an interview with Jorge Grau and a 24page booklet, which reproduces text by Nigel J. Burrell from the long out of print Midnight Media book on Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.


And if you really, really want to know… I have no. 1547 of the 5000 limited run.


Friday, September 11, 2009

The Secret Killer


The Secret Killer

Original Title: Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro

Aka: Eyeball

Aka Wide Eyed

in the Dark

Directed by : Umberto Lenzi

Italy /Spain 1975

Giallo, 89min

Distributed by: Marketing Film



Story:

A group of American tourists in Spain find themselves having a terrible holiday when a homicidal manic with a passion for chopping out the eyes of the victims strikes among them. Tension and paranoia set in as they try to figure out who is stalking and killing them, and everyone is fast on the hand to point out a assailant.



Me:

Umberto Lenzi, a fantastic director to say the least. I usually say that he’s mostly know for his cannibal movies [Man from Deep River 1972, Eaten Alive 1980, the infamous Make Them Die Slowly 1981] and the rather cheesy, but ever so atmospherical Nightmare City from 1980. But in my opinion I have to put my money on his decent amount of Gialli and Poliziotteschi which are so much more superior to his gut-muncher movies, and if I was ever forced to write a top ten Gialli list, Umberto Lenzi’s splendid Seven Blood-Stained Orchids from 1972 would definitely be one of the selected few. But today I cast my left eye and thoughts on The Secret Killer (or Red Cats in a Glass Maze as the original title really translates as) which Lenzi directed in 1975.


Obviously there is a reasonable amount of doubt as one sits down to a Gialli. Will it be one of the great ones, or will it be a mixed up jumble like so many other have been. The Secret Killer is quite often refered to as a mediocre Giallo which lack

s plot, a critique often aimed at the Giallo genre. A critique that definitely is unjust, as the plot definitely is there; Who is the killer, and what is the killer’s modus operandi and added to that there are all the cryptic subplots that shave the viewer searching high and low for the right answer. And unlike so many other detective or criminal movies you can almost never predict the outcome of the Giallo as it plays with a completely different set of rules opposed to convention, which is why they still fascinate audiences once again on digital media.


The Secret Killer sees a band of American tourists in Spain being driven round and shown the sights in your general touristy manner. At one stop Reverend Bronson [George Rigaud, who’s face will be familiar to genre fans from Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels 1971, Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Womans Skin 1971, One on Top of the Other 1969, Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark 1972 and Lenzi’s Knife of Ice 1972] is the first to reach the scene after a young woman is brutally stabbed by an offscreen killer who for a change wears red gloves instead of the genre trait black gloves. The cops, Inspector Tudela [Andrés Mejnuto], who only has a week before retirement, and his young assistant Lara go to the autopsy, where Lara drops the classic line “Excuse me Doctor, are you saying that the killer is a sadist?” to which the Doctor replies “I wouldn’t really doubt it!” That’s the sort of tickling dialogue Lenzi and co-writer Félix Tusell come up with in this fine example of the Gialli. Félix Tusell was originally a producer and went on to continue producing movies after writing the screenplay for The Secret Killer, and that’s kind of a shame, as The Secret Killer has a lot going for it as I will point out shortly.


During the autopsy and later towards the end, when they know who their main suspect is, you will also see a policeman played by Fulvio Mingozzi, who frequently had bit parts as detectives, policemen or agents in almost all the great genre pieces. Do check out his resume, it’s an impressive list to say the least!


Anyhow after questioning the Reverend, setting up the first of many red herrings, the cops leave and the group of tourists continue their holiday. During this set up we are introduced to Paulette Stone [Martine Brochard, who had previously been in a few Nunsploitation flicks and Sergio Martino’s Poliziotteschi Violent Professionals 1973.] the secretary and former mistress of Marc Burton [John Richardson, who starred in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday in 1960 and later Martino’s Torso 1973]. Burton, who mysteriously arrives at the scene of the crime to comfort Paulette and try to swoon her back into his arms. But Paulette won’t be seduced so easily, at least not until Marc is divorced from his wife!


This sequence introduces the major mulligan of the plot; in the very opening after the credits we see a woman in an airport rebooking her flight to New York for a flight to Barcelona instead. We will pretty soon realise that this woman is Alma [Marta May], Marc’s wife, and our knowledge that she took a flight to Barcelona definitely sets her up as our prime suspect, especially as the next victim of the gloved killer is one of the tourists. The killer is moving in on the group!

Keeping the confusion high and pointing fingers in the wrong direction is frequently used throughout the first half of the movie, we learn of further connections between the group in Barcelona and Marc’s wife Alma. Gale Alvarado [Silvia Solar] tells friends in the group that she used to go to school with Marc’s wife, and that she doesn’t think Alma would like to learn about his romances with his secretary on the side. Marc gets a note from Reverend Bronson that his wife called and has taken up residence at the Hotel Presidente on the other side of town. As you see there are major forces working towards pointing out Alma as the gloved killer, but do we really want to believe that our leading lady is the killer? Red herrings are renown to shove the audience in the wrong way!


The second killing, the murder of Peggy is a wonderful sequence that takes place inside an amusement park ghost train ride. Filled with creepy masks and sudden shock effects the killer strikes and once again chops out the left eye of the victim. Once again the cops round up the group of tourists and start going though their suspects. This gathering of the group could have been a pace killer if it had not had been used in an interesting way which works in favour of the narrative. Every time the group are assembled after a killing, they start pointing fingers at each other, hence leading us on and planting new red herrings. After the murder of Peggy, there are several threads at play, and Marc goes to the Hotel his wife is supposed to be located at, obviously she isn’t there, but Marc finds a bloodied dagger in the suite which generates the first of a series of flashbacks related to Marc and Alma. He has returning flashbacks to a situation where he found Alma fainted in their garden with the same knife he found in the hotel in her right hand and an eyeball in her left… he can’t put his finger on it, but something is wrong with the image, and his is a subplot that will later have great importance.



It’s quite fair to say that from this point on Marc becomes the primary protagonist of the story, and even tough we don’t completely free him from suspicion, he will be the character who leads us through this mysterious Giallo. As viewers familiar with the genre will know, you can never be determined until the last scene has played out, these movies constantly pull the rug from under our feet and in some cases even the most obvious becomes the opposite in the flash of a knife.


The finest example of the finger pointing occurs after a young woman outside the group is murdered as she feeds her pigs on a farm they are visiting. There are several leads pointing to various members of the group and a great montage showing the whereabouts of our favourite suspects enhances this. The murderer stalks and kills the farm girl and the soon inspector, cursing that he has to solve this case before retiring and handing his position over to his young assistant, comes to the scene yet again. But then the splendid twist is that as the police question those we favour as prime suspects, they flip it around and point towards Paulette, our secondary protagonist. Once again, we have been following the tale through the narrative of Paulette and Marc, and it couldn’t be Paulette donning the red gloves as that would be illogical wouldn’t it. Or would it?


Burton learns that Alma is to catch a flight back out of Barcelona and races to the airport to confront her, but in a last minute decision Alma cancels her flight ticket and once again she slips through Marc’s fingers leaving him non the wiser. Although he does encounter Lisa Sanders [Mirta Miller] a photographer who is part of their little group and uses ever possible moment and location to photograph her girlfriend Nabila [Ines Pellegrini, who starred in a few Pasolini movies, including the infamous Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom]. Marc asks her to keep her professional eye open for Alma, and to photograph her if she sees her in Barcelona. He then goes back to Paulette and tells her about his suspicion that Alma is in town, killing all these people in an attempt to frame him!


Needless to say Lisa becomes the next victim in a beautiful sequence that easily is among the most finest of the genre. Antonio Millán’s cinematography peaks here as composition and pacing climaxes in a stunning sequence utilising deep focus and vivid colour schemes. I could go as far as referring to his as the must see scene of the movie. Nabila walks into the apartment and see’s Lisa’s body, screams waking the rest of the group, once again invoking a wonderful series of mis-en-scene where we are presented with possible suspects. At this point we have a fair idea of our own suspects, but we need to go yet another round before it is all exposed. The group take a trip to Stiges (yes Sitges of the legendary horror and fantasy festival) but as a change the group is separated in yet another cunning subplot to lead us astray. Nablia is in hospital following the attack, and Reverend Bronson stays in Barcelona to visit her, Marc has to check some last details of Alma’s whereabouts, and this is obviously when the killer strikes again! This time it’s a failure, and Nabila escapes once again, but the cops are in the killers trail, and soon their prime suspect will be captured.


Eventually Marc is too close to the killer for his own good and the police, persuaded that he just tried to murder the last victim and not chance the killer as he states himself, take him into custody. Once again I point out the common misunderstanding that Gialli have no plot or comprehensive storyline and only use cheap tricks. But here you go, evidence proving the opposite, in the autopsy scene, the doctor pointed out that the wounds where made by a right handed person which is later in the end of the movie proves a possible suspect to be innocent!


All good things come to an end and even so The Secret Killer. The murderer is exposed and the motif for slicing out eyeballs of the victims too and bizarrely enough there’s even a happy ending for one of the lead protagonists to wrap things up nice and tidy. Ironically there are several small clues and questions that get revealed during the final scenes. Answers to suggestions and questions which I would think may be seen more coherently by an audience perhaps not to familiar with the genre. I say ironic because with knowledge of the genre and the “anyone can be the killer” twists that frequent the Gialli, it’s a rarity that the most obvious killer is there right under your nose.


The Secret Killer has a fabulous score by the late Bruno Nicolai, who composed some of the finest scores ever set to Gialli movies, This one much in the same suave style of his previous scores for Guiliano Carnimeo’s The Case of The Bloody Iris 1972, and Sergio Martino’s Your Vice Is A Closed Room and Only I Have the Key also from1972. But on the down side, this fantastic score is misused and brutally wasted on this film, or perhaps overused is a better word as it keeps coming in every now and again without any regards to what mood the scene is playing for what so ever. Sometimes it’s just plain annoying and distracts from the narrative. But on it’s own it’s a great soundtrack.



Image:

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen


Audio:

Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital 5.1 German, Dolby Digital Mono German, no subtitles available.


Extras:

The theatrical trailer, filmographies for Umberto Lenzi, John Richardson, Martine Brochard and Ines Pellegrini, a slide show of stills and promotional materials. Finally a bunch of trailers for other Marketing Film’s releases, but nothing of real genre interest unless you like your Hong-Kong actioners dubbed to German.