I have always been a fan of Giallos but due to a lack of proper re-releases in my area, I had never been able to expand my knowledge of the genre till recently. Yet in the last years, thanks to several companies that put considerable effort into restoring and re-releasing rare older movies, I could finally get my hands on titles that have hitherto been unavailable.
That’s why I am currently catching up with all the entries of this particular Italian film subgenre I had missed so far and I am still discovering new gems. As it is impossible to do each of them justice, I decided to write short review-roundups, which will be published irregularly (unless I lose interest in doing them altogether).
Following Part 1 and Part 2, I present you Part 3. There is no particular association, chronology or theme connecting the movies I chose, I just review them in the order in which they are sitting on my shelf. Enjoy!
Body Puzzle (1992)
directed by Lamberto Bava
A serial killer chops up his victims and extracts organs, some of which he sends to the rich widow Tracy (Joanna Pacula) and some he keeps for himself for mysterious reasons. Commissario Michele (Tomas Arana) suspects a connection to Tracy’s deceased husband.
Yeah this is really a very late Giallo, far beyond its glory days and long before a glorious renaissance – which has yet to happen. The identity of the killer (François Montagut) is revealed to the audience in the beginning and his motivations are soon pretty obvious, but a twist in the last third crushes everything we thought we knew. Said twist would have almost saved the the movie, if its presentation had not been so contrived and silly. Bava directs competently, but the movie bears the typical uninspired early 90s second-rate thriller style. Motifs of the classic Giallo are spiced up with elements from the then fashionable subgenres of the erotic thriller, the serial killer thriller and even the domestic peril subgenre, which results in a terribly mushy pastiche. Montagut’s performance as killer is atrociously over the top and the psychology of the character is laughable, even for the in that regard low standards of the genre.
Body Puzzle is not boring and it might have some (film) historical value as a showcase for a prime example of a low rent thriller of that era, but that are about all the good things I can say about it. It mainly serves as a sad reminder of the slow demise of the Giallo and Italian horror films in general.
Rings of Fear aka Virgin Killer (1978)
directed by Alberto Negrin
A girl is gruesomely murdered, her corpse dumped into the river. Investigating macho inspector Gianni Di Salvo (Fabio Di Testo) discovers a connection between the victim, the boarding school for rich kids she attended and a prostitution ring that provides rich customers with underage girls. Do her best friends, who call themselves “The Inseparables”, know more than they admit to? More murders occur…
Giallos of the late 70s became more nasty and cynical in tone and the plots more streamlined, thereby shedding a lot of the psychedelic ballast, but also some of the artistry. A development that was probably owed to the more sober atmosphere of the post-Vietnam/Watergate era. Rings of Fear is, apart from a few wacky and atmospheric shots, a rather grimy and unpretentious affair visually, in line with the down-and-dirty cop movies of that time. What it lacks in sensuality and intricacy, the movie makes up with exploitation, hilarious macho-cop movie cliches and an unexpected, entertainingly implausible twist in the last third. A legitimately great soundtrack by Riz Ortolani, which alternates between a driven, jazzy theme and dark atonal soundscapes, adds some artistic value.
The Sweet Body of Deborah (1968)
directed by Romolo Guerrieri
A young newlywed couple, Deborah and Marcel (Carroll Baker and Jean Sorel), spend their first holiday together in Geneva, Marcel’s hometown. Their quality time there is disturbed by Philip (the poor man’s James Caan, Luigi Pistilli), an old friend of Marcel who blames him for driving his Ex into suicide by leaving her for Deborah. Doubts are rising in Deborah’s mind, as there seems to be more to the story than her husband wants to tell. Subsequently, the feeling of unease is exacerbated by anonymous death threats on the phone and a mysterious voyeuristic neighbour…
Compared to other Giallos, The Sweet Body… is rather tame when it comes to bloodshed, nudity and sensational elements in general. It takes some time till it fully kicks into gear and then the ending also might not be as surprising for a modern audience. That doesn’t mean it’s not a fun experience though, especially if you are into 60s kitsch. It’s a very stylishly designed and glossily shot movie, parading the finest of fashion of that era, from yellow turtleneck sweaters to green jumpsuits for adults. In one scene, the couple is playing “Twister” in the garden, to tunes played on the mobile vinyl-record player, it’s almost too good to be true. Baker’s appearance is that of a classic Hollywood blonde, which was exploited in Giallos in hope to create an association with more classy Hitchcock thrillers in the audience’s mind.
Murder Obsession aka Murder Syndrome (1981)
directed by Riccardo Freda
The successful actor Michael (Stefano Patrizi), his girlfriend and part of the film crew of the newest project he is involved in, visit Michael’s eccentric mother (Anita Strindberg) in her luxurious villa over the weekend. Returning to his childhood home, memories of a terrible incident in Michael’s early life is unearthed: he had to kill his own abusive dad to protect his mom when he was a kid. With the memories come murders, committed in the style of aforementioned patricide…
Once you get through the first horrible, incoherent 30 minutes, the rewards arrives in the shape of a barrage of entertaining nonsense, from psychedelic nightmares over loads of gratuitous nudity to some surprisingly strong (if rather cheaply realized) gore. Then the plot suddenly takes an excursion into the “Satanic Cult” subgenre, just when you thought it could not get more convoluted.
Laura Gemser, star of the notorious Black Emanuelle movies, can be seen in a small supporting role and of course she gets undressed a few times. Amusingly, Michael’s dad, who can be seen in a few flashbacks, is also played by Patrizi, in best soap opera manner.
And now, three random quotes from three of these movies, taken out of context:
You’re so delicious and I’m always so hungry.
Ma’am, this might be an inappropriate moment to tell you, but I noticed that the chainsaw is missing.
Okay, now go home. And promise me not to try to kill anyone again
…to be continued (maybe)