Tag Archives: giallo



Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 27 June 2011

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Dario Argento

Writers: Dario Argento

Cast: Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Veronica Lario

Italy 1982

110 mins

Other than John Waters, it is difficult to think of a filmmaker who revels so much in ugliness as Dario Argento. And yet his ugliness is not really the same. Rather than Waters’s grotesqueries, we have the ugliness of the nearly beautiful. In Tenebrae, his lighting is bright despite the title of the film, eschewing the shadows of the genre; his colour scheme is garish, bright reds and greens and yellows a-go-go; his actors and actresses are always a bit shy of movie star beautiful and even when they are conventionally attractive they have a pallid, unwell and plastic look to them. And Italy - il Bel Paese - becomes particularly un-bel, an almost entirely urban clutter of concrete and glass or rain-soaked streets populated by dirty old men, psychopaths, angry dogs and prostitutes. And that is before we consider the ugliness of the violence to which many of the characters are subjected.

Peter Lane (Anthony Franciosa) is a successful murder mystery novelist in Rome as part of a publicity tour when a series of murders begin to take place, each featuring a connection to his latest novel, Tenebrae. A woman is killed with an old-fashioned straight-edged razor and pages of the novel are torn out and shoved into her mouth. The list of suspects includes an obsessive ex and a deranged journalist and any number of demented fans. As with Deep Red, we have some unlocated flashback episodes that point to an earlier trauma and go some way towards explaining the insanity of the killer.

Generally considered Argento’s last good film before a precipitous decline, Tenebrae was a return, after experiments with supernatural horror, to the classic giallo formula: the black leather gloves, the endangered foreigner, the inventive murders and the killer’s point of view. It offers a series of satisfying twists and turns, although some of these are facilitated by almost transparent trickery, lapses in logic and a general holiness of plot to compete with the nearby Vatican. The acting is exactly one notch above porn and the comedy is weak - ‘are you going to wear that hat? Aren’t you afraid it’ll fall off?’ ‘What, this hat? This hat won’t fall off’ - but no one watches a Dario Argento film for the comedy, we watch for the horror. And there are genuine moments of tension and unpleasantness - the scene with the dog is a particularly gruelling moment.

Argento identifies more closely with the killer in this film than any other. The murderer is self-consciously artistic, taking photographs of his own crime scenes, many of which also feature in the publicity material for the film itself. He or she seems wildly protective of Lane’s book Tenebrae (which obviously shares the title of the film), killing a shoplifter who has purloined a copy. Anyone who downloaded the film illegally might be wary of sharing a similar fate. Argento revels particularly in the murder of the lesbian film critic who has accused Peter Lane of misogyny - the bitch will die in her knickers for having the gall - with the same bitterness with which Clint Eastwood had a Pauline Kael substitute murdered in The Dead Pool (1988). This double murder is introduced by a justly celebrated crane shot, lasting over two minutes without cuts and which took three days to film.

Argento pushes the bloodletting to the extreme and pulls off some genuinely shocking moments, which remain so even today. His gallon-sized tubs of red paint will always be preferable to the CGI gloop we are treated to nowadays. And his eye for the telling physical detail, the drool of a strangled victim or the slipperiness of a fatal spike, are more effective in conveying the pain than any kind of gore. Yet I can’t help but exit each of his films relieved, not because the tension has been resolved, the killer caught/done away with etc, but rather just to get out of that world of over-lit post-modern interior design.

John Bleasdale

The New York Ripper

The New York Ripper

Format: Blu-ray

Release date: 27 June 2011

Distributor: Shameless Entertainment

Director: Lucio Fulci

Writers: Lucio Fulci, Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino, Dardano Sacchetti

Original title: Lo squartatore di New York

Cast: Jack Hedley, Almanta Keller, Howard Ross

Italy 1982

91 mins

‘To paraphrase Verlaine, in subtlety lies the essence of things.’
(Dialogue from The New York Ripper)

With the media frenzy around the banning of The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (2011), it’s more illuminating than usual to watch Lucio Fulci’s notorious The New York Ripper (1982), a film that was not only banned in the UK, but had its review print escorted back to the airport by police, lest it infect the populace.

As hysterical as then chief censor James Ferman’s reaction might seem, there is plenty in the movie to provoke offence, even with a few seconds of nipple-razoring still redacted from Shameless Screen Entertainment’s new Blu-ray. Even so, disliking the film as much as I did (a response the film seems to welcome), I’m still glad Fulci became a filmmaker rather than pursuing the career in medicine he studied for: his keen interest in human suffering and mutilation and his apparent disdain for humanity would seem ill-suited for healthcare.

The movie itself is a basic giallo, divided between some hurried, permit-free location filming in the Big Apple and more careful studio interiors, allowing Fulci to take his time with the murder set-pieces that are the film’s raison d’ê. These feature a few striking uses of colour and framing, and Fulci pans, zooms and tracks, sometimes at the same time, to create a giddy momentum and instability. He also pulls off one the weirdest and ghastliest shots in the whole genre: since Fulci’s killer, like the real-life Yorkshire Ripper, who had only just been imprisoned when the film was released, mutilates his victim’s genitals, Fulci films a broken bottle thrusting into the camera lens, from the point of view of the victim’s vagina. As bad-taste extremes go, this easily trumps the shot in Jaws 3 where we see a shark eating its human prey, filmed from inside the shark’s mouth, in 3D.

The problem isn’t that the film includes numerous scenes of women being violently abused: the media attest that such cases do occur, and are therefore suitable for artistic treatment. The issue is the film’s gleeful cynicism in serving up such scenes as entertainment, and the slapdash and heartless way it goes about this.

Right at the start, after a dog retrieves a human hand from a bush, echoing Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, and a girl is knifed to death in a car on the Staten Island Ferry (the owner of the car disappears, never to claim his vehicle, but he never becomes a suspect), the unlikely NYC detective played by Brit thesp Jack Hedley (looking world-weary, as well he might) chats with the pathologist who suggests that the two crimes are related. Hedley wanders to the front of the station house, where he meets his director, Fulci himself, playing a police chief, who berates him for telling the press there’s a serial killer on the prowl. Let me stress: this is a continuous sequence. Hedley has just been told about the crimes being related, and has had no time to talk to anybody. If that isn’t a good enough example of the film’s reckless construction, how about the fact that the medical examiner tells him, from a blood sample, that the killer is a young man who’s lived in New York all his life.

Remember, Fulci studied medicine.

Still, in an impassioned and intelligent essay culled from his book Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci and included with the disc, Stephen Thrower makes a convincing case for the film as a brutal vision of hell and a nihilistic assault upon its audience, while in the video extras, the director’s daughter explains that her father was a very nice man if you knew him, both of which statements I accept. It’s not so easy to guess what the director was driving at by giving his antagonist the hysterical quacking voice of Donald Duck, other than attempting to drag even the most seemingly innocuous aspects of Western civilisation into the sewer.

What doesn’t convince about the film, for me, is its equation of sexual decadence with homicidal murder. The hilarious production of a cock-shaped pipe as evidence of a minor character’s depravity is the purest example of this silliness: why should we be appalled that he likes to puff his tobacco fumes through a ceramic Johnson? By showing the forensic profiler covertly buying a gay wank mag, Fulci thinks he’s making a point about general hypocrisy and creeping perversion, but Thrower is stretching things too far when he asks ‘if a psychoanalyst is ashamed of his sexuality, what sort of help can he offer to anyone else?’ Firstly, the guy is a lecturer rather than a therapist, and secondly, his personal problems, if we even see them as such, needn’t invalidate his insights.

That’s where the film seems ultimately rather silly, in its vile way: fair enough if Fulci wants to lambast the decline of modern civilisation, but he can’t make his points stick if he doesn’t himself possess enough perspective to see the very real difference between cock-pipes and jazz-mags on the one hand, and a razor to the eyeball and a broken bottle to the crotch on the other. No slippery slope exists from one to the other.

David Cairns

A Bay of Blood

A Bay of Blood

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 20 December 2010

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Mario Bava

Writers: Franco Barberi, Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni, Dardano Sacchetti, Giuseppe Zaccariello

Original title: Reazione a catena

Cast: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Camaso, Anna Maria Rosati

Italy 1971

84 mins

‘Diabolical. Fiendish. Savage.’ So promises the radio spot for Mario Bava’s seminal slasher. The perverse endorsement goes on to warn, ‘You may not walk away from this one’. Although you are in fact very likely to survive the film’s duration, A Bay of Blood prides itself on being an onslaught of escalating mayhem. It reveals murderer after murderer - and, as an experience, is something of a hysterical, even baffling ordeal.

Conceived as a commentary on the 1968 worldwide student protests - which pitched younger generation against older - it opens thrillingly as the elderly Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) manoeuvres her wheelchair around her plush property, accompanied by rising orchestral strains. Suddenly, an unseen assassin appears, tipping Federica from her chair and stringing her up with mechanical malice. The murderer is revealed as her husband Count Filippo Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti). However, in a further delicious twist, consistent with the film’s cut-throat, irreverent approach, Filippo himself is instantly dispatched by a mystery assailant, stabbed repeatedly before falling under the swinging, lifeless hands of his own victim.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing else in the ensuing film that quite matches this operatic, visually striking opener, with the rest of the picture a more conspicuously low-budget affair. However, A Bay of Blood compensates for its ragged appearance with bravura camerawork and a number of witty death sequences: a couple are killed with a spear as they make love, a skinny-dipper is molested by a corpse, and a drowned man is dramatically revealed with an octopus slithering across his face. Special mention here must go to Carlo Rambaldi for his gruesome and ingenious effects work.

A Bay of Blood is renowned for its multiple titles, high body count and considerable, if inauspicious, legacy. Known variously as Carnage, Blood Bath and - in a bizarre rebranding - Last House on the Left - Part II, it is also still remembered by the most evocative of these alternative monikers, Twitch of the Death Nerve. A Bay of Blood might not be its most imaginative title but it is at least the most apposite, as its convoluted narrative concerns a violent wrangle over the inheritance of a bay, with various parties, including Renata (Claudine Auger) and her stepbrother Simon (Claudio Volonté) fighting over ownership. It features a whopping 13 murders in total - an impressive and appropriately unlucky number.

Its most obvious imitator is the Friday the 13th series but, interestingly, A Bay of Blood‘s hapless young quartet survive only 10 minutes of reckless revelry before they are picked off by the killer. What Bava barely even regards as a sub-plot would form the basis for an entire franchise and its own numerous imitators.

A Bay of Blood lacks the consistent compositional brilliance of Bava’s best work (for example Mask of Satan) and time has not been tremendously kind; however, it has its charm. As the victims pile high and killers greedily compete, it gleefully erodes your faith in humanity, before smashing it with a sledgehammer in a cruel yet wonderfully daring punchline.

Emma Simmonds

Deep Red

Deep Red

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 3 January 2011

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Dario Argento

Writers: Dario Argento and Bernardino Zapponi

Original title: Profondo rosso

Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi and Gabriele Lavia

Italy 1975

126 mins (director’s cut)

‘It should be more trashy,’ says the protagonist at the beginning of Dario Argento’s seminal giallo, nailing the film’s gaudy colours firmly to the mast. A post Blow Up David Hemmings plays Marc Daly, the innocent, metro-sexual jazz pianist who witnesses a murder and so finds himself in a cat and mouse game with the deadly assassin. His attempts to unravel the mystery, aided by reporter Gianna Brezzi (an excellent Nicolodi), are hampered as each potential witness is hunted and slain and he himself becomes a target for the psycho-killer. The staple elements of the giallo genre are here: the lurid and elaborate murders; the killer’s black leather gloves; the POV camera that stalks the victims; and the cod psychology -’the killer could appear quite normal’ - further complicated by a dash of the paranormal (the first victim is a psychic who sees into the mind of the killer). The film’s trashiness, however, is willed. Marc will argue with Carlo, a friend and comrade in jazz, who accuses him of playing ‘bourgeois’ jazz, of basically slumming it in contrast to Carlo’s bitter, self-destructive and ‘proletarian’ jazz. The elaborateness of the killings are a case in point, as each one is meticulously set up, scored (both by the killer with a creepy children’s song and by the prog-rock group Goblin) and delivered while, at the same time, retaining a primal savagery and bloodiness. To emphasise the film’s stylistic schizophrenia, one character is killed by a combination of a dustbin lorry and a sports car.

This duality is also evident in the film’s portrait of a deeply confused Italy: a country torn between its heritage past, its statuary and haunted villas, and a hankering after a tacky modernism, of which Marc himself, with his imported jazz, his sterile apartment and his local Edward Hopper-inspired bar, is a representative. It is a country where oafish policemen discuss strike action, munch on sandwiches at the crime scene, ogle prostitutes at the police station and appear blandly uninterested in the crimes taking place. In Argento’s Italy, the children are menacing, casually torturing animals, and the psychiatrist, Prof. Giordani, is as crazy as the case he seeks to analyse.

This double disc DVD release offers a belated opportunity to see the original full-length film. This is not so much a director’s cut as a restoration of the 1975 Italian theatrical release. There is a bit more gore: the eponymous red has that wonderful sloshing paint quality that can only be found in 70s cinema. We also get more comedy as Argento tries for a Thin Man dynamic between Hemmings and Nicolodi. Any conventional sense of romance is eschewed, however, as Hemmings’s neurotic vulnerability renders him incapable of taking on the masterful Nicolodi, who, as a strong and independently-minded career girl, also serves Argento as a foil to possible charges of misogyny.

Take a look at our Dario Argento’s theme page.

John Bleasdale



Format: Cinema

Release date: 7 January 2011

Venues: ICA (London)

Distributor: Anchor Bay

Directors: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani

Writers: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani

Cast: Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène-Guibeaud, Marie Bos

France/Belgium 2009

90 mins

In giallo (the Italian erotic thriller genre so loved of the 70s), there are two levels of reality: the everyday reality of bumbling detectives or over-curious, gorgeous girls, and a subjective reality, where we might learn about a bitter memory that haunts a serial killer, or a character’s experience of ecstasy, be that of terror or pleasure. In these moments, the director can let loose and use sound and image to crack open linear logic so that rooms can be flooded by unexplained, lurid coloured light and darkened club scenes can be conjured up through just a glint of gold lamé, a sequined nipple and a Morricone beat that nudges us closer and closer towards our libidinal impulses. The co-directing team of Amer, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, seem to have decided, purely for indulgence, to stay with these introspective realities and extend them for the duration of the feature. Sounds great, what’s not to like about a psychedelic spread of giallo tropes and motifs? But you can have too much of a good thing. I would say that giallo relies on contrast. I gladly sit through scenes of wooden acting and shaky, unconvincing mysteries for the treat that is an Argento death: stunningly choreographed and gloriously gratuitous. In Amer there is none of this contrast, and at times it feels like an exercise purely in style.

Amer is a loose, three-part narrative about Ana (played, respectively, by actresses Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène-Guibeaud and Marie Bos), who was physically and emotionally abused as a child. The film concludes when she returns to the site of her primary trauma, her childhood home, to exact her revenge. With very little dialogue, time is contracted and expanded. The world through Ana’s eyes is conveyed to us in excessive detail that creates an inescapable claustrophobia. Clearly, the filmmakers are very comfortable with the short film format and make the leap into the feature form by using a triptych structure. Essentially though, this is three shorts, whose themes and methods, while seductive, are repetitive - a feature for the sake of it. At times the joy in surface, as Ana fingers a patterned wallpaper, for example, or becomes obsessed with the feel of her bathwater, seems just that - surface. Generally, Amer‘s film language is akin to a glossy car advert in the style of giallo. At other times, the filmic experimentation is uncompromising, any meaning dissolves and only enigmatic imprints are left. As I see it, the directors need to release themselves from the possessive hold of their giallo parent, and like adolescent rebels, really roll with the unique product of their poetic, independent reconfiguring.

Nicola Woodham

Watch the trailer:

Two Films by Lucio Fulci

City of the Living Dead

Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 24 May 2010

Distributor: Arrow Video

Director: Lucio Fulci

Writers: Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti

Original title: Paura nella cit&#224 dei morti viventi

Cast: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Antonella Interlenghi

Italy 1980

93 mins

You’d be forgiven for assuming Lucio Zombie Flesh Eaters Fulci’s 1980 City of the Living Dead would be another Dawn of the Dead clone, but Romero’s zombies could never teleport or leap from walls like ninjas, and I don’t remember them having the power to make people cry blood. The atypical ghouls are not the focus of the action, either, just one of many manifestations of evil that are summoned by the suicide of a Christopher Lee-lookalike priest in the Lovecraftily-named town of Dunwich.

If you’ve seen The Omen, you’ll be familiar with the amorphous ‘dark powers’ at work. This free form horror appeals to Fulci’s screw-the-story-in-favour-of-tenuously-strung-together-set-pieces approach. He’d already given us The Beyond by then and would go on to paint himself into his own haunted world in Cat in the Brain (the Curb Your Enthusiasm of Euro-horror), but City of the Living Dead is surely the best of all; heads are drilled through, brains ripped out, storms of maggots burst into homes, guts are puked up literally and endlessly; all this to a Fabio Frizzi soundtrack that challenges Goblin in the zombie-prog stakes.

Arrow Video have a geek-centric attitude, heroically commissioning video nasty-style box art, with a logo animation straight outta the VHS rental days. Even without all the fanboy-friendly extras (interviews, commentaries, etc), City of the Living Dead would be a great release; the transfer quality is a far cry from the bootleg I picked up at some pikey market so long ago. The crispness thankfully doesn’t ruin the special effects; it just makes the gore more sickening than ever, hooray!

Lizard in a Woman's Skin

Format: DVD

Release date: 7 June 2010

Distributor: Optimum

Director: Lucio Fulci

Writers: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, José Luis Martínez Mollá, André Tranché

Original title: Una lucertola con la pelle di donna

Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Silvia Monti, Jean Sorel, Anita Strindberg

Italy/Spain/France 1971

104 mins

This month also sees the release of a less well-known Fulci movie: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a well put together Rosemary’s Baby-ish mystery, which is a pleasant surprise, kinda like discovering that your favourite black metal band started out doing garage rock. Prudish Carol (Florinda Bolkan) is fascinated yet revolted by her sleazy neighbour, Julia (Anita Strindberg), and her swingin’ orgiastic love-ins. In a nightmare, she is seduced by Julia, then kills her. When Julia turns up murdered in exactly the way it happened in Carol’s dream… it’s time to tick the Hitchcockian boxes and play ‘spot the giallo cliché’! Doorknob-jiggling chase sequences, cod-psychology and hunchbacked red herrings; all on cue.

What sets A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin apart from other Italian formula thrillers is its hallucinatory dream sequences (I like the one with the Toho-style goose monster) and its acid-soaked hippy happenings, lent authenticity by an Ennio Morricone (!) score that modulates druggily enough to have been phoned in from a crack den. The film also looks great, with a babe-heavy cast and Carnaby St wardrobe, and that film stock that makes everything warm and groovy. The blood looks like red paint, but that never hurt HG Lewis. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin doesn’t approach the bloodiness of City of the Living Dead, but Lucio the Butcher does rear his dripping entrails… always when you least expect it.

This one is an Optimum release, and the only special features you get are a grainy trailer that makes it look like it’s going to be The Trip, and the option to watch in Italian.

To gore hounds considering one of these, I recommend City of the Living Dead. If you’re a Fulci fan wanting to check out his early work, then A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin will show you what he’s capable of when he’s not being gory and/or confusing. Each offers a glimpse into the bottomless Gothic toolkit of a horror master.

Doc Horror

audio Listen to the podcast of Alex Fitch’s interview with Dario Argento + Goblin Q&A at the Supersonic music festival in Birmingham.



Format: DVD

Release date: 31 August 2009

Distributor: Shameless Entertainment

Director: Luigi Bazzoni, Mario Fanelli (uncredited)

Writers: Luigi Bazzoni, Mario Fanelli

Original title: Le orme

Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Klaus Kinski, Peter McEnery, Nicoletta Elmi, Lila Kedovra

Italy 1975

92 mins

Like Alice, the young translator whose strange journey we follow in Footprints (Le orme), you may find yourself hit by waves of tingling déj&#224 vu, recurrent nightmare and flickering, almost remembered memory when watching this long-lost Italian thriller. Have I seen that peacock stained-glass window before? I’m sure I’ve stood on that mysterious hill overlooking that same sea?

If it wasn’t for the fact that this psychedelically haunting giallo from 1975 has never before been released in the UK, and has been unavailable worldwide on DVD until now, it would be easy to cite its influence on later moonlit dips into the interior, like some of the more cerebral moments of Argento, Aronofsky’s The Fountain, US experimental filmmaker Nina Menke’s work and of course many of Lynch’s delights.

Through an impressive performance by Florinda Bolkan (who also starred in ‘nunsploitation’ flick Flavia the Heretic), we are drawn into Alice’s world and her degenerating psychological state. A yellow dress has appeared overnight in her wardrobe, lurid against her row of beige suits. There’s also a ripped up postcard with an image of an opulent hotel on her kitchen floor. Alice’s colleagues have just informed her she’s been missing from work for three days, and the dream of an astronaut abandoned on the moon continues playing out in her mind’s eye. Alice’s seemingly straightforward existence has been torn apart and she must travel to the exotic island of Garma to piece things back together. We are drawn all the more powerfully into her world as she seems credible and intelligent, not prone to hysterical flights of fancy like the flailing token females that plague many gialli. And to this is added the impressive, disturbing cameo by Klaus Kinski as the sinister scientist Dr Blackmann.

Director Luigi Bazzoni’s treatment of Footprints is visionary, being equal parts style and substance, enhanced much by the cinematography of Vittorio Storraro, who of course also contributed his extraordinary talent to the films of Bertolucci and Coppola. It’s certainly a visual treat and while it is true to its era, it retains an elegance even in the final surrealist sequence on the stunning Balkan beach. The dream/memory flashbacks are executed with restraint and subtlety, and as a result have a particularly memorable impact on the subconscious mind. Perhaps a little like Storraro himself, this is a film with a sassy sense of its own style: it’s not just dressed to impress.

Footprints comes with the added appeal of obscurity: you’ll probably be the only one you know who’s seen it. The price to pay for this obscurity is the crude restoration of previously lost scenes, and the sudden (unintentionally) hilarious switches from English to Italian. These can be forgiven but do detract slightly from the overall credibility of the film. All in all, however, for those longing for an existentialist, sci-fi adventure that combines the narrative mystery and sense of isolation of Solaris with the vivid Italian visions of Argento: this is the film you’ve been dreaming of.

Siouxzi Mernagh

The Designated Victim

The Designated Victim

Format: DVD

Release date: 3 November 2008

Distributor: Shameless Entertainment

Director: Maurizio Lucidi

Writers: Augusto Caminito, Fulvio Gicca Palli

Alternative titles: Murder by Design, Slam Out

Original title: La vittima designata

Cast: Tomas Milian, Pierre Clémenti, Katia Christine, Luigi Casellato, Marisa Bartoli

Italy 1971

95 mins

The morally questionable literary universe of Patricia Highsmith has provided filmmakers with ample opportunities to explore the persona of the anti-hero, from René Clément’s stylish Plein Soleil (1960) to Anthony Minghella’s Oscar-nominated The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) and Roger Spottiswoode’s barely released Ripley under Ground (2005). In 1951, Alfred Hitchock adapted her novel Strangers on a Train, and delivered a classic thriller that aligned Highsmith’s twisted plotting with the trademark set pieces that audiences had come to associate with the Master of Suspense. Maurizio Lucidi’s The Designated Victim is an unofficial 1971 giallo adaptation of the same story, and due to its emphasis on psychology as opposed to suspense, and the material obsessions of the nouveaux riches, perhaps has more in common with Highsmith’s cynical world view.

Stefano (Tomas Milian) seems to be a self-made success in that he runs his own advertising agency, owns two gorgeous homes, and has no shortage of early 1970s fashions in which to wander around Milan with his mistress, the beautiful model Fabienne (Katia Christine). Feeling stifled by his marriage to the controlling Luisa (Marisa Bartoli), he has arranged to sell his company and relocate to Venezuela, only for his dreams of financial and emotional freedom to be thwarted by his wife, who controls the company shares. A series of chance encounters with the eccentric Count Matteo Tiepolo (Pierre Clémenti) leads to an unlikely friendship and the two men share their frustrations, but the Count prefers ‘radical solutions’ and proposes that he will kill Stefano’s wife and, in exchange, Stefano must murder the brother who is making his own life a misery. Stefano devises his own plan to gain financial independence, and forges his wife’s signature on official documents in order to complete the sale of the company, but the Count strangles Luisa, leading Stefano to become a murder suspect.

The Designated Victim is less sensational than such genre favourites as Twist the Nerve of Death (1971) or Deep Red (1975), which is perhaps why it is more obscure than the films of Mario Bava and Dario Argento. It is also a tragedy rather than a thriller, with an emphasis on baroque atmosphere; the murder of Stefano’s wife occurs off-screen, and the signature zooms are largely reined in. However, the director’s attempts at psychological complexity are undermined by awkward casting choices and a twist ending which is admittedly surprising, but does not entirely make sense. Milian is best remembered for portraying the tough cop Nico Giraldi in a series of brutally efficient Italian thrillers, and seems uncomfortable when being berated by his wife, or manipulated by the Count. As the scheming antagonist, Clémenti borders on camp, his almost mystical appearances accompanied by Luis Enríquez Bacalov’s overly lush score, and it is only when he is seen in his palatial home in Venice, surrounded by his art and antiquities, that he exudes regal menace. With a narrative that stagnates when it should accelerate, Lucidi’s film will probably be consigned to the also-rans of the giallo genre.

John Berra