WHO SAW HER DIE? (1972) BY ALDO LADO

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Chi L’Ha Vista Morire?; ¿Quién la ha visto morir?;
Director: Aldo Lado
Writers: Francesco Barilli, Massimo D’Avak
Year: 1972
Starring: George Lazenby, Anita Strindberg, Adolfo Celi, Peter Chatel, Nicoletta Elmi

Synopsis:
When Franco loses his daughter to a shadowy, elusive murderer he sets off on an unnerving journey of retribution that will bring him to the very edge of his sanity and quite possibly his life too as he seeks to unravel the mysterious circumstances of his daughters death. [Adapted from the Shameless DVD Release]

Review:
Blessed or should that be cursed with a highly distinctive soundtrack courtesy of the prolific and revered Ennio Morricone the film opens with the unpleasant act of child murder taking place in France.

Director Aldo Lado sensibly shy’s away from showing us the detail and quickly whisks us away to Venice where artist Franco (George Lazenby – ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE) is greeting his daughter Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi – BARON BLOOD; DEEP RED; DEMONS) who has arrived from London for what is meant to be some good old fashioned father/daughter bonding.

Everything starts off well enough for the two of them despite Franco having some very shady friends with one scene in particular raising questions about the interest one friend has in young Roberta. Most likely meant as a poorly executed red herring but when evaluated with today’s sensibilities it stands out, making the viewer question the shown intimacy.

With this brief scene over, Lado begins to show us more of the streets, the stores and the square’s that make up the City rather than its more famous landmarks and through strong use of framing and editing, we come to realise that young Roberta is in a very real and immediate danger. Thanks to some expertly crafted tension, the opening act is elevated further as we begin to understand that we are dealing with not a madman or an opportunistic child killer but someone who is patient, meticulous and most unsettling of all focused just on poor Roberta.

It is also at this point that that the film begins to show us Franco’s failings as a father with it being surprising that after having spend some time apart and perhaps not used to having his daughter around, Franco’s sense of responsibility is all but forgotten when his mistress comes around looking to indulge in some fun. Even after the fun is over and the lover kicked out, our father of the year seemingly forgets that his daughter has been left outside playing and rather than bringing her indoors he simply begins working on one of his sculptures and this apparent neglect unsurprisingly ends up with a bad situation occurring. 

Here Lado uses Venice almost as a character as it descends into a dark and stormy night paralleling Franco’s torment (and no doubt guilt) and like many other films, particularly the often compared yet more ambiguous and emotionally focused DON’T LOOK NOW, in which the weather and colour palette represents the mental state and pain of the lead characters. This device remains throughout as a fog begins to envelope the City and the mystery becomes more and more convoluted, socially expansive and disorientating for poor Franco.

Despite his failings, his suspicious friends and the lack of afforded support to his suffering wife Elizabeth (in a strong performance from genre star Anita Strindberg), joining him in the city to arrange the funeral, we begin to genuinely feel for the pained Franco who, in true giallo style, takes on the role of the amateur detective which much aplomb. His fervent determination and focus contrasts a killer who becomes more and more desperate as the hunt goes on as they are forced into acting in plain sight such as in a busy cinema. However WHO SAW HER DIE? Cannot maintain this level of pacing forever and unfortunately does suffer from a brief lull before things step up a notch for a superb and beautifully shot final act. 

First we are treated to a terrific sequence in an abandoned warehouse, a true example of tension and cinematography combining to great effect and vaguely reminiscent of the great Vittorio Storaro (THE FIFTH CORD), before a frantic and highly entertaining unveiling where the only criticism could be that to contemporary, seasoned watchers of giallo it is a tad predictable, and very in vogue, resolution.

Overall WHO SAW HER DIE? is a strong and pleasing effort which is elevated thanks to George Lazenby’s 

terrific performance, the brilliance of Aldo Lado’s direction and the cinematography of Franco Di Giacomo which is not only aesthetically pleasing but subtly and wonderfully utilises subconscious cues and misdirection to the viewer. WHO SAW HER DIE? is not necessarily one of the greats of the genre but a solid effort that is worth checking out.

Additionally WHO SAW HER DIE? would also represent a personal return to Venice for director Aldo Lado (SHORT NIGHT OF GLASS DOLLS, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS, THE HUMANOID) who spent some of his formative years in the city and this experience no doubt would have provided him with historical and an intimate knowledge of the city’s topography, weather and more importantly its darker side all of which he would use to great effect here.

Oh and remember the sound advice provided in this film:

“If you can’t play ping pong, don’t get mixed up in politics!”

Wise words indeed.

I watched the Shameless Films release from 2008 which has English audio and the longest ever UK runtime of the film at 90 minutes and 34 seconds.

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