The Case of the Bloody Iris comes to UK Blu

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Now I don’t normally write stuff based on press releases I receive, from my previous site Cosi Perversa I found this to be a pointless exercise in the main, but as I am such a big fan of both the label and the film I thought I would make an exception. Especially since one member of the cast, and I doubt it is who you expect, has helped inspire me with a forthcoming article.

So without much further ado (and it is very obvious from the title) coming from the terrific UK label ‘Shameless Films’, and for the first time on UK Blu-Ray is Giuliano Carnimeo’s (RATMAN) 1972 giallo THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRISa giallo featuring the iconic duo and giallo royalty of Edwige Fenech and George Hilton.

After two beautiful women are murdered in an apartment block, Jennifer (Edwige Fenech) and Marilyn (Paola Quattrini) move into the flat of one of the slaughtered girls. But before long, the unknown predatory pervert soon turns his salacious attentions to the gorgeous Jennifer. The list of suspects of who this maniac could be grows ever longer as we start to consider a woman and her deformed son, a crazy lesbian and even Jennifer’s own lover!

All the while throughout the film we are serenaded with Bruno Nicolai’s enrapturing (and extremely memorable) score and terrific cinematography from Stelvio Massi, this long-sought-after 70s sleaze gem will be available on Shameless Blu-ray in a 2k restored special edition for the first time ever in the UK!

With Bonus Features including a new candid chat with the always handsome George Hilton, as well as one with the bubbly Paola Quattini, I certainly do believe that it is time to upgrade from the old ‘Beyond Terror’ DVD release or even discover this neat little giallo for the first time. I even suspect that your favourite character will the quirky and hilarious Police Inspector.

One watch of the trailer should be enough to make you purchase this essential film.

THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS is released on Blu-ray (and also DVD) from Shameless on 19th November and will be available for pre-order and order from all the usual places and also direct from Shameless themselves here.

[Also of interest, the original story by Italian screenwriting legend Ernesto Gastaldi has also been novelised by Michael R Hudson and is available in both paperback and digital edition. This version has several differences to that of the filmed version.]

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Trailer below;

THE WIFE KILLER (1976) BY DACOSTA CARAYAN

Reviews

Alternative Titles: The Rape Killer; Death Kiss; Vai Killer!; Mata Killer…mata; Crime in Cavouri; Eglima sto Kavouri
Director: Dacosta Carayan aka Kostas Karagiannis
Writer: Thanos Leivaditis
Year: 1976
Starring: Lakis Komninos aka Larry Daniels, Dorothy Moore, Vagelis Seilinos, Leslie Bowman

Synopsis:
Penniless playboy Captain Jim is in hock to his rich older wife, Helen. She has even bought him the fancy yacht that now bears his name. But Jim does not want to be Helen’s toy boy anymore. He wants to marry his lover, Laura. Jim pays a psychopathic killer of women to murder his wife so that he will inherit her millions. But the psycho killer has his own plans. Suspecting Jim will double cross him, he engineers a complex scheme that will give him the upper hand.

[Taken from the 2015 Mondo Macabro release]

Review:
By the time of this films release the giallo genre had built up momentum which arguably culminated in 1975 with its defining moment – Dario Argento’s DEEP RED – the effect being that subsequent films would begin to enter more exploitative territory in order to maintain the audiences interest and offer something different.

Marking director Dacosta Carayan’s second foray into thriller territory, with TANGO OF PERVERSION coming a few years earlier, he clearly learnt a few tricks to help ease the production (and post-production) process and you might very well notice a number of dialog scenes being shot from beside or behind the actors, thereby reducing the need for accurate lip synching. Not that that would have been a consideration had this been an Italian production.

But what of the film itself?

Well on their DVD release Mondo Macabro state that this is “A brutal thriller in the style of the Italian “giallo”…” and that is not far from the truth as this Greek production is clearly influenced by and should be evaluated as being in the filone of the genre. But THE WIFE KILLER displays a some particular influences both on and off screen. It takes inspiration from true events, from Alfred Hitchcock – most notably DIAL M FOR MURDER and also from Dario Argento’s long-time friend and collaborator Luigi Cozzi’s 1975 thriller THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN. A film with which it shares several similarities but considering the close proximity of the release dates between Luigi Cozzi’s film and THE WIFE KILLER we cannot say for sure if this was an actual influence or just a coincidence. Although we can clearly argue that several scenes are reminiscent of Sergio Martino’s 1973 giallo TORSO which was clearly an influence, particularly for the initial sequence set in the wooded area where lovers are spied on and attacked.

On the subject of TORSO and the KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN, both of these films are brought to mind with the opening of THE WIFE KILLER while the quick reveal of a sex maniac is bold move that works predominately thanks to the characters utilised in the film; including the adulterous Captain Jim and the slightly off Doctor. Hell, soon we even begin to suspect the beleaguered wife may or may not be involved. Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility in a film where double crossing and deceit is as natural as breathing.

Meanwhile fifty minutes in, the film begins to toy with the idea of introducing the more familiar amateur sleuth plot arc as one of the characters makes a startling discovery and although this is not fully explored on screen it does help to drive the overall story forwards while displaying a surprisingly restrained and mature writing approach that allows the film to remain focused and tight. This is still an exploitative film however and makes sure that we have plenty of female flesh to savour, several rape scenes to abhor (which would lead to an alternative US title of THE RAPE KILLER) and a few bouts of violence which is predominantly on women lending the film a slightly nasty undertone. But crucially and thankfully this aspect never overpowers the mystery or the film itself.

Of special mention is the score by Yannis Spanos which flits between jazz, rock and traditional Greek music – sometimes combining them all to great effect and for me is one of the stand out soundtracks of the genre as it perfectly complements rather than detracts from the scenes- hopefully someone puts this soundtrack out there.

It is a compliment to say that THE WIFE KILLER feels and plays out like the Italian films it was meant to emulate and this is true across all aspects. From the double crossing plot, the aforementioned soundtrack and the sex maniac angle all the way to the more brutal and sadistic action which was becoming more prevalent in the genre as a whole at the time.  The competent inclusion of these elements help us to place the film within the filone of the giallo as previously stated but it is the quality of the film itself that helps it to stand out as a strong and entertaining film even today. Greece may not have produced much genuinely good genre fare of note during this period but they can be proud of this film and I recommend fans of giallo to check out this sordid little gem.

Version Reviewed:

I reviewed the 2015 Mondo Macabro release which features a brand new transfer from the negative and looks fantastic both the format (DVD) and the age of the film. Mondo Macabro list this as the first official DVD release of the film and present it complete (including scenes with subtitling where no English dubbed version exists) and uncensored and the film does not hold back in this respect.

THE WIFE KILLER is highly recommended for all fans of cult cinema and aside from the excellent film Mondo Macabro have put together a brilliant package which includes information on the original influence of the film, detailed text about the film itself and the cast and crew, alternative English credits as well as a couple of US trailers under the title THE RAPE KILLER and its VHS release title DEATH KISS providing an interesting insight as to how the film was marketed to that audience.

However it is the documentary SUNSHINE AND SHADOWS in which critic/musician Akis Kapranos takes a look at the film and cult genre scenes in Greece. This documentary is extremely insightful particularly for those of us who do not know much about the Greek cinematic movement or phases and Mondo must be commended for its inclusion on this and the TANGO OF PERVERSION DVD.

Overall this is an excellent package and a mandatory purchase for those interested in European mystery / thriller cult cinema.

The Wife Killer DVD cover

TORSO (1973) BY SERGIO MARTINO

Reviews

Alternative Titles: I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale; Carnal Violence; Torso – Violencia carnal; The Bodies Presented Traces of Carnal Violence
Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino
Year: 1973
Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda, John Richardson

Synopsis:
Students at a Perugia summer school are being killed with the only clue being a red and black scarf. In order to get away from an obsessed, spurned suitor, American Jane and her friends decide to travel to an isolated villa in the country, only for the spate of killings to follow them.

Review:
Beautiful women and ugly violence combine in this psycho-sexual thriller from Sergio Martino. Wasting no time in getting to the point (or arguably also the clichés) TORSO immediately introduces us to the power, or rather temptation of the flesh, placing it at the heart of this violent mystery. As a camera shoots pornographic images, white flesh becomes entangled inside a black, featureless room and a child’s doll is shown to us, clearly hinting at a future significance and perhaps perversion.

This intriguing beginning soon gives way to a summer school in the beautiful Italian city of Padua and after a quick introduction to our key group of characters we jump to yet more sex although this time it is rudely interrupted by a menacing POV shot, a technique by  now firmly established in the genre. It is here that first exemplifies one of the values that Sergio Martino and Ernesto Gastaldi bring to the genre as what could be an exploitative, simple yet mediocre sequence is imbued with genuine moments of tension before giving way to moments of light relief, for the viewer at least, as post-murder, the assigned Detective Martino questions a local peasant who was in the area.

As a result of these slayings the local police make a plea to the art students providing them with one key piece of identifying evidence and one of our group, Dani (Tina Aumont) just knows that she recognises it from somewhere…but where, although she seems desperate to pin the blame on her creepy and infatuated classmate Stefano.

In a bid to get away from it all, her voyeuristic Uncle sends her and her friends off to his isolated rural villa as he needs to leave the country on business. Needless to say the group of girls arrive in the village and cause quite a stir with the local men including with the local part-time Val Kilmer look-a-like and full-time village idiot, but they aren’t the only ones with their eyes fixed on the group as death follows them too.

Culminating in a tense and engrossing final act, including the inversion of the conventional (killer) POV scene where in this case we witness our protagonist spying on the unaware killer, the film will have you screaming for the final girl to not try and escape and these scenes really are a credit to the terrific pacing which never once loses the viewers attention in its orgy of suspicion, violence and sex.

This is thanks to the skill and experience of Ernesto Gastaldi and Sergio Martino that throughout the films tight 90-minute runtime that it manages to spend enough time on the supporting cast and wider narrative allowing for not only the foundations of the overriding mystery to be set but also for the successful framing of the narrative allowing the possibility of a few potential killers to remain instead of relying on a cheap trick at the end.

As a result we have a decent story that manages to divulge information and implicate with every turn and although a little heavy handed at times on some beats (the fall down the stairs for example) this is at least done out of necessity in order to drive the narrative forwards. Credit also has to go to the duo for the subtle injection of humour at work, primarily provided by the background characters, which helps provide a tonal break for the viewer allowing the films more convoluted aspects to remain fresh and engaging.

Featuring almost as many suspects as breasts and a rampant killer this top tier giallo will undoubtedly entertain fans of the genre. Despite having a motive based upon a slightly flimsy origin, albeit one that perfectly conformed to the tropes of the genre at the time, TORSO works because it manages to strike that perfect balance between exploitative sleaze, violence and mystery.

If you are yet to watch this film get online or to your local store and pick up a copy. You won’t be disappointed and in all likelihood will love this film to bits. If the dodgy cover is putting you off, don’t worry it has a reversible sleeve which you will most certainly use.

Finally I would like to give regular Sergio Martino cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando (ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK; YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM…;THE VIOLENT PROFESSIONALS; the list goes on but you get the picture, and the pun I hope) credit for his work on this film in which he creates many iconic moments while maintaining that level of consistency and visual coherence that to me, helps define a Sergio Martino film.

Version Reviewed:

The 2017 blu ray release from Shameless Films is as one would expect, superior to the previous DVD versions. In direct comparison to the 2007 Shameless DVD it is not only a nicer looking HD version but includes English language scene inserts, which although not necessarily vital do add an extra level of completion or rather variety .

Shameless have also answered my gripes with the previous DVD release, in so much as they have now included an ‘Italian version’ with revised English subtitles (although the inserted scenes remain in Italian with English subtitles as the English language track was never recorded for these) and this time they have actually included a genuine ‘extra’ feature away from the usual company portfolio showreels (but don’t worry a couple of trailers for the most recent blu’s is included here) – in the form of a new, 22 minutes interview with director Sergio Martino.

In this interesting and somewhat (although minor) revealing interview the director briefly discusses the influences of the character traits held by the killer as well as how the production came about. Sergio Martino goes on to speak rather candidly, and sadly fleetingly, about a few of the casting choices and also some elements of the film that he is now not so keen on…and a few sections that he is, not to mention the origins of the now iconic white mask.

THE WASHING MACHINE (1993) BY RUGGERO DEODATO

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Vortice mortale
Director:  Ruggero Deodato
Writer: Luigi Spagnol
Year: 1993
Starring: Philippe Caroit, Ilaria Borrelli, Katarzyna Figura, Barbara Ricci

Synopsis:
A police detective investigates the murder of a man found dismembered in a washing machine and is drawn into a web of deceit and murder by the dead man’s lover, Vida, and her two sisters, Sissy and Ludmilla.

Review:
Many will be intrigued by this giallo not just for the peculiar name but also because it is directed by the infamous Ruggero Deodato (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK), a director who is not widely known for his gialli despite this film, PHANTOM OF DEATH and DIAL: HELP all falling loosely into the genre. 

Coming two decades after the golden period of giallo, it is unsurprising that this effort is more influenced by the sexual sleaze that infested the sub-genre in the late eighties as THE WASHING MACHINE delivers a trashy, twisted and bizarre tale of love, jealousy and murder which is as high on (simulated) eroticism as it is suspense.

Set in Budapest, the film begins as it intends to continue, with a sexualised argument between wannabe playboy Yuri and his girlfriend Vida. Thinks however take an almost sinister edge as their kissing is spied on by one of Vida’s sisters while later on a third sister joins them to see Yuri out of the apartment. 

After this argument and make-up everything appears fine. That is until in the night one of the sisters, Ludmilla is awoken by a noise and while investigating discovers Yuri’s dismembered body in the washing machine…which would then disappear somehow before the police arrive.

Enter the blue-eyed and not of sound mind Inspector Stacev who seeks to pump the three sisters for information as to not only where the body lies but if there in fact was even a murder. Matters become complicated as the sisters each spin (pun intended) a different tale to the inspector, while seducing him with their charms, sending the Inspector into a downward spiral of obsession and lust as he seeks to discover what truly happened that night.

During the course of the police investigations by Stacev and his suspicious yet diligent subordinate Nikolai we are introduced, if only very briefly, to several potential subplots such as a suitcase full of money and jewels; currency money laundering and even S&M all of which might be relevant to plot or not but at a loose push all could fit in with elements but I feel that might be stretching the level of complexity that this film possesses. Interestingly, after the S&M revelation a character commits suicide (off-screen) and then that whole plot thread appears to be dropped as quickly as it was introduced and so we ask the question was this part of a wider story removed from the final cut or merely substance behind one of the characters motivations?

In THE WASHING MACHINE Deodato has crafted a highly sexualised giallo but one where the mystery is still quite strong, and it is because of this that the film works as you are intrigued as to what is actually happening as you start to doubt if what you are seeing is even real as represented by the lack of a body. This is supplemented by the additional element of the Inspectors mental instability which Deodato represents both in his loss of objective and professional rationalisation and also with the way that the (editing) shots are put together.

One of the films strengths is that it does not try to emulate a bygone era but rather plays with the conventions within a contemporary lurid framework, as it interlinks eroticism and mystery together with a playful nod to the tropes of the genre where the viewer will expect one thing but be suddenly given another. Meanwhile Deodato never misses a trick to mislead with this climaxing with a fake ending but the timing of this would indicate that there was more to come.

It is also worth noting is the excellent score by Claudio Simonetti, which not only helps to heighten the mood of the scenes but also lends the film that ‘Italian’ feeling which could have so easily become lost due to the Euro-pudding cast and eastern European location.

Ultimately THE WASHING MACHINE is a bizarre and sleazy yet somewhat fun film with a fantastically crafted mystery at its heart. But one that sadly almost seems to play in the background in order to make way for the almost hallucinogenic nightmare of sex and deceit. Featuring more twists and turns than a curly-wurly, Ruggero Deodato packs the film with multiple red herrings and knowing nods to successfully bring things together for a fitting finale but one which unfortunately still leaves many elements unanswered.

Despite being one of the best of the time period (it did not have much competition) this is one for trash and gialli aficionados only, but if that last term described you then you won’t be disappointed with the feast of flesh that THE WASHING MACHINE provides.

Oh and pay attention, as with many directors working in the genre, Ruggero Deodato gives himself a little cameo appearing as a neighbour to the inspector.

CUSTODES BESTIAE (2004) BY LORENZO BIANCHINI

Reviews

Alternative Titles: Keepers of the beast
Director: Lorenzo Bianchini
Writer: Lorenzo Bianchini
Year: 2004
Starring: Giorgio Basile; Edo Basso; Laura Bau

Synopsis:
A story of religious revelation and conspiracy is uncovered after a professor goes missing soon after announcing an important discovery to a journalist. Intrigued, the journalist Londero takes it upon himself to solve not only what happened to the professor but the true nature of his discovery.

Review:
Opening with an unsettling audio track, that includes the religious chanting of a choir, we find ourselves in an Udine market during March 2003. Here Professor Dal Colle is immediately drawn to an old set of photographs which he subsequently purchases. 

Despite buying it off a random woman selling a diverse assortment of goods off a table in the market he pays her the princely sum of 60 Euros and is soon on his way. Jumping forwards four days now the Professor is kicking in a decrepit underground bricked up door, behind which he finds what appears to be a chained up corpse. Here writer/director Lorenzo Bianchini is careful not to show us too much with the room being enveloped in darkness allowing us only to see what he wants us to thanks to the brief light granted by a flashing camera.

The same evening a journalist, Londero visits the home of the professor in order to learn and write about this new discovery but before he can find out about the breakthrough they are interrupted by someone at the door. Visibly panicked the Professor hides Londero in a spare room like a cheating spouse telling him to be quiet as he goes to placate the unwanted visitor before suddenly going missing.

This disappearance marks the true beginning of the mystery as over the next few days Londero remains unable to contact the Professor. Attempting to visit him at home he notices  a strange handprint burnt into the lower portion of the Professors door and then later receives a bizarre phone call inviting him  round. Clued up like all amateur detectives or investigative journalists Londero approaches with caution wary that all is not as it seems and it is not long before his suspicions are confirmed.

His investigation soon takes in local parish records, an old photography store in a small town and most importantly a fresco that the Professor was working on. Elements like this hark back, if only loosely, to the gialli of Dario Argento as well as Antonio Bido’s A BLOODSTAINED SHADOW and Pupi Avati’s HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS in the way that images play a defining role within the mystery. In fact these works by Antonio Bido and Pupi Avati also contain the same small town claustrophobia and secrecy employed here and so it is no surprise that Lornenzo Bianchini regards his film as a giallo of sorts. Certainly in the Italian sense of the word it is.

One of the many things that helps elevate CUSTODES BESTIAE above its peers is the flow of the film. As we, the viewer, follow the story alongside our main protagonist, Lorenzo Bianchini ably utilises every story telling device he can to ensure that we never jump ahead of Londero in our thought process – it is almost as if we are a sidekick with him and the few times the film does break from this, often with a POV shot of a mysterious unseen character, it is again in real time, filling in the gaps but providing us with no more information than Londero already has or will have by the next scene.

Allowing the story to develop at roughly the same pace for both the characters and the viewer provides for not only some form of parity between us but also that sense of unease as we are drawn in further and further, attempting to piece this puzzle together before it is too late.

Another notable and commendable device utilised in this film is that of the flashback, often these are randomly interjected and used for exposition telling the viewer much much more than the characters could have or would have known. Not here. At first the flashbacks are quick vague cuts, more for the senses than the mind. We hear screams and the rattling of chains before learning of a fallen priest and only as we discover more through the contemporary investigation of Londero do the meanings and full actions become apparent. This not only keeps us engaged but also has the added practical benefit of both helping maintain the films pacing while providing some visual variety for the viewer keeping the experience fresh.

Throughout the films entire 92 minute runtime the film manages to craft and maintain an eerie atmosphere thanks to the use of cinematography, light and sound.

Meanwhile the mystery itself is fantastically well crafted and it is clear that Lorenzo Bianchini is as talented in writing as he is directing, as he feeds us little breadcrumbs guiding us through the clues allowing us to discover only when he deems necessary. 

Furthermore for a film that is about subtle leading it is not afraid to mix it up with one scene in particular displaying bestial rape and another providing a genuine quick scare showing that CUSTODES BESTIAE can entertain on several levels as it builds up towards its unsettling climax.

However some viewers may find the pace a little slow, especially those looking for something like bigger budget American fare such as THE NINTH GATE or THE CONSIPIRACY which intersperse the main story with much more dynamic set pieces but that is not what this film is about and as a result it is a much more honed (or should that be horned) and unsettling effort.

Made for an estimated €3,000 Lorenzo Bianchini shows that a budget is just a number as CUSTODES BESTIAE is a terrifically crafted story that manages to overcome any budget constraints by focusing on its core values of atmosphere and intrigue. There is no doubt with the volume of cast and direct action that this was always written with the level of finance in mind and it would be fascinating to see what a talent such as Lorenzo Bianchini could do given a larger budget and the same level of freedom.

Highly recommended not just for fans of Italian cinema but also occult mysteries such as THE WICKER MAN and THE NINTH GATE. CUSTODES BESTIAE is a severely undervalued film that for whatever reason is not more widely known but is genuine example of talent over budget.

Version Reviewed:
I watched the 2006 DVD release from RHV which is presented in 1.85:1 letterbox format and with audio options in Italian or Fruilian (regional dialect of Friuli-Venezia Giulia) but thankfully subtitle options are available in both English and Italian.

Rather pleasingly for such a low budget movie the disc isn’t bare. Containing a whole host of extras such as a trailer and a condensed version of SPORCO which has been stripped down to 1m 15secs and I had no idea what the hell was going.

The disc also contains a 25 minute making of featurette (with English subtitles) which although of an appalling visual quality does a decent enough job of documenting the film and the beauty of some of the locations, such as the rural villa of the professor, and shots shine through regardless.

Bianchini discusses the differences between this film and his previous effort as well as introducing the characters and actors behind them. Additionally we are treated to an interesting look into why some of the decisions were made both in terms of story, shot compositions and even the props utilised within the film adding a genuine layer of insight into the making of process rather than just a bland backstage shaky cam footage of the actors.

One of the most interesting things to come out of this is the decision to remain shooting in the Fruilian language – and the risks associated with the use of a seemingly rural, dare we say backwards, identity that may put some off. Bianchini however saw the contrast between the simple vernacular language and the detailed mystery and images as lending the film a certain unease, a conflict in the atmosphere.  Practically meanwhile the use of local actors meant there were no issues with shooting in the dialect as this was their accent, their language and that made for the decision to be even easier. Finally, the choice of shooting in the dialect was not just artistic but financial, because of this the film was able to benefit from the support of the Province of Udine who were the only authority of any kind to lend help to the films production leading to many benefits including access to some fantastic municipal buildings.

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.