"This is Whiskey... and he's my best friend."
Eight months ago, Ted Walden (Luc Merenda) awoke from a car crash in London with amnesia and has been trying desperately to remember anything from his past. When Phillip (Manfred Freyberger) introduces himself as an old friend, Ted is hopeful – until Philip threatens him with a gun, starts making demands, and is taken down by a sniper. Seeking answers, Ted follows a lead to Portafino, Italy to find his wife, Sara (Senta Berger), who has understandably begun to move on with her life, believing that Ted abandoned her. They begin again, but red-headed thug George (Bruno Corazzari) emerges in Portafino and threatens to kill them both in seven days if they don't hand over the million dollars in merchandise that Ted stole when he double-crossed the gang. Now the pressure is on for Ted to remember his past, to save Sara's life and his own.
If you're going to brazenly call your movie Puzzle (not to be confused with Body Puzzle), it had better be a fantastic, engaging mystery story. Judging by the empty check boxes above, you may be tempted to think this is a weak film but, in fact, this movie totally delivers. It's pretty much a giallo version of The Bourne Identity, (or, rather, The Bourne Identity is a spy movie version of Puzzle) where we must piece the crime story together alongside the amnesiac hero. There's also an element of Regarding Henry, as Ted's amnesia reboots his strained relationship with his wife. There's no "giallo killer" in Puzzle, but the mystery is in slowly discovering Ted's identity and the details of the crime – who knows what, who was involved, and what it is they want. Puzzle is engaging and surprising from the beginning to the gruesome end.
- George threatens Sara by throwing lit matches at her and says he "saw it in a film once." He's referring to Charade, a movie where Audrey Hepburn must piece together the details of her dead secret agent husband's final mission.
- The amnesia angle comes from Hitchcock's Spellbound and I'm surprised that more gialli didn't make use of it as a plot device.
- The fancy gold mantle clock is established as an important clue, but I have no idea what it has to do with anything in the story.
- Ted is a nice, easy-going guy who slowly discovers that he has a brutal, calculating dark side. This, I think, makes him one of the most three-dimensional characters in the entire genre.
What the Hell Am I Watching?
Luca, the bratty 12-year-old neighbor kid with the Pete Rose haircut, isn't related to anyone but just insinuates himself into every situation. For example, why was he at lunch at a fancy restaurant with the grown-ups?
About 12 minutes into the movie, we see Sara cleaning up after dinner... washing plates... throwing away leftovers... putting the chiansaw back in the pantry... wait, what?! Why does she have a chainsaw just sitting out on her dining room table? And why does she store it in the kitchen pantry? It makes no sense, but you just know there's going to be a great payoff at the end of the movie.
Amnesiac Ted really needs to stop greeting people with "Who the hell are you?"
Englishman Ted may have moved to Italy, but he's not giving up those impeccable Saville Row suits and preppy-casual sweater vests.