The Suspicious Death of a Minor

The Suspicious Death of a Minor

"Someone should stop these maniacs."

After dancing with a young woman named Marisa (Patrizia Castaldi) at a party, Paolo Germi (Claudio Cassinelli) finds that she has been murdered and he decides to investigate. With help from teenage thief Gianni (Adolfo Caruso), Paolo uncovers a human trafficking ring and takes justice into his own hands. But is the pimp really the mastermind of the operation? Is there a connection to the kidnap of a local businessman's son? How high up does this organization go? And why does Paolo have such a keen interest in this case? As a hit man with mirrored sunglasses (Roberto Posse) eliminates witnesses, Paolo and Gianni follow the clues to find the real motive behind the killings.

The Suspicious Death of a Minor is a fantastic movie that deserves a wider audience. The story by superstar giallo writer Ernesto Gastaldi walks the line between giallo and poliziotteschi - a genre characterized by a loner cop who plays by his own rules, taking down a crime syndicate. This movie features a constantly-evolving plot, a quick pace, light humor, snappy dialogue, and some top-notch action sequences. Claudio Cassinelli's Paolo is a charming rogue who looks like a bookish nerd but isn't afraid to cross some moral lines. In fact, his methods are so destructive that he could be the prototype for such loose-cannon action heros as Axel Foley and Martin Riggs.
  • In a great little meta-joke, Paolo and Gianni question a witness at a movie theater that's showing Sergio Martino's own 1972 giallo Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key
  • If Claudio Cassinelli  looks familiar, you might remember him from Murder Rock, where he played jealous, estranged husband Dick Gibson.
  • The score, by Luciano Michelini, could easily be mistaken for the work of Claudio Simonetti. It has the same funky electric rock feel as the music to Deep Red.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

One of the action sequences is a raucous car chase through the streets of Milan, as Paolo and Gianni are being chased by the police. Gianni literally rips the doors off Paolo's junky old car and throws them at the police car. In fact, the whole scene is full of wacky stunts and sight gags.

Another epic action scene begins with a shootout between two cars on a roller coaster, continues down the street, and concludes in the subway.

Paolo poses as a client to question a prostitute and, after getting the answers he needed, he goes ahead and gets what he paid for.

Fashion Moment

I love The Killer's plaid jacket. He could easily fit in at either a murder scene or a mid-1990's ska concert.

Mirrored sunglasses seem to be a thing among murderers. They could have been borrowed from the killer in  Death Walks at Midnight.

Who Saw Her Die?

Who Saw Her Die?

"Nobody does anything without a reason. What was yours?"

Franco Serpieri (George Lazenby) is a famous sculptor living in Venice who has to put his swinging personal life on hold when his young daughter Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi) comes for a visit. One night, while Franco is distracted by a lady friend, Roberta is kidnapped and later found dead, leaving Franco and his estranged wife Elizabeth (Anita Strindberg) distraught. In his grief, Franco pursues the killer, only to uncover a sordid web of drugs, sex, and blackmail. Could the killer be someone from his circle of friends? Or perhaps it's the ironically-named Bonaiuti (José Quaglio), a rich and secretive libertine with decadent tastes? And what is the connection to similar murders that occurred years before? As more people involved in the mystery are murdered, Franco must race to find the killer.

Who Saw Her Die? isn't a great giallo, but the shadowy, misty Venetian setting adds atmosphere that does a lot of the heavy lifting. Ennio Morricone's score, characterized by a sinister childrens' chorus, also adds to the creepy factor. Despite all the atmosphere, the movie winds up with a highly unsatisfying ending which doesn't adequately tie up all the loose ends and offers no motive for most of the murders. There's also a little twist tacked on as an obvious afterthought. Possibly the result of angry test audiences.

  • It's impossible not to make connections between Who Saw Her Die? and Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now, which came out a year later. Both feature a foreign couple in Venice mourning the death of a small child while a murderer strikes nearby and both include weird, emotional grownup scenes.
  • Similarities to Antonio Bido's 1977 giallo The Bloodstained Shadow are also notable: a Venetian setting, an artistic main character, an aristocratic pedophile, and a killer in the same profession who ends up with the exact same fate.
  • Child actress Nicoletta Elmi may look familiar to you. She played a psycho kid in Mario Bava's Bay of Blood and would go on to play another psycho kid in Dario Argento's Deep Red. She was also Ingrid the sinister usherette in Lamberto Bava's horror movie Demons. She has a great creepy smile and you just don't know what's going on behind those eyes.
  • If you know Australian actor George Lazenby for his most famous role as clean-cut James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, it's shocking to see him here as a lean and lanky artist with long hair, a scraggly mustache, and sideburns.
  • Speaking of James Bond, you may recognize Adolfo Celi (the also-ironically named Serafian) as Largo in Thunderball.
  • One of the murders listed in the body count above occurs off-screen, after the prologue and two years prior to the main action.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

There's a strange scene where Franco questions a reclusive weirdo over a game of ping pong.  The game is meant to liven up the long-winded but necessary exposition. It's  exactly the sort of thing you'd see in an Argento film.

Franco gives 8-year-old Roberta wine with dinner. Between that and losing her on the streets, this guy is not in the running for Father Of the Year.

The creepy, gleeful look on Elizabeth's face when the killer is set on fire and jumps out a window is as haunting as the death itself.

If you know anything about giallo movies, you'll be able to guess the identity of the killer within 12 minutes.

Fashion Moment

The movie takes place in the world of jet-setting artists and Ginerva (Dominique Boschero) is clearly the most fashionable character.  A chilly autumn in Venice? Time to break out the miniskirts. I especially love her cool "handshake" belt buckle.

That belt buckle was used as a stylistic reference point in the 2009 giallo homage Amer.

The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire

The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire

"The murderer has done a perfect job. A specialist, I'd say... like me."

When the naked, acid-burned corpse of a young woman is discovered in the trunk of the Swiss Ambassador's car it sets off a touchy political situation for the Dublin police, so Inspector Lawrence (Arthur O'Sullivan) engages loose-canon former cop John Norton (Luigi Pistilli) to do the dirty work of the investigation. While uncovering Ambassador Sobieski's (Anton Diffring) dirty secrets and family scandals, he falls in love with the Ambassador's step-daughter, Helen (Dagmar Lassander). Soon, more and more people connected to the family are murdered in the same malicious manner. Could the killer be a disgruntled employee like the driver (Renato Romano)? Is this an elaborate plot to create an international incident? Or perhaps Inspector Norton is the killer, using his influence to throw off the police?

The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire is a decent giallo with a large pool of suspects, some crazy moments, and bloody murder scenes, but the conclusion is a big disappointment. Really, the best thing this movie has going for it is that fantastic title, which turns out to be a metaphor for something that is exotic, beautiful, and deadly. To be honest, I would have preferred if the title was a complete non-sequitur and nobody alluded to it in the film.  
  • The cast is full of familiar faces including Pistilli (Bay of Blood; The Case of the Scorpion's Tail), Dagmar Lassander (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion), Valentina Cortese (The Girl Who Knew Too Much) and Renato Romano (Seven Bloodstained Orchids; The Bird With the Crystal Plumage).
  • We see the murderer kill two people with a razor but the movie doesn't show the other three. All the dead bodies are shown with bloody necks, but I'm not sure we can assume that a razor was used in all five cases.
  • The kill scenes and the acid-burning scene were done with fake-looking rubber dummies, but the real gruesome sequence is when Norton gets stitches at the hospital.
  • While The Iguana With the Tongue of Fire is clearly a giallo, it borrows elements from the poliziotechi genre, which is characterized by a dangerous loner cop tracking down a case.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

It takes a while to get used to hearing Luigi Pistilli dubbed over with an Irish accent.

I love that all the suspects, police, and the doctor hang out in the same nightclub. So convenient.

Speaking of which, it seems that there's only one doctor in the city of Dublin. That guy turns up everywhere.

Yes, Ambassador Sobieski gets his dry cleaning done at Swastika Laundry Ltd.

When Norton sneaks into an apartment to gather evidence at night, someone is already there and they duke it out in a brutal four-minute furniture-smashing brawl. Which is filmed in complete darkness.The sound effects are pretty good, though.

Fashion Moment

I want to give a quick mention to Granny Norton's glasses with the built-in hearing aids. They're functional and they're a plot point.

But my favorite thing is this awesome birch-textured military-cut jacket worn by Helen's boyfriend Walter (Sergio Doria). Sharp.

Also, Mrs. Sobieski is really getting her Garbo on in this opulent costume.

One more thing...

Do you think Luigi Pistili has a standard clause in his contract stating that he must wear turtlenecked fishermans' sweaters in all of his movies? Those business suits he wore in The Case of the Scorpion's Tail were a great departure and I wish he'd change up his look more often.

The Case of the Scorpion's Tail

The Case of the Scorpion's Tail

"Even a sex maniac must pay his laundry bill."

After Lisa Baumer's (Ida Galli) estranged husband dies in an airline explosion, she must travel to Athens to collect the million dollar insurance premium. While there, she is confronted by her husband's mistress, Lara (Janine Reynard), who demands a cut of the money, but Lisa refuses. Soon after cashing the check, Lisa is murdered and the money is stolen. Insurance investigator Peter Lynch (George Hilton) has been trailing Lisa, but now his mission is to track down the missing money and find the killer, along with local Police Insepctor Stavros (Luigi Pistilli), Interpol detective John Stanley (Alberto diMendoza), and ace reporter Cleo Dupont (Anita Strinberg). As the clues pile up, the killer continues to strike. Could Stanley or Stavros be the killer? Was Baumer really on that plane, like everyone assumes? And what answers can be found in a scorpion-shaped cufflink and a hidden underwater cave?

The Case Of the Scorpion's Tail (not to be confused with The Scorpion With Two Tails) benefits from a first-class script. The plot has great twists, suspicion shifts throughout the story, and there are some effective scenes of action and suspense. Not to mention the fantastic cast of giallo all-stars.  Like Marion in Psycho, our main character, Lisa, is killed off in the first 25 minutes of the movie, giving the film an anything-can-happen sense of reckless danger. Anyone could be the killer and anyone could be the next victim and that's a thrilling feeling.

  • The Case Of the Scorpion's Tail features another great score by Bruno Nicolai and fantastic editing by Eugenio Alabiso.
  • Martino and his screenwriters really utilize this cast beautifully. The ladies are appropriately alluring, Hilton plays right to his strengths as a bad-boy love interest, diMendoza plays another cop with no-nonsense conviction, and Luis Barboo, as Lara's goon, gets a good rooftop fight scene.

What the Hell Am I Watching?

Are we really to believe that the killer is able to hack through  a solid wood door with a switchblade?

Fashion Moment

On one hand, it's good to see Luigi Pistilli wearing something besides cable-knit fisherman sweaters. But if the alternative is ties like this one, I'd rather see him back in those bulky pullovers.