"You may have a knowledge of souls, but that doesn't qualify you to 
dispute scientific fact, Father.  Especially when the soul is a woman's"

It's a hot summer in Rome and medical researcher Simona Sana (Mimsy Farmer) is studying the city's unusually high suicide rate, looking for a way to tell real suicides from the fake ones. But her latest case study is Betty Lenox (Gabby Wagner), a neighbor whom she had met just the night before who didn't seem at all suicidal. Betty's brother, Father Paul Lenox (Barry Primus) also wants to get to the bottom of his sister's death and together they team up to follow the clues. Is the rise in suicides caused by an increase in solar flares or by a clever killer who stages the murders to look self-inflicted? Could Father Paul, who hides a dark past and a fierce temper, be the murderer? Or perhaps it's Simona herself, driven mad by her gruesome research? The investigation will lead to an antique bible, a blackmail plot, and a story that has its roots in the historic Florence flood of 1966.

Stylistically and structurally, Autopsy is all over the board, trying it's hardest to be every kind of thriller at once. It has elements of zombie horror, psychological thrillers, and, like The Girl Who Knew Too Much, doubles as a travelogue, even borrowing notable locations from that Bava classic. But despite a messy, meandering plot that frequently stalls out, Autopsy ends up as a fine Argento-inspired giallo that ultimately does make sense.
  • Besides the aforementioned collage of influences, Autopsy also strives to be part of the genre I call "Crazy Woman Goes Crazy." In these movies, we watch through an unbalanced woman's paranoid perspective as she slowly goes insane. Starting with 1965's Repulsion, the genre can be traced through movies like Shock and The Perfume of the Lady In Black (which also starred Mimsy Farmer), right through Black Swan. Even though they star men, The Secret Window and 2012's giallo-inspired Berbarian Sound Studios might also be considered part of the genre.
  • That body count seems awfully high, but consider that the first six deaths occur in rapid succession in the first two minutes of the movie. I didn't count all the dead people in the morgue.
  • The title sort of makes sense in that several scenes are set in a morgue and we do see a brief, informal autopsy. But the movie isn't about autopsies and the plot isn't predicated on one.
  • The Italian title, Macchie Solari, could be loosely translated as The Bloodstained Sun, in reference to Simona's theory that the suicides are connected to unusual solar activity.
  • The final showdown takes place on the roof of the church of St. Agnes In Agone, high above the famous Piazza Navona. If you're going to have a dramatic ending, that's a fantastic place to do it.
  • I could be wrong, but Simona's modern apartment, with its open staircase and cone-shaped central fireplace looks like it might be the same set used in The Fifth Cord for Helene's house.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Most of the crazy moments in Autopsy consist of shock visuals. Simona works at a gruesome morgue that's run like a chop shop and there are lots of gooey, bloody makeup effects. Exhausted by her work, Simona hallucinates that the scarred corpses come to life in an eerie, unsettling scene.

Later, Simona visits Rome's Criminal Museum, which is a real place. While it does display weapons and torture devices, the actual museum probably doesn't feature huge photo displays of gruesome, mutilated corpses and wax dummies enacting different methods of suicide.

Father Paul drives Simona from the city to the beach to see the scene of his sister's death. But Rome is so far inland that the nearest beach is about 90 minutes away by car. Hardly a quick detour from her office.

Also, we see Simona hail a cab in front of the Spanish Steps – even though cars aren't allowed in the Piazza di Spagna.

Fashion Moment

Simona's playboy father, Gianni (Massimo Serato) shows up in this killer white suit.

Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive...

Also, Mimsy Farmer was born to wear these fitted, backless tops. She looks fantastic here.

Creepster morgue worker agrees.

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion

"He's crazy. He doesn't think like other people. There's no telling what he'll do next."

Minou (Dagmar Lassander) is a bored housewife who finds herself entangled in a web of sex and violence. While taking a nighttime walk on the beach, she is attacked by a stranger (Simon Andreu) who tells her that her husband Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi) is a murderer. He lets her go untouched, but threatens to release the evidence against Peter if she doesn't meet him at his apartment. It's not money that he wants, but rather Minou's body. After things get all Fifty Shades of Grey, the Blackmailer continues to torment Minou and she turns to her best friend, Dominique (Susan Scott) for advice. She tells her husband the truth and, bringing in the police, they find that there's no evidence to back up her story. Is Minou going crazy? Is Peter really a murderer? What is it that the Blackmailer really wants?

Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is an unusual giallo in that the sexy scenes are used as an essential part of the plot, rather than as a break from the main action. Also, instead of a series of murders, the main action focuses on the mystery behind a single killing, which happens before the action of the movie even starts. Still, even though this is the least-trashy of Luciano Ercoli's gialli, it is the most coherent and has one of the best-written screenplays.

  • When Minou enters the Blackmailer's apartment for the first time, there are plaster hand sculptures on the walls and a velvet curtain opens to a sensuous atmosphere. This scene is shot as an homage to Jean Cocteau's 1946 fantasy La Belle et La Bete, where the beauty first nervously enters the Beast's enchanted castle.
  • It's not clear where the film takes place, but they use American dollars.
  • The characters' alcohol consumption in this film is absolutely staggering. Try to keep up and you'll be floored halfway through.
  • Enjoy another great score by Ennio Morricone.
  • Minou's phone is white with a red dial. This does not qualify as a red phone.
What the Hell am I Watching?

Shall we talk about the soup-eating scene?  For a full minute, Minou, Peter, and Dominique sit around a table, silently eating soup and staring at each other. The camera pans in, close up, over and over as each character lifts the spoon from the bowl to their mouths. Over this, we hear ominous echoes of the Blackmailer's conversation with Minou.

Minou could have a pet cat like every other giallo character, but they decided to switch things up and give her a turtle. A turtle that roams freely around the house.

Dominique is totally into porn. Or, as she calls it, "erotic art from Copenhagen."

Speaking of, Dominique is one of my all-time favorite giallo characters. She's a strong, independent, liberated woman who prowls like an alley cat and takes what she wants. She's like a red-headed Samantha Jones. Susan Scott has played aggressive women in other movies, but there's always an element of tragic victimhood involved. Here, as the sassy sidekick, she really shines.

Fashion Moment

Homygod, you guys. Elton John had a yard sale.

Honestly, though, all the fashions in this movie are crazy.  In just about every scene you'll find yourself asking "what is she wearing?!"

Death Occurred Last Night

Death Occurred Last Night

"I wanted to see their faces. I wanted to be the first."

Amanzio Berzaghi (Raf Vallone) has raised his developmentally disabled, 25 year-old daughter Donatella (Gillian Bray) on his own, so when the girl suddenly goes missing from their locked apartment, he turns to Detective Ducca Lamberti (Frank Wolff) for help. Lamberti and his young partner Mascaranti (Gabriele Tinti) aren't afraid to circumvent standard police procedure by planting evidence and blackmailing criminals into helping the investigation. While the investigation takes Lamberti into the dangerous world of human trafficking, Amanzio takes matters into his own hands, discovering important clues on his own. Who kidnapped Donatella and what became of her? The answers can be found in a tangle of witness testimonies and in a small teddy bear.

Like The Suspicious Death of a Minor, Death Occurred Last Night walks the line between giallo and poliziottecschi. In fact, murder isn't even discussed until nearly 50 minutes into this 94-minute movie. A strong argument could be made that hard-boiled Ducca Lamberti, who frequently crosses moral lines in his investigation, is a classic polizotteschi archetype. But after the investigation gets going and after an exceptionally long montage of the police questioning prostitutes, the conspirators start killing to cover up their crimes and getting killed in retaliation. It may walk the genre line, but it qualifies as a giallo - an unusual giallo, but a giallo none the less.
  • Mrs. Lamberti (who is never given a first name) is played by Eva Renzi, whom you may recognize as gallery owner Monica in The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. One of the five movies she made in 1970.
  • The screenplay was based on the book I Milanese Ammzzano al Sabato (The Milanese Kill On Saturday). That title actually makes sense, but not until the very end of the movie.
  • Not only did Duccio Tessari write and direct the movie, he also co-wrote the two original songs, "Incompatibile" and "I giorni che ci appartengono"
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Lamberti goes home each night to a loving wife, who works at a newspaper. They banter flirtatiously, compare war stories about their days, commiserate about their jobs, and Duca unwinds by playing his guitar. It's not really a shocking or crazy moment, but a surprising and refreshing choice to show the calm, off-the-clock private life of a police detective in the middle of a case.

In fact, Mrs. Lamberti and her husband are so close that he enlists her to plant a giant brick of cocaine in a suspect's car. And she gracefully pulls it off as if it's not her first time.

When Berzaghi goes to the morgue to identify a body, they only uncover the corpse's feet. How can he identify a body by just looking at the feet?

Fashion Moment

This movie has a lot of prostitutes. A lot of prostitutes. And that means a lot of garish, unflattering clothes. Luckily, Mrs. Lamberti is around to class things up and she dresses in this smart white trench coat and wide-brimmed hat for her undercover mission at the car dealership.

Cat O'Nine Tails

Cat O'Nine Tails

"That's it then. Nine leads to follow. It's a cat with nine tails."

A mysterious break-in at a high-tech genetics lab where nothing was apparently stolen has the police baffled, but newspaper reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) is determined to follow the story. He is joined by Franco Arno (Karl Malden), a blind crossword puzzle creator and shrewd amateur detective who uses his remaining senses to their full advantage. Before long, the burglar turns to murder in order to cover up the secret of his crime. Who could it be? One of the five lead scientists working on an important scientific breakthrough? Or perhaps it's Anna Terzi (Catherine Spaak), the sexy daughter of the company's owner. As they get closer to the truth, Carlo and Franco find that they are the killer's next targets!

Cat O'Nine Tails has a bad rap. It's generally considered to be one of Dario Argento's weakest films but it's not a bad movie at all. I will concede that it's about 20 minutes too long, but this movie is certainly not in his bottom five. It has a clever plot, interesting characters, good action, well-realized kill scenes, and top-notch suspense. But instead of taking it on its own terms, this sophomore effort is unjustly compared to Argento's dazzling debut, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and how do you follow up such a groundbreaking opus? To put it in a more modern context, Cat O'Nine Tails is Argento's Unbreakable.

  • So blind amateur detective Karl Malden cares for orphan girl Laurie and together they solve crimes with handsome newspaper reporter Carlo. How was this not a TV show? They could have pitched it as "Face from The A-Team meets Murder She Wrote meets Punky Brewster."  Get Aaron Spelling involved and you've got a hit on your hands.
  • Was the security guard murdered at the break-in? I don't think his injuries were fatal so I didn't list him in the body count. If he had died, everyone would have referred to the crime as "the murder" rather than "the burglary."
  • Argento punctuates this movie with some really good set pieces: a suspenseful scene with poisoned milk, a car chase through Torino, a tense safe cracking scene, and a climactic rooftop brawl.  I also love that after narrowly escaping a poisoning, Carlo is apprehensive about drinking milk for the rest of the movie.
  • Karl Malden is, arguably, the most famous actor ever to appear in a giallo film.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

The investigation takes Carlo to the lamest gay bar ever. I'm sure it was meant to represent the dark, dirty underbelly of the city but it looks just like your average Applebee's. Please notice in the background that they have a print of Richard Avedon's famous portrait of George Harrison.

One of Argento's favorite things (especially in these early movies) is to jump into a scene at the end of a conversation. So we repeatedly hear the end of one of Carlo's colleague's recipes, an anecdote about a sexy encounter at a tailor's shop, and the conclusion of an insult contest at a bar. It's a cute device that throws us out of context for a second and provides the film with a little lightness.

Why would a building have an elevator shaft that leads up to a skylight? Is that even possible?

Fashion Moment

Anna has a thing for these intricately-constructed outfits with cutouts all over the blouse and slits up the sides of the pants. Just like with her personal relationships, she keeps things covered up and reveals only as much as is nescessary.