"You're never going to find out who the killer is until you find out who the girl is."
When the badly burned corpse of an unidentified young woman wearing yellow silk pajamas is discovered on a beach in Sydney, retired Inspector Thompson (Academy Award winner Ray Milland) volunteers to help the police investigate. But Inspector Ramsey (Ramiro Oliveros), who is assigned to the case, doesn't want the old-timer in the way. Instead, he tries some drastic methods, including embalming the naked body and putting it on public display in hopes that someone can identify her. Meanwhile, Glenda Blythe (Dalila Di Lazzaro) is carrying on relationships with three men: a romantic relationship with Italian waiter Antonio (Michele Placido), a physical relationship with Roy (Howard Ross), and a mentor relationship with Professor Henry Douglas (Mel Ferrer). With her marriage to Antonio on the rocks, Glenda decides to run away... and finds more trouble than she can handle.
The Pajama Girl Case (or, if you prefer, The Pyjama Girl Case) is an unusual giallo in several respects. First, it's based on a true story. In 1939 an unidentified woman in silk pajamas was found dead in a ditch in rural Australia and, with no leads to go on, the police invited citizens to view the body (though she wasn't on public display like in the movie). It's still one of Australia's most famous unsolved cases. The Pajama Girl Case is also unusual in its structure, cutting back and forth between the murder investigation and the soap opera melodrama of Glenda's love life. It's not until the end of the movie that the two stories come together and we get the full picture. Also, the tone of the film is unusually dark and depressed. If you want to see a fun, fast-paced giallo with a gleeful sense of anarchy then this isn't the movie for you.
- Though he directed 14 films, Flavio Mogherini is best known as a production designer. This is his only giallo.
- The color yellow is used judiciously used throughout the film in the props, sets, and costumes, usually to punctuate important scenes or connect people and things with the investigation.
- Ray Milland really brings a puckish sense of joy to his role, playing a man who is thrilled to be back in the game after a long absence. Though he was steadily employed in the early 1970's, I get the impression that Milland himself was excited to be part of this production.
- You may recall Dalila Di Lazzaro as the ice-cold Headmistress in Dario Argento's Phenomena.
- Also, please say hello to all-star supporting player Eugene Walter, camping it up as a material witness. You may have seen him in Black Belly of the Tarantula or non-giallo films like The House With the Laughing Windows and Fellini's 8 1/2.
There's a scene where Glenda, broke and desperate, turns to prostitution to make a little money. The scene is slow and relentless as tears fill her eyes and a fat, sweaty man rolls on top of her as his teenage nephew watches. It's heartbreaking, disgusting and disturbing in a way I haven't experienced since Requiem For A Dream.
There are, in fact, yellow pajamas in the movie. But we really don't get a good look at them except in one wide shot at the very end.