"...but I can assure you I'm no Sherlock Holmes."
Vince Dreyser (George Ardisson) is an American security expert working for rich clients in Italy. When he runs into his college buddy Walter (Hans von Borsody), they make a plan to meet up again a few weeks later in Rome, but Walter never shows up. Concerned for his friend, Vince starts investigating and discovers a web of murder and corporate espionage. To complicate matters, Vince has also agreed to be bodyguard to a freewheeling young mod named Fidelia (Halina Zalewska). While keeping Fidelia out of trouble, Vince tracks down the clues and dodges bullets alongside disapproving, by-the-book Commissioner Giunta (Günther Stoll). Is Walter dead? What was he mixed up in? And why do all the people with the answers Vince needs keep getting murdered?
Date for a Murder is a pretty good pre-Argento Giallo, with some good action sequences, tight suspense, and a focus set firmly on the mystery, rather than on blood or sex. The story culminates in an epic chase scene through a hospital, which turns into a car chase through Rome's suburbs and finishes with a suspenseful standoff at a meat packing facility.
- There seems to be a "reflection" motif, as characters are frequently seen in mirrors. They're even more commonly obscured on screen, filmed behind reflections in glass, blinds, flowers, and screens.
- Early in the investigation, two mobsters try to dispatch Vince Norman Bates-style by knocking him out, putting him in a car and staging an accident. But rather than sinking it in a lake, they set it on fire and roll it down a cliff.
- Vince gets his own "House" moment – after reaching a dead end and giving up on the case, he sees something unrelated which triggers an epiphany, allowing him to solve the case.
- The original title, Omicidio Per Appuntamento might be better translated as Murder by Appointment. The working title of the film was Si Muore Una Sola Volta, or You Only Die Once – no doubt a wink at a similar James Bond title and a reference to Vince's role as, essentially, a freelance secret agent.
As I mentioned, this move is straightforward, bloodless and nudity-free. The only wacky, off-the-wall moments come from Fidelia's complicated and outrageous fashion sense, as illustrated by some of her many wigs. Here are just a few:
This is the "Mia Wallace."
This is her Phyllis Diller look at the local disco.
I call this look "Leia on Hoth."
And finally, there's the "hairy basketball hoops," a.k.a. "Minnie Mouse on acid."
Let's take a moment to recognize cinematographer Franco Delli Colli. His compositions are artful and his warm lighting gives the movie a real human touch. But he's not afraid to mix it up with some shaky verité handheld work in order to give the disco a raucous vibe and imbue the rooftop chase with a giddy sense of vertigo. Here are just a few examples of his interesting lens work:
Notice the low angle and the harp in this last shot - no doubt an homage to Mario Bava's classic Blood & Black Lace.