Murder Near Perfect

Murder Near Perfect

"Mystére, remember - play it cool."

The day after a German man named Reinhardt (Peter Berling) snaps photos of a political assassination at the Piazza di Spagna, he hires two prostitutes - bubbly blonde Pamela (Janet Agren) and French vamp Mystére (Carole Bouquet) - for some late-night entertainment. Pamela steals Reinhardt's gold cigarette lighter and drops it into Mystére's handbag, not knowing that it contains the incriminating negatives of the killing. But she soon discovers that a dapper stranger in white spats, armed with a bladed cane is willing to kill to get it back. With people dying around her, Mystére reluctantly turns to American police Inspector Colt (Phil Coccioletti) for help. Can she trust this detective who seems immune to her charms? Can they figure out what the killer wants and outsmart their assailants? And who is the man in the white spats?

Murder Near Perfect (which is equally well-known as Mystére and is sometimes known as Dagger Eyes) is a fascinating later giallo that incorporates elements of an espionage thriller. Carole Bouquet is no stranger to this world, having appeared in For Your Eyes Only just a few years before. Despite some logic problems and plot holes, this movie has a fast, exciting pace, good moments of suspense and some well-played mis-directs. I was shocked when the killer was revealed halfway through the film, but then pleasantly surprised to find that there was another mastermind behind the assassination plot.

  • This is a movie about a prostitute but features absolutely no nudity.
  • In a nod do Dario Argento's Deep Red and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Mystére keeps flashing back to the last time she saw Pamela, sure that she was forgetting an important clue.
  • Setting the beginning of the movie at the Spanish Steps might be a reference to the first giallo, Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much.
  • The assassination in the prologue plays out exactly like the JFK assassination, with a motorcade, an open car, a crowd on the street, shots ringing out - back and to the left! - and a shadowy figure in a high window as the security agents scramble into action.
  • It should be noted that in real life cars aren't allowed at the Spanish steps.
  • There's a montage of Mystére putting on her makeup before going to work, like she's putting on armor to protect herself from the world. It's reminiscent of a similar scene with Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream.
  • The title Murder Near Perfect bears no relation to the movie, but both of the alternate titles are far more apt.

What the Hell Am I Watching? 

 Mystére is a high-end prostitute who charges thousands of dollars per night, drives a sleek sports car and has a killer wardrobe. So why does she work the corner like a common hooker?

For her first job of the night, an old man pays Mystére $1000 to undress, touch his wife's shoulder for five seconds and then leave. It is an incomprehensible scene.

When the killer breaks into her apartment, Mystére defends herself with a bullwhip which, luckily, she had lying around.

Fashion Moment

For the first half of the movie, Mystére wears black and white exclusively, with an occasional pop of red. With her long dark hair and porcelain complexion, she's giving off serious Morticia Addams realness. Check out these webbed sleeves.

The black and white color scheme reflects her simple worldview - she lives a straightforward life where everyone is upfront about what they want and what they're willing to give in exchange. But when things get a little complicated, we see some shades of gray enter her wardrobe.

When she finds herself  for the first time in real danger, she is seen in this bold yellow dress. Outwardly, she may appear confident, but she's really hiding her anxiety. Remember that in Italy yellow (or, in Italian, "giallo") is the color of fear.

At the airport, Mystére thinks she's found love and is ready to settle down. We see her in this retro conservative red polka dot dress with a plunging neckline, like a slutty Donna Reed. As in America, red is the color of love.

But when she realizes that she's been double-crossed, Mystére gets her game face on and goes after what she's owed in this jewel-toned green gown. Green - the color of envy and the color of money.

The Killer Wore Gloves

The Killer Wore Gloves

"Did Michael speak to you? He's in danger - why don't you believe me?"

London artist Peggy (Gillian Hills) is worried about her boyfriend Michael - he's a reporter who has been covering the Vietnam war and has been out of contact for four months. In Michael's absence, Peggy rents the upstairs loft of her apartment to a friend of a friend named John Kirk Lawford. When she receives a mysterious phone call from Michael telling her to meet him at an abandoned airplane hanger, Peggy is nearly murdered by a gloved assassin and when she returns home, she finds that her new tenant is dead, having fallen from her upper-floor balcony.  Things get even stranger when another man appears at Peggy's door, claiming to be the real John Kirk Lawford. Who wants Peggy dead? Where is Michael? Which is the real John Kirk Lawford? And why is there a suitcase full of money stashed in Peggy's hamper?

The Killer Wore Gloves is trashy fun in the classic style of Death Walks at Midnight and The Case of the Bloody Iris, featuring a mix of sex, blood, suspense and a variety of creative kills. The plot, with its double-identity hook, is really ingenious and is based on the novel Juan a las Ocho, Pablo a las Diaz by Luisa Maria de Linare, unfolding at a quick pace with plenty of suspects and victims on hand to keep things interesting.
  • The original Spanish title of this movie is La Muerte Llama a las Diez, or The Killer Calls at Ten (though he never does). In Italy it's called Le Calde Labbra del Carnefice, which translates as The Hot Lips of the Executioner.
  • If Gillian Hills looks familiar, you may recognize her from A Clockwork Orange, Michaelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up, or as Glenda Kelly on TV's Dallas.
  •  Bruno Corrazari is no stranger to gialli, having appeared in Blade of the Ripper, Seven Bloodstained Orchids and Puzzle.
  • You'll notice that I did not check "Gay character" in the checkboxes above. Yes, Peggy's upstairs neighbor, Mr. Lewis (Carlos Otero), is a hypersensitive single musician who dotes on his cat, swans around his apartment and wears tight sparkly shirts, but did you see the way he leers at Peggy? Please feel free to disagree.
  • All the men in Peggy's life are real scumbags. Her client, Ronald (Stelio Candelli) openly offers her money for sex, the first John Lawford and Mr. Lewis leer at her, and it turns out that Michael isn't the catch he appears to be.
What the Hell am I Watching?

The one animal killed is the rabbit that the landlord caught and skinned. Where, one might ask, does someone catch a rabbit in the heart of Europe's largest city?

I suppose the craziest thing about this movie is that at every single opportunity, Peggy refuses to tell anyone what's going on in her life and seek help, and it's never clear why.  She's lured to the hangar and shot at and never tells anyone about it. The police ask about the dead man who fell from her balcony and she denies meeting him. She starts into a police station but chickens out on the front steps. Why? What's keeping her from getting the authorities involved?

Fashion Moment

When we first meet Peggy, she's running around town this two-piece leather maxi dress. Even with the decorative venting, it must be incredibly hot to wear.

Later, she shows up in this hilarious Sonny Bono-style jacket with fluffy wool vest and gauntlets.

Here's Peggy's apartment in all its eclectic glory.  It's a fun mix of modern and vintage pieces and I like the colors. I think that giant egg cup is some sort of table lamp.

Finally, this is what passes as appropriate office attire in 1974: