Death on the Fourposter
The things we take for granted can end at any moment, like life itself.
Ricky (Michael Lemorine) invites a group of his young friends for a rollicking weekend at his family's castle. But just as things get started, surprise guests show up - sexy Serena (Antonella Lualdi) and suave, blonde Anthony (John Drew Barrymore) dominate the party with groovy music, sultry dancing and a game called "a shattering of illusions," wherein Serena exposes the other guest's character flaws. She then encourages Anthony to perform a psychic parlor trick and, while in a trance, he makes a strange series of predictions, ending with someone's death. Terrified, he flees the castle, but the party goes on and his predictions seem to come true one by one, concluding with one guest's death by strangulation on a grand four-poster bed. Could the killer be nerdy Georgie (Massimo Carocci), gambling addict Paul (Joe Atlanta) or hot-blooded Kitty (José Greci)? Maybe it was pervy groundskeeper Aldo (Giuseppe Fortis) or maid Caterina (Luisa Rivelli), who is having a secret affair with Ricky? The truth will come out by sunrise!
Death on a Fourposter is a decent early giallo, though it's bloodless and has a very low body count.
While Mario Bava's more stylish film The Girl Who Knew Too Much is regarded as the first giallo, Death on a Fourposter was actually released two months earlier, perhaps priming audiences for youthful murder mysteries yet to come. I would not argue too strongly with anyone who would label this a "proto-giallo" or who wouldn't include it among the giallo classics, but it does fit all of my criteria. The setting, like the film itself, is a fascinating mix of new and old - an ancient castle filled with modern furniture, art and music communicates to the audience that standard gothic horror conventions would be injected with a youthful jolt of energy.
- The original Italian title, Delitto allo Specchio, translates as Crime in the Mirror, referring to the mirror suspended above the fourposter bed.
- Another alternate title is the hilariously misleading Sexy Party, which is somewhat apt but mostly refers to the title of the song that gets the party guests dancing.
- To my recollection, this may be the only giallo movie aside from Murder Rock that stops for a dance number.
- During one suspenseful scene, we see a shot of the action through the strings of a harp - a move Mario Bava would use a few years later in Blood and Black Lace - and that other filmmakers would reference from Bava for deades to come. Could Bava himself have been making a reference to the movie that beat him to the giallo punch?
- Our first look at the interior of the castle comes by way of a 360-degree tracking shot, later copied by Sam Raimi in Evil Dead 2.
- John Drew Barrymore is one of the famous Hollywood Barrymores - son of John, nephew of Ethel and father of Drew Barrymore. Because of that famous name, he gets top billing but only appears on screen for about 15 minutes.
What the Hell am I Watching?
From the beginning, we get the impression that this group of friends shares a cutting sense of humor, gently mocking each other with quips and verbal jabs. But during her parlor game, Serena takes it to a very real, very dark place by seducing Carlo (Mario Valdemarin) in front of his girlfriend just because she can and by getting Paul to gamble away his girlfriend, Kitty in a game of dice, just to prove a point. Structurally, it's a great way to establish that any of these people can turn on each other at any time.
Kitty thinks modesty is for other people - she's ready for action in this eye-catching jumper.
But no one turns heads like the sultry Serena, who makes her entrance in a sexy gown, dripping with fur and jewels.
Catarina is in the background giving her the stink-eye, and for good reason.