Knife of Ice

Knife of Ice

Zombies, voodoo, demons, and Afro-Cuban witches.
There's enough here to rob you of a month's sleep!"

Martha Caldwell (Carroll Baker), mute and skittish since she witnessed her parents killed in a train crash as a child, is being stalked by a mysterious killer who leaves behind satanic clues. As the people around her die, Martha wonders if the killer could be the creepy driver, Marco (Eduardo Fijaro), Dr. Laurent, her doctor (Alan Scott), or even her frail Uncle Ralph (George Rigaud), whose interest in the occult may be more than academic.  Or maybe it's the crazy-eyed morphine-addicted Satanist hippie who keeps popping up everywhere she goes.

No nudity or extreme gore in this film – it's a classy production that relies on suspense and focuses on the drawing room-style mystery at hand. There's not even a love story here, but the reason for that is apparent by the end of the film. Except for a few odd moments and the Satanist angle, this is a very buttoned-up production. The twist ending is a doozy, though, and it's one you probably won't see coming, even though it makes good sense once you look back on the film.
  • The title of this film is explained away with a metaphorical quote from Edgar Allan Poe, hence my marking that it "sort of" make sense. There are no actual ice knives in the film.
  • This is one of the very few gialli that has a priest character, where the priest isn't the murderer.
  • You may recognize Carroll Baker from the movie Giant or from her Oscar-nominated role in Baby Doll. Or maybe from her other gialli like The Sweet Body of Deborah. Or maybe you know her as the villain in Kindergarten Cop. In any case, she brings a sweet sense of innocence and a sort of Doris Day wholesomeness to the role of Martha.
  • It's also good to see George Rigaud, from The Case of the Bloody Iris and Death Walks on High Heels.
  • The crazy-eyed hippie's look is clearly based on Charles Manson, who terrorized Los Angeles and caught the world's attention just a few years prior to this film's production.

Fashion Moment: Did I mention that the crazy-eyed hippie wears a velvet cape? And that at the second funeral scene, Martha wears a tight black mini-skirt? It gets its own close-up:

What Have You Done to Solange?

What Have You Done To Solange?

"Don't worry, Uncle. I promise I won't go near the river banks today. Bye!"

Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi) is a handsome, popular teacher at London's St. Mary's Catholic School for Girls. His wife Herta (Karin Baal) is also a teacher there, but their marriage is strained and Enrico has been having a secret affair with a student, Elizabeth (Cristina Galbó, credited as Christina Galbo). During one of their secret rendezvous, Elizabeth witnesses the murder of a classmate Рbut she and Enrico can't come forward without revealing their affair. With his tarnished reputation and no solid alibi, Enrico is a suspect in the case, but things turn quickly as more schoolgirls are murdered in the same brutal manner. Now Enrico must investigate on his own to discover what dark secrets link the victims. Who would want these girls dead and why? Are they as innocent as they appear? Could one of the school's priests be the killer? And how does a mysterious girl named Solange fit into the puzzle?

Besides having a fantastic title, What Have You Done To Solange? is an engaging, twisty, and complex thriller, ending in a place you'd never suspect. It also features something rare and wonderful in depicting the complex, grown-up relationship between husband and wife Enrico and Herta. They start the movie as ice-cold enemies, even taking separate cars to the same job, but the mystery unexpectedly brings them closer and, by working together to solve the case, they re-discover their love for each other. Watching a relationship re-kindle over the course of a movie is the stuff of serious art films and here it is in a giallo alongside Porky's-style scenes of a peeping Tom in a girls' shower and teenagers getting stabbed in their lady parts.

  • The screenplay was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace
  • The original Italian title (Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange?) uses the plural form of "You," which doesn't translate exactly into English. The closest we can get would be the colloquial What Have Y'all Done to Solange? It's a subtle difference, but it changes the meaning of the title dramatically.
  • Ennio Morricone's score expertly transitions from a gauzy love theme to eerie dread and tense action.
  • The main staircase of the school sort of does a half-twist, but I'm counting it as a spiral staircase anyway.
  • The title, as I said, is brilliant. Using the unusual name "Solange" and taking the form of a question creates a sense of intrigue and anticipation before the movie even starts. Then the title character isn't even mentioned until about an hour and 12 minutes in, creating an even greater sense of mystery.
What the Hell am I Watching?

Not to give too much away, but there's a gruesome and upsetting flashback scene that takes place in a kitchen.

This movie's most jaw-dropping move is making an adulterous pedophile its hero and somehow redeeming him in the end. In that sense, he's sort of like Norman Bates in Psycho – the deranged sicko for whom we're compelled to root.

Fashion Moment

Herta starts the movie stern and cold, angry at her estranged husband. Her hair is a tight blonde helmet and she wears crisp, masculine suits.

But as she starts to re-discover her relationship with her husband, her look softens a little.

She lets her hair down, has more femenine makeup...

...and we start to see more delicate fabrics and comfortable-looking, casual clothing.

Brava to costume designer Elisa Gut for engineering a complete character arc through Herta's wardrobe.

Strip Nude For Your Killer

Strip Nude For Your Killer

"In our kind of business a person doesn't take long to know who he does and doesn't like."

A mysterious murderer in a black helmet and leather motorcycle gear is killing the employees of a photography studio. Photographer Carlo Bianchi (Nino Castelnuovo) and his girlfriend and assistant, Magda Cortis (Edwige Fenech), are piecing together the clues. Could the killer be the studio's stern owner, Gisella Montagni (Amanda)? Or jealous model Patrizia (Solvi Stubing)? And what motive could possibly tie all the killings together? Carlo and Magda must race to find the vital clues and solve the case!

Some gialli are scary and some gialli are sexy. Strip Nude For Your Killer is definitely a sexy giallo, with pretty much the entire cast in minimal wardrobe (or nothing at all) throughout the film. And if you like something shocking to go with your bewbs, consider that the movie opens with a woman in stirrups dying from complications of a botched abortion. That really sets the tone for some brutal killings, unapologetic misogyny, and gratuitous sex. In short, it's everything you want in a giallo film.

  • There's certainly nudity and there's a whole lot of killing, but no one is forced to "strip nude for the killer" as the title suggests.
  • The traditional killer's costume of a black trench coat and hat is re-imagined as a tight leather jumpsuit and helmet, making him look like a psychotic member of Daft Punk.
  • There's a water motif throughout the film: fountains, spilled booze, faucets, and pools are recurring elements thought the film. The killer's trademark is to turn on a tap to lure victims. It's all meant to remind the victims (and the audience) of the initial killing, which was staged to look like a drowning.
  • The murder of Maurizio Montagni (Franco Diogene) is the Psycho shower scene, staged in reverse. He is standing in the bathroom and the killer strikes from inside the shower,  behind the curtain.
  • In that scene, we can clearly see the camera crew in a mirror as Maurizio walks by.
  • There is one off-screen killing: the gynecologist from the opening scene.
  • I don't think the killer was killed at the end, so I didn't count him in the body count. It was just a fall down some stairs and he was wearing a helmet, so the injuries couldn't have been too bad.
What the Hell am I Watching?

After the credits, we're taken to some sort of... facility. I'm not sure if it's a rec center, a spa, or a sex club, but there's a bar and nearly-naked people are everywhere. Carlo tails the beautiful Lucia (Femi Benussi), lures her into the sauna, gets her naked, and then jumps her. What makes it most uncomfortable is that she protests the whole time before going along with every step. Rather disturbing in our modern era of "no means no."

Chubby Maurizio is the saddest character in the entire giallo canon. The poor guy is married to a cold, domineering woman who gets more chicks than he does and when he does try to have an affair, he bursts into tears, clumsily offers to pay the woman anyway, and finds solace with his blow-up doll. It's supposed to be funny, but I just find it depressing. It makes me even sadder when the poor guy is killed later.

Hey, Magda, honey? You're working with caustic chemicals in that film lab. Maybe take off the bulky fur coat?

And speaking of which, she must have done millions of Lira in damage, knocking down lights and furniture while trying to stealthily evade the killer in the photo studio.

Fashion Moment

It takes a confident man to wear a swimsuit like this.

The Psychic

The Psychic

"This thing's becoming an obsession, darling. Get it out of your mind."

While driving alone to her new husband's Tuscan estate, Virginia Ducci (Jennifer O'Neill) experiences a series of psychic visions. A streak of red light... a yellow taxi...  a broken mirror... a dead old woman whose face is streaked in blood... a mysterious hole in a bedroom wall. When she finally arrives at the villa, she starts to recognize objects from her visions, but everything is slightly different than she remembers. Seeing that the spot in the bedroom wall from her vision is intact, she takes a pick axe to it and discovers a body entombed behind the bricks – the body of her husband's previous lover. Virginia struggles to remember the details of her vision, to find out how the woman died, and to clear her husband's name. But were her visions echoes of past events... or predictions of things to come?

Lucio Fulci really came up with a brilliant conceit for this film: he dumps all the puzzle pieces on the table right at the beginning of the film and then proceeds to put them together – though they may not form the picture you thought they would.  The Psychic (often known by its more apt and poetic Italian title, Sette Note In Nero) is an underrated Fulci gem, often overshadowed by his more sensationalist films, The Beyond and Don't Torture a Duckling.  The film is slow-paced and devoid of any sexuality, but Fulci is more focused on atmosphere, storytelling, and a few mild moments of bloodshed.

  • The stories of Edgar Allan Poe have always been a touchstone of giallo films and here, Fulci borrows from "The Cask of Amantillado"
  • Some of the music from The Psychic was used in Kill Bill Vol. 1.
  • Fulci's style is rooted in Gothic horror, but I can't help but think that he picked up a few tricks from the more modernist Dario Argento. Argento-esque elements include the use of forensic science in the investigation, paranormal plot elements, and Argento's signature "walking slowly through an abandoned house" scene.
  • The ending of the movie is left ambiguous, but I'm calling it an "attempted murder" for the purposes of the body count, above.
  • Planning the shooting of this movie must have been tricky, because objects and events change throughout the film. For example, a mirror first appears broken in a vision, then later, intact in real life. They would have had to shoot things out of order in a very specific way to get all the shots they needed.

What the Hell Am I Watching?

 Take a drink every time there's a camera zoom. Two if it's into someone's eyes

The opening scene is the most gruesome in the movie, showing Virginia's mother throwing herself off a cliff, with the rock cutting up her face as she falls.  This opening scene of The Psychic uses the same effect as the final scene of Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling.

Fashion Moment

At the time this movie was made there was a big 1920's fashion trend, with pinstripes, fedora hats, and fitted womens' suits.  You work that gangster look, Charlie Girl.

Also, check out her two-toned Rolls Royce. That ride would make Jay Gatsby envious.