Watch Me When I Kill

Watch Me When I Kill

"The Police are useless, Lukas. And besides, I hate their stupidity, their questions.
I wanted to handle it my way."

Looking to buy aspirin, cabaret performer Mara (Paola Tedesco) stumbles onto the murder of a pharmacist and accidentally hears the killer's voice, putting her in danger.  Mara's boyfriend, cigar-chomping sound engineer Lukas Carmine (Corrado Pani) soon becomes obsessed with the case and the subsequent murder of a spinster and the attempted murder of his elderly neighbor, Giovanni Bozzi (Fernando Cerulli), who has received threatening tape recordings with the sounds of screaming, barking, and fire. Lukas discovers that the two victims and Giovanni all served on the jury of escaped murderer Pasquale Ferrante (Franco Citti) but is Ferrante the killer? Or is there some other link between the victims? The investigation will lead Lukas and Mara to uncover long-held secrets from a dark time in history.

Watch Me When I Kill is a really strong giallo from director Antonio Bido, who clearly learned  a lot from Dario Argento's early films. Bido appropriates (okay, copies) a lot of the young master's favorite tricks, including macro lens tracking shots, modern settings, and a "slowly exploring a creepy abandoned building" scene. Even the score (credited to the band Trans Europa Express) is a blatant copy of Claudio Simonetti's score to Deep Red with its tingling, mechanical ostinatos and thumping electric bass line.  The plot is very well thought-out and isn't afraid to get a little heavy when it veers into the tragic events of actual 20th Century history.
  • None of the various titles make any sense. No one is forced or even invited to watch anyone kill. There are flashes of a cat's eyes during some of the murder scenes, but a cat doesn't enter into the plot and few frames of the movie don't warrant the title Cat With the Jade Eyes. Clearly, this was another attempt to copy Argento by using a verbose animal-centric title like Cat O'Nine Tails or The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.
  • On a related note, the cover of the DVD and the poster image on show a screaming woman reflected in the mirrored sunglasses of a killer (in effect, watching her own murder). Nothing resembling this scene actually occurs in the movie.
  • Director Antonio Bido makes a Hitchcock-esque cameo as the director of the cabaret where Mara works.
  • I love the handles on the pharmacy's front door. They're shaped like a caduceus - snakes wrapped around a staff, used as a symbol of medicine.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

We're treated to a tone-deaf and lead-footed performance of  "Tango Argentina" from Mara's cabaret act.

The dubbing on the DVD version is pretty good, but just before witnessing the first murder, Mara asks her cab driver to pull over at the farmacia (pronounced "farm-a-chee-ah"), using the Italian word for Pharmacy for some reason.

In a scene that probably had Argento kicking himself for not thinking of it first, Lukas gets an old senile woman to remember details about the past by playing old records from the 1940's.

Fashion Moment

Girl, what is on your head?

I have no idea what they were discussing in this scene because I was so distracted by that turban.

The Embalmer

The Embalmer

"In cases like this, unfortunately, what we believe is an accident is more likely a crime."

A shadowy figure in scuba gear has been abducting beautiful teenage girls from the streets of Venice, killing them, and embalming their bodies in a secret catacomb for his morbid collection of corpses. While the Sheriff believes it's a series of accidents, newspaper reporter Andrea Rubi (Luigi Martocci, credited as Gin Mart) sees the pattern as the work of a serial killer. Meanwhile, teacher Maureen (Maureen Brown) is chaperoning a class of high school girls around the city and takes a liking to Andrea, who offers his services as tour guide while investigating the case. Who will be the next victim? Could the mysterious murderer be Maureen's friend Schwartz, the archeologist or the creepy hotel manager? Can Andrea and Maureen find out before the killer strikes again?

The Embalmer is a very early giallo, so it's missing many of the familiar genre tropes that developed later. In fact, it relies heavily on the traditions of Gothic horror, including an underground catacomb, a mad scientist's lab, skeletons, menacing shadows, and a mysterious figure in black monk's robes. Also, the movie uses the same rhythms you'd find in creature feature movies of the 1950's like The Creature From the Black Lagoon or Them!, rather than the new visual lexicon that Mario Bava was developing.  Despite all this, it is set in modern times (meaning the mid-1960's) and even includes a cabaret performance from an Italian Elvis clone. The Embalmer clocks in at only 77 minutes and I'd say that's still too long. There's a lot of padding here, including extended travelogue sequences and the aforementioned musical numbers.
  • A cast list is easy to find, but there's very little indication of who played what role. The two leads are easy enough to deduce, but the rest are more difficult, so that's why I left some roles uncredited in the synopsis above.
  • The movie seems very concerned that it might be too scary, so comic parts were included for two bickering porters and suspenseful scenes are dulled by an incongruously lighthearted score.
  • Most of the murders take place in the north of the city by the Scazi bridge but, in the end, Andrea chases the murderer to St. Mark's Square, which is clear on the other side of town.  That's a mighty long run. I also find it hard to believe that the square was deserted during their climactic fight scene in front of the Basilica. Like New York's Time Square, it's the main tourist spot in town and it's never empty, no matter what time of day.
  • We're not shown the first or third murders, but they're included in the body count anyway.
  • An underground crypt counts as a cemetery for the purposes of the checklist above.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

When the lights go out at the nightclub, everyone freaks out. Apparently they've never been to a night club before.

A little later, Schwartz and his elderly Aunt Catherine hit the dance floor and gurrl drops it like it's hot.

 Fashion Moment

Maureen and Andrea clean up nicely for a dinner at the club. As the only one in the room wearing white, Maureen really stands out.



"I think it's unwise to use movies as a guide for reality. Don't you, Inspector?"

After the demanding lead singer of a new opera production of Verdi's Macbeth is injured in an accident, her young understudy, Betty (Cristina Marsillach) opens the show to rave reviews. But trouble is only just beginning behind the scenes of this "cursed opera," as Betty becomes the plaything of a murderer. He repeatedly ties her up and tapes rows of needles under her eyelids so she can't blink, forcing her to watch as he murders her friends and colleagues.  Strangely, these killings echo the nightmares Betty had as a child after her mother died – nightmares of a sinister man in a black hood. Could the killer be the demanding director Marco (Ian Charleston), who made his name directing ghoulish horror films? Or maybe it's her agent, Mira (Daria Nicolodi), always eager to drum up publicity?  Can handsome Inspector Santini (Urbano Barberini) uncover Betty's connection to the killer?

The consensus among many horror and giallo fans seems to be that after a brilliant run of early works, the quality of Dario Argento's films has slowly declined. I strongly disagree and will enthusiastically hold up many of his middle-period films from the 1980's against some of his earlier, more highly regarded gialli.  Opera (a giallo paraphrase of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom Of the Opera) is an excellent example, proving that, while he likes to return to certain story elements, he never stopped innovating new visual and narrative devices. Here we're treated to a bird's eye camera swooping dramatically through a theater, a perspective looking up from the bottom of a drain, disorienting 180-degree camera rotations, and a chilling visual "pulse" effect as the killer stalks his prey.  Who but Argento could come up with that? Most importantly, though, I find that Argento's middle period films - and especially Opera - have a more mature complexity, mixed in with the giddy anarchic fun of someone who loves making scary movies.
  • The soundtrack is a fantastic mix of grand opera, moody synthesizers, and speed metal.
  • You will never see a movie with more POV and steadycam shots than Opera.
  • The sound effects are also a highlight of the film. From the croaking ravens to the sound of scissors ripping through a woman's sternum, the audio mix is incredibly visceral.
  • Just as he did in Four Flies on Gray Velvet and Deep Red, Argento uses the "opening the curtain" effect as Betty storms through the theater after an attack.
  • From behind a closed door we hear (but don't see) Betty's young neighbor get smacked by her surley mother. It still counts as a "woman slapped in the face."
What the Hell Am I Watching?

Let's say you've just knocked out your assailant while your friend is tied up nearby. Any sane person would: 1.) untie your friend 2.) unmask the killer 3.) grab the gold bracelet that the killer was after 4.) run for your life and call the police.  Unfortunately, for some reason Giulia chose to: 1.) go for the bracelet first 2.) unmask the killer 3.) get murdered when the killer springs back to life.

Here's another infuriating situation: After narrowly surviving an attack by a killer who is clearly targeting her, Betty goes home, blinds herself with eye drops, and then leaves the front door ajar when someone on the intercom claims to be her police escort. This moment of stupidity, however, leads to one of the best sequences Dario Argento ever filmed. Someone is in the house and someone else is banging on the front door. Both claim to be the police, but one is the killer. It's a fantastic piece of suspense, lit by pulsing colored lights in the style of Blood and Black Lace.

Betty is saved from the killer by a Deus Ex Machina in the form of a voyeuristic ragamuffin neighbor girl who likes to crawl around the building through the air conditioning ducts.

Why is there a tank of gasoline in the music library? There's also a life-sized, fully-clothed mannequin stashed in the corner, so I suppose the killer could have planted everything there ahead of time.

Fashion Moment

Betty's Lady Macbeth costume exemplifies the opera production: loud, jarring, gaudy, and anachronistic. 

The costume is also a major plot point. When the killer tears it to shreds, he inadvertently starts a chain of events leading to his own capture.

Delerium: Photos of Gioia

Delerium: Photos of Gioia

"Only a wild animal could kill someone like that. You'd better stay in the house."

A year after the accident that claimed her husband's life, former nude model Gloria Manzi (Serena Grandi) goes back to work as Editor In Chief of popular mens' magazine Pussycat. But her return is quickly marred when a killer strikes her models. After killing his victims, the murderer poses their bodies in front of posters of Gloria and mails them to her as threats. Someone is clearly out to frighten Gloria but could she be the next victim? And who could the killer be? Perhaps it's her ex-boyfriend, Alex (George Eastman) who has mysteriously re-appeared in her life or Mark (Karl Zinny), the pervy neighbor kid who spies on Gloria through a telescope from his wheelchair.  Or perhaps someone is killing cover girls knowing that the publicity will sell more magazines. Inspector Corsi (Lino Salemme) is on the case, but can he stop the killer before he can kill Gloria?

Director Lamberto Bava has said that Delerium: Photos of Gioia (not to be confused with Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) is made up of a bunch of ideas that he's always wanted to try. And we really get that impression because it moves from one outrageous set piece to another, with a plot that takes a back seat to creative murders, optical effects, and a lot of nudity. He's the kind of more-is-more director who throws everything at the wall and hopes that something will stick. Luckily for us, some of it did. Even if the resolution is weak, the first two murders are fascinating to watch and some of the details of the killers' method are interesting.
  • In the original Italian version, the main character's name is Gioia, but for the English dub, it was changed to Gloria. I have no idea why they didn't also change it in the title.
  • For those first two murders, Lamberto gives the traditional point of view shot a unique twist. His thinking was that if the killer is insane, his perception might be skewed and that, in order to kill someone, he would have to dehumanize them first. So we see the victims through the killers eyes as monsters - a woman with a giant eyeball for a head and a woman with an insect face.
  • The pulsing colors, shifting from rich red to blue before each murder, evokes the cinematography of Lamberto's mentors. Specifically, Dario Argento's Susperia and Lamberto's father Mario's Blood and Black Lace.
  • To our modern eyes, the makeup at the end of the movie may make the killer look like Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight.

What the Hell Am I Watching?

Is the three-woman naked photo shoot in Gloria's pool all that shocking? Maybe not, but it's certainly an attention-getting way to open the film.

Gloria has a paranoid nightmare where Mark gets into her bedroom and attacks her with a flashlight. And I don't mean hitting her with it.

Later (in real life) Mark visits his dead girlfriend, Cinzia, at the cemetery. Have a look at her tombstone and you'll notice that she has no last name.

Fashion Moment

It's a movie about rich, powerful women who dress in furs, broad-shouldered gowns, and chunky jewelry like Joan Crawford or the cast of Dynasty. But to my eyes the real fashion hero of this movie is Flora's assistant (I'm not sure of the actress's name) who sports a youthful, modern outfit and a rockin' Belinda Carlisle haircut in one of her two scenes. Truly, truly, truly outrageous!


You're probably wondering, since this is a Lamberto Bava movie, if he used the color yellow to connect people and events to the killer like he did with Blade In the Dark and You'll Die At Midnight. The answer is yes and no. But mostly no. Two of the murder locations (Gloria's patio and the department store) feature prominent yellow accents, the killer sends photos in gold envelopes, and the killer and some (but not all) of the victims appear in yellow. But other murder locations and people involved aren't connected with yellow and some yellow settings, clothes, and props (like Mark's flowers and bedroom and Alex's sweater) have no connection to the murderer. Due to this inconsistency, I'm left to deduce that there's no color motif in Delerium: Photos of Gioia.

Giallo In Venice

Giallo In Venice

"Keep focused on the sex. It could be the key to everything."

When the bodies of a married couple, Fabio (Gianni Dei) and Flavia (Leonora Fani) are found on the shores of Venice's Giudeicca island, Inspector DePaul (Jeff Blynn) is on the case. What's unusual is that while Fabio was stabbed to death, Flavia drowned in the canal – but her body was discovered on land. As DePaul investigates, he discovers a dark web of drugs, jealousy, and kinky sex. But who was the killer? Flavia's ex, Bruno Neilsen (uncredited)? Or maybe it was the stalker following their friend Marzia (Mariangela Giordano). Soon the killer strikes again, picking off those who know too much. 

Man, oh man. I'm afraid I cannot get behind this one.

In fact, for a while I considered leaving Giallo In Venice off the list but, in the end, decided to include it for the sake of thoroughness. The thing is that for a genre known for cheap productions, this one scrapes the bottom of the barrel. It looks like the whole movie was lit by a single fluorescent bulb. And in a genre known for depicting women in jeopardy, this one goes way too far. It's a "sexy" giallo, to be sure, and the plot seems to be an afterthought, hung on a series of grownup scenes. But there is an awful lot of rape in this movie. And a lot of women getting beat up, brutalized, and forced to do terrible, degrading things. Whereas Lucio Fulci's Perversion Story is a giallo that depicts sexuality in a fun way with a wink and a smile, Giallo In Venice depicts sex as an angry, brutal assault. It's disturbing to watch and decidedly un-sexy.  So here it is. It's on the list. But I cannot recommend that anyone watch this movie.
  • The title is accurate – it is a giallo and it is set in Venice – but I've never heard of a movie labeling itself like that. I feel that overtly calling itself "giallo" instantly reduces the movie's credibility. It's sort of like hearing your parents use the word "fo-shizzle."
  • In my research, I was only able to match a few actors' names to specific characters. The cast is so unremarkable that many don't have more than a handful of credits to check against.
  • The old man who provides vital testimony may have been inspired by a similar character in My Dear Killer. But he had an opportunity to talk to the police at the very beginning of the investigation. Why did he wait until days later to come forward with the vital evidence?
What the Hell am I Watching?

So, yeah, this movie is about 40% naughty time and, as I mentioned, most of it is difficult to watch. Especially the parts where Fabio forces Flavia into exhibitionist situations or to engage strangers.

Warning: there's a scene where the killer amputates a victim's leg with a handsaw. It lasts way way way too long and it's shown in gruesome, bloody close-up.

This movie does have one (and only one) thing going for it: the person who killed the couple is the last person you'd expect.

Fashion Moment

Fabio is looking stylish in his crisp white linen suit with a contrasting V-neck tee and pushed up sleeves. Don Johnson would steal this look five years later for Miami Vice.

And the perv in the background is sporting the classic preppy "I don't know how to put on a sweater so I'll just tie it around my shoulders" look.