The Killer is One of Thirteen

The Killer is One of Thirteen
"Perhaps the game has gone too far."
Two years after Carlos Mandel died in a plane accident over the English Channel, his widow, Lisa (Patty Shepard) gathers twelve friends, relatives and acquaintances for a weekend at her remote estate. But at dinner on the first night, she reveals her true intentions - she believes that her husband was, in fact, murdered and that one of her guests is the killer. Accusations and whispers fill the next few days as the guests speculate. Was Carlos killed over money or revenge or jealousy? Could the killer be flirtatious playboy Harry Stephen (Simón Andreau), Arlen, the art forger ( Jack Taylor) or even Lisa's own aunt, Bertha (Trini Alonso)? As secrets are revealed and the killer becomes cornered, the guests start turning up dead. Can the survivors unmask the killer and escape before they're all killed off?

The Killer is One of Thirteen (not to be confused with The Killer Reserved Nine Seats) is another giallo based on the Agatha Christie model, much like The Weekend Murders, Nine Guests For a Crime and Death on the Fourposter. As far as gialli go, this one isn't a great entry - no nudity, very little blood, it's set in a large but frumpy mansion, and the murders don't start until nearly an hour in. But it does feature some favorite giallo actors including Simón Andreu and Paul Naschy.

  • One of the eight murders listed above - Carlos's plane crash - occurs before the action of the movie starts.
  • A better translation of the Spanish title might be "The Killer is Among the Thirteen."
  • The title "sort of" makes sense because while the suspects include Lisa and her twelve guests, suspicion also falls on Lisa's butler, chauffeur, maid and gardener, bringing the list of suspects to seventeen.
What the Hell Am I Watching?

I am now more sure than ever that Paul Naschy refused to appear in a movie unless he got to be in a fight scene.

 After the first two guests are murdered it's revealed that the culprit also cut the phone lines and sabotaged all the guests' cars, so there could be no escape. Everyone is worried, but they agree to lock themselves in their rooms until the police show up. But how would the police know to come if the phone lines are down?

Fashion Moment

First, I want to point out this miniature study in fashion contrasts: boorish businessman Jorge seated next to free-thinking artist Arlen.

Next, I want to point out Mrs. Martin's wacky floral daywear.


But the real fashion star of the movie is Cecilia Paroli (Doris Coll). While most of the other women are decked out in bold, garish prints, she always keeps it classy with an understated yet elegant wardrobe. 




Plot of Fear

Plot of Fear
"Just love each other and be happy."
On the same night that a wealthy businessman is strangled in his home, a woman trapped on a bus is bludgeoned to death with a wrench - two seemingly unrelated murders linked by a killer's calling card: pages torn from a Medieval German children's book. Inspector Lomenzo (Michael Placido) is on the case and he soon links the victims to a "fauna lover's club," which is actually a kinky sex society. Lomenzo starts a relationship with one of the club's members, Jeanne (Corinne Cléry) who witnessed the accidental death of a prostitute at one of the gatherings. Soon, more members of the club are killed off in grisly fashion. Is someone taking revenge for the girl's death? Is her pimp to blame or is there more than meets the eye? Inspector Lomenzo must untangle a twisted web of blackmail, lies and coverups to find the real killer.
Plot of Fear (not to be confused with Circle of Fear or Rings of Fear) is a devious little murder mystery with a conclusion that keeps twisting in on itself into a neat spiral, until the real killer is finally revealed. Though it's not very bloody, this movie features a wide variety of interesting murders, an engaging mystery plot, a few sexy scenes, a bit of sleaze and touches of humor. Director Paolo Carara is best known for his exploitation "shockumentary" Mondo Cane and the classic  Black Belly of the Tarantula, and, with the help of Deep Red co-writer Bernadino Zapparoni, crafted a fine late-period giallo.

  • You may remember Corinne Cléry from the James Bond film Moonraker.
  • The cast also features the great Eli Wallach and - in a surprise appearance as the Chief Inspector - American actor Tom Skerritt, who would go on to a career playing authority figures in projects like Alien and Top Gun. It's clear that Skerritt delivered his lines in English and was dubbed later.
  • In another surprise casting move, Maria Tedeschi plays the ailing mother of one of the victims. You may remember her as Mrs. Moss in The Case of the Bloody Iris and for memorable cameos in Seven Blood Stained Orchids and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
  • The original title, É Tanta Paura, actually translates as "She is So Affraid," alluding to the prostitute, who was allegedly scared to death.
  • The one animal death listed above is the lion, which died before the main action of the movie started.
  • The prostitute's name is Rosa Catena, which translates to "red chain" - ironic, since her death initiates a bloody sequence of retaliatory murders.
What the Hell am I Watching?

In an extended flashback to the sexy "fauna lover's" party, guests grope each other while watching an animated sci-fi-themed S&M porn movie. One of the guests has a chimpanzee.

At the beginning of the movie, Lamenzo is living with Ruth (Mary Ruth League), a beautiful African-American model. He is, unfortunately, not sensitive enough not to be a racist jerk to her. No wonder she leaves him for an English photographer.

 There are a couple of good chase scenes in Plot of Fear but nothing beats the scene where Lomenzo fistfights a suspect while they're handcuffed together.

Spoiler Alert: 
Normally in a giallo, we look for a single murder suspect who has the opportunity, means and a motive. But in Plot of Fear, it turns out that each murder was committed by a different person, each of whom was being controlled by a single puppet master, who was acting on the motives of yet another character. It's a fascinating twist on the formula: nine killers with opportunity, one with the means and one with the ultimate motive. Instead of narrowing down the suspects, the detectives needed to broaden their view and then follow the thread back to the one person responsible for the killings.

Fashion Moment

Ruth is the fashion standout of the movie. She looks great in white and the breezy flowing styles speak a lot to her character.

But let's take a moment to admire Jeanne's outfit in this scene, with her bulky fur, tight leggings and wide belt.

She looks like she's on her way to star as the Rum Tum Tugger in a Rule 63 production of Cats.

Finally, in the opening shots of the movie, we're treated to a view of the first victim's apartment in all of its technicolor glory.

The Crimes of Petiot

The Crimes of Petiot
In this climate of intrigue, everyone seems suspicious.
A shadowy, black-coated killer is on the loose in Berlin's West Park neighborhood and he has a very specific pattern. Each time, he targets couples with a dark-haired woman and a blond haired man, shoots the man in the head with a Luger, leaves behind a Nazi emblem, and takes the woman to the abandoned tunnels beneath the city. There, he makes her listen to a bizarre tape recorded rant about vengeance against a woman named Madeline before shooting her.  Reporter Vera (Patricia Loran) and her colleagues decide to catch the killer on their own, against the objections of Vera's boyfriend Boris (Paul Naschy) and Police Commissioner Rotwang (Anastasio Campoy). But when the reporters' trap goes horribly wrong, the killer sends a message that they will be his next targets.  Could the killer actually be one of the reporters? And why does the killer strike in such a specific way? The police seem to be no help, so Vera and Boris must find the killer before he strikes again!

The Crimes of Petiot (not to be confused with The Crimes of the Black Cat) has a brilliant and engaging premise and would be a top-tier giallo if the tight storytelling springs didn't wind down in the second half. Once again, star and co-screenwriter Paul Naschy has crafted a high-body count vehicle for himself which, like Antonio Bido's Watch Me When I Kill, touches on the horrors of the Second World War for some somber gravity. If only more thought was put into the story logic and the killer's ultimate motive, this would have been a far better movie.

  • The Crimes of Petiot is director José Luis Madrid's follow-up to Seven Murders for Scotland Yard and he took the opportunity to re-assemble many of the same cast and crew.
  • Calculating the final body count of this movie is a little tricky. We're shown nine murders, most of which are by gunshot. But we soon discover that before the movie starts, there were at least six other victims. The film that the killer leaves behind appears to show the same killing as the opening of the movie, so that wouldn't count as a new murder. Also, two additional women are knocked unconscious and dragged away never to be seen again and, given the killer's modus operandi, we can presume that they were eventually killed. Adding all these up, I came to the final number of 17 - the highest body count of any giallo I've seen yet.
  • Special effects artist Antonio Molina would go on to work with famed director Pedro Almadovar on several films, often credited only as "Molina."

What the Hell Am I Watching?

There are plenty of opportunities for nudity here - gratuitous shower scenes, intimate moments - but the movie seems to actively avoid showing any actual nudity.

As a means of second-act exposition, the police show the reporters and Boris film of one of the victims getting shot - essentially a snuff film. Did civilians (and civilians who just received a serious death threat) really need to see that? It seems unnecessary at best and horribly irresponsible at worst.

Things get a little confusing at the end of the movie when Paul Naschy plays a completely different character during a flashback.

Fashion Moment

Dude loves his leather jackets. Here, Boris sports a chic brown leather overcoat:

And this black leather blazer is just for lounging around the house.

Death on the Fourposter

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.

Fashion Moment

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.


Snapshot of a Crime

Snapshot of a Crime

It may seem banal, but this is giallo territory.

Without any explanation, steely-eyed Mirna (Erna Schurer) breaks off her relationship with boyfriend Luca (Luis La Torre), who decides to get away to the Puglia coast. There, he meets photographer Giancarlo (Giancarlo Annunziata) and his two fashion models, Stefania (Lorenza Guerrieri) and Claudia (Monica Strebel) Luca quickly rebounds with Stefania but when they steal away to a private island for a naughty private photo shoot, Stefania disappears along with the camera and, despite the fact that no body has turned up, Claudia accuses Luca of murdering her friend. Soon, Luca receives photos of himself in flagrante with Stefania which, out of context, look like he's murdering her. Did Luca really kill Stefania? If not, who is trying to make it look that way? And could Mirna somehow be involved? 

Snapshot of a Crime is a deep-cut giallo best only sought out by genre completists (like myself).  The movie is edited together like the world's longest trailer, with a constant driving rock soundtrack and abrupt cuts that feel as if they're just sound bites taken from the middle of much longer scenes. We ping-pong between settings and characters with no establishing shots or sense of time - it's incredibly disorienting. The narrative feels aimless for much of the film, but things start to come together when we're shown yellow-tinted flashbacks that reveal the missing moments between the scenes. After a bloodless 70 minutes of meandering relationship melodrama, I was ready to give up, but then a mystery plot emerged and played out like an early Umberto Lenzi con-game giallo. Like I said, if you're new to giallo, watch the classics before trying to make sense of this one.

  • You may remember Monica Strebel from the equally incomprehensible (but much more fun) Slaughter Hotel.
  • You may also remember Erna Schurer from Strip Nude For Your Killer.
  • Cinematographer Luciano Tovoli would go on to work his color-saturated magic on Dario Argento's Susperia.

What the Hell Am I Watching?

That self-referential quote above is an actual line of dialogue from this movie.

Besides those disorienting jump cuts, there are several fake-out scenes that will leave you scratching your head. We see a dark first-person camera shot of Claudia, sleeping in bed. She turns and addresses the camera. Normally, this would lead to a murder scene but instead, we abruptly jump to the next scene.  Later, after their sexy times on the beach, a shadow is seen approaching on the sand holding a spear gun (or is it a metal detector?). Again, this would normally lead to a murder scene but we jump elsewhere.

Then, after the encounter at the beach, there's no indication that Stefania is missing, let alone dead. Luca goes about his life and then gets blackmail notes, leaving the audience to piece the story together with the most meager clues. The filmmakers may have thought this approach was "impressionistic" or "arty" but it's just bad storytelling.

Fashion Moment

When he's not shirtless in swimwear, Luca likes to wear these groovy leisure suits.

Also, check out one of the coolest spiral staircases I've seen in a giallo movie.

Death Haunts Mónica

Death Haunts Mónica

If only I could solve everything with pills.

Madrid businessman Frederico (Jean Sorel) leads a messy life. His real estate firm is sinking, his business partners are plotting against him, his wife Mónica (Nadiuska) just found out about his affair, and Diego (Damián Velasco) - an associate from Frederico's former life as a smuggler and kidnapper - is extorting him. One night while Frederico is away, a masked intruder breaks into Monica's home. But after she shoots him, the intruder springs up, knocks her out, and stages Diego's lifeless body in her home so when Mónica awakes, it looks like Diego was the attacker. When Frederico returns home, he and Mónica dispose of Diego's body but soon, tormenting phone calls begin and more people turn up dead. Who is trying to frame Mónica for murder and drive her mad? And who will be the next to die?

While Death Haunts Mónica meets all of my criteria to be called a giallo, it's really more of a fast-paced soap opera that's 65% exposition and 35% actual plot. The first hour of this 125-minute film plays out like a season of "Falcon Crest" with secret affairs, high-stakes business deals and double-crossings. Death doesn't haunt anyone until the pivotal scene where Mónica shoots the masked intruder. After that, it's all giallo, reminiscent of Lucio Fulci's con-game plots with notes of Diabolique and Gaslight. The movie features high energy and a fast pace throughout and ends with a twist ending on top of a twist ending, which makes up somewhat for its bloodless first two-thirds.

  • The Italian title, Il Buio Intorno a Monica, translates as Darkness Surrounds Monica.
  • To whomever wrote out the subtitles for this movie: "noone" is not a word.
What the Hell am I Watching?

 Early in the movie, Diego shows up to Frederico's office to extort money and menacingly admires a photo of Mónica on his desk. In the photo, Mónica is wearing the same outfit she was wearing that very morning while confronting Frederico's mistress at the photographer's studio. They clearly used a production still from an earlier day's shoot.

Adding to the blatantly gratuitous nudity (this may be the most well-bathed female cast in any giallo ever), Mónica's friend Elena (Yolanda Rios) goes to a nightclub that features a lesbian sex show for no reason at all.

Fashion Moment

Early in the movie, Mónica gears up for a confrontation with her husband's lover by squaring her shoulders, cocking her hat and glamming it up Joan Crawford style.

She has fire in her eyes and a polished, expensive look that means business. But later on, when her ends have been frayed and her nerves are shot, she looks more like this:

She's looking to an oversized, dowdy brown sweater for comfort and her rumpled, askew collar is the fashion equivalent of a resigned sigh. Pull it together, girl.

Clap, You're Dead

Clap, You're Dead
Let's see if you have the guts to lie to us again.
On the set of his new movie, capricious film director Benner (Antonio Pierfederici) has thrown out the script and is coming up with new ideas on the fly - an approach that confounds his cast and enrages his writer, Ross (Carlo Enrici). But production nearly comes to a halt when one of the actresses ends up dead during a take and the only clue is the killer's shadow caught on film. Soon, the shadowy figure in yellow gloves strikes again and Inspector Menzel (George Ardisson) must figure out a way to trap the killer. Could it be Richard (Ivano Staccioli), the creepster who keeps hanging around the set? Is introverted actress Lucia (Annabella Incontrera) as innocent as she seems? And can anyone get Brenner to see past his own ego and take these murders seriously?

Clap, You're Dead (not to be confused with Fatal Frames) isn't a great giallo or even a particularly good giallo. But setting the film on a movie set is a novel and meta conceit that covers some of the flaws and provides an excuse for crazy costumes, nudity and a bizarre finale with dozens of potential suspects running around a theater wearing identical black unitards and masks. But for all that wackiness, the story is sadly predictable - things wrap up pretty much the way you thought they would from the beginning, though no adequate motive is ever given for the murders.

  • The title refers to the slate board or "clapper" used on film sets at the beginning of each take to identify the scene and take number and to help sync the sound to the picture during the editing process.
  • One of the scenes of the movie-within-a-movie is a funeral, but because it's just a film set, it doesn't count as an actual cemetery, for the purposes of the checklist, above.
  • The killer first appears as a shadow on film and, subsequently, the movie has fun playing with shadows and silhouettes, using them as mis-directs, and to imply an eavesdropping presence.
  • The main theme music seems to be a mellow, lite-rock knockoff of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
  • I'd like to think that the character of Benner is a combination of Fellini's solipsistic bombast and Alejandro Jodorowski's surrealist sensibility.
What the Hell am I Watching?

During a party scene, Fanny (Belinda Bron) shows up in a barely-there harem costume and goes into a wild dance. There are many unnecessary extreme close-ups of her pelvis.

Later, a large chunk of the movie is devoted to a city-wide manhunt when Richard goes on the lam. This sequence takes forever and instead of creating tension and suspense, it's just tedious and repetitive.

I mentioned the wacky finale in the theater with dozens of masked suspects running around, but it bears repeating. It's ostensibly staged as the finale of the movie-within-a-movie, but there are no cameras rolling - just choreographed prancing that breaks out into a fight scene and a hostage situation.

Here's a little sub-mystery embedded in the movie. Police Inspector Bert Malden and Benner's production assistant Andalou have this strange coded conversation during the party scene:

     Bert: Listen, have we met before?
     Andalou: I don't think so. Oh, yes - at the interrogation.
     Bert: No, no. Another occasion.

Later, Benner accuses Andalou of sexually assaulting the victims but then quickly realizes that he couldn't have because of reasons. So are we to deduce that Bert and Andalou are gay and that they previously met at a bar? If so, poor Bert got shut down hard.


At the end of the movie, Richard says that he went on the run when he stumbled upon the real killer strangling Fanny in her shower. But he never explains why he snuck into her room to catch her in the shower in the first place.

Fashion Moment

Benner immediately shows himself to be a free-thinking artist living on the fringe with this ensemble including a tablecloth plaid tam, a wooly vest and love beads.

Later, he shows up on set in this blue embroidered dashiki. And he's not giving up that tam anytime soon. If this movie were made today, Jason Mantzoukas would be cast in this role.

Finally, here's a look at Fanny's "slave Leia" cosplay.

Barry Gibb approves.

The Weapon, the Hour & the Motive

The Weapon, the Hour & the Motive

I may die, but you'll pay.

Father Giorgio (Maurizio Bonuglia) is a well-loved priest in his parish, a father figure to orphan Ferruccio (Arturo Trina), and a hero to young Sister Tarquinia (Claudia Gravy). But he also has a sinful side - after breaking off his secret affair with beautiful married teacher Orchidea (Beddy Moratti), he starts up a relationship with hot-blooded Giulia (Eva Czemerys). When Father Georgio is found dead in the chapel, it's up to Commissioner Boito (Renzo Montagnani) to solve the case. Was the priest murdered out of jealousy or revenge or because he knew too much? Everyone seems to have a motive, but it's only a matter of time before the killer strikes again!

The Weapon, the Hour & the Motive is a pretty decent giallo, brought to us by producer and writer Francesco Mazzei in his only directorial effort.  The body count is low, but Mazzei seems more interested in shocking his audience's religious sensibilities than filling the screen with gore - mildly blasphemous imagery and story points take precedence over the kill scenes. The script does have its ups and downs and some pretty glaring plot holes, but just when you think the conclusion is an anticlimactic let-down, the story keeps going and proves to be as sly and clever as you'd hoped.

  • Giulia's tarot readings count as a paranormal story element for the purposes of the checklist above.
  • The translation I saw changed a few names - Giulia is called "Julia" and Commissioner Boito is called "Voight."
  • A few story elements are borrowed from Argento. The scene where Boito silently explores an abandoned building is very Argento-esque and I believe that the police reviewing film footage of the victim's funeral to search for suspects comes from Cat O'Nine Tails
  • There's also a clever camera move that appears twice in the movie. The characters are sitting around a round table with the camera in the center, pivoting between them from person to person as the dialogue plays out. It's the same effect that would frequently be used decades later on TV's "That 70's Show."
  • A good alternate title for this movie would have been The Dead Hour.
What the Hell am I Watching?

The blasphemous imagery includes a sexually active priest, a mysteriously falling crucifix, Ferroccio defacing a religious painting and spying on the nuns, use of tarot cards, and a scene of nuns naked in the shower.

There's also that weird scene where all the nuns in the convent get topless (except for their cowls) and self-flagellate while crying out Latin prayers until they're all bloody and sore. It's a classic scene of "nunsploitation," full of sex and violence, crossed with religious fervor.

Father Giorgio also whips himself for penance, but then only a few scenes later his scars have miraculously healed.  Then, when he's found dead, they're noticeable again.

I find it weird that the priests and nuns are totally cool with Giulia's tarot readings at the church. I thought they'd see that as a form of witchcraft.

Why does Ferroccio need injections throughout the movie? Does he have some sort of medical condition? It's never adequately explained.

Midway through the film, Boito takes Orchidea to... what? A friend's house? A rented villa? A restaurant with no other patrons? Anyway, they sit down to eat, talk a bit and, without warning, she suddenly leaves the table. A woman walks by the doorway. Boito has a weird exchange with the hostess about her son. Then he gets up to look for Orchidea, who sees him, but continues on to the next room. He eventually finds her naked in a bed where they have some grownup times. It is a weird, directionless head-scratcher of a sequence.

Near the end of the movie we see Father Giorgio's late-night murder in flashback, but when the killer runs out the chapel's front doors, it's broad daylight.

Fashion Moment

There's a lot of yellow in this movie, but it doesn't exactly to add up to a motif or point to the killer the way it would in a Lamberto Bava movie. Giulia appears in this great yellow top with a plunging neckline, mandarin collar and black and gold embroidery. She looks like a sexy Starfleet officer.

Commissioner Boito shows up in a yellow jacket...

... on a yellow motorcycle...

...which he takes to the abandoned restaurant, which has this bold yellow sign.

Orchidea is the only other person in the movie who wears yellow.

But let me throw this out there. Orchidea wears this red shirt under a black and white striped jacket early in the movie...

...which seems to parallel and link her to Giulia's blood-soaked appearance later on.

A... for Assassin

A... for Assassin

You got what you deserved, John Prescott

When millionaire John Prescott is found stabbed to death in his palatial manor, he leaves behind an unusual audio-taped will. Because he hated and distrusted his greedy heirs, John stipulated that only three would share his fortune and only after living together in his home for a month - sure that they would kill each other off in pursuit of his money. And sure enough, as police Inspector Matt (Gilberto Mazzi) looks into John's murder, he finds that with the heirs eager to frame each other, details of their alibis don't line up. Is Adriana (Aïché Nana) really the ditzy bubblehead she seems to be? Is Angela (Mary Arden) really innocent? And was Giacomo (Sergio Ciana, credited as Alan Steel) really a loyal employee?  The Inspector will need to sort out the lies and find John's killer before everyone ends up dead!

A... for Assassin is another snappy early script by Ernesto Gastaldi that relies on gothic atmosphere and leans heavily on the classic Agatha Christie template. It also sets the stage for later locked-room gialli like The Weekend Murders, Nine Guests for a Crime and, most notably, Twitch of the Death Nerve.  The setting is appropriately creepy, the cast is effective, and there are even a few good fight scenes, including a suspenseful rooftop chase during a thunderstorm.

  • You may recognize bodybuilder Sergio Ciani, a.k.a. Alan Steel, who took a break from playing Hercules and Samson in a popular string of sword-and-sandal adventure films to make this giallo.
  • The gothic trappings continue into the score, as an arrangement of Bach's famous Toccata in D Minor is used as the main titles music.
  • Cinematographer Aldo Tonti had a spectacular resume, having worked with Fellini and, a few years later, John Houston.
What the Hell am I Watching?

Giacomo takes a bullet to the corroded artery before finishing his fight with Armando,walking downstairs and confronting and attacking Angela before passing out.

Fashion Moment

There's not a lot going on, fashion-wise in this movie, but Angela does stand out in this mod color-blocked dress.

And it's interesting to see how they dressed Sergio Ciani, who spent his career up to this point shirtless, bearded and coated in baby oil.

I'd say they made him look pretty good.

Reflections in Black

Reflections in Black

"If we don't find the third girl in that photo fast,
we're going to have another corpse on our hands."

When Emma Giorgi is attacked in her home late one night by a razor-wielding woman wearing black stockings, Inspector Laurina (John Richardson) and his partner Sergeant Panto (director Tano Cimarosa) are on the case. Before long, a second murder occurs and the victim is one of Emma's close friends. Why is the killer targeting this group and who will be next? The answers will lead the Inspector from Leondra (Dagmar Lassander), the wife of a powerful politician, to a drug smuggling hairstylist to lesbian photographer Contessa Orselmo (Magda Konopka). What secrets do the victims share and who will be the next to die?

Reflections in Black (also commonly called Vice Wear Black Hose) is a classic mid-70's giallo complete with a gloved killer, gratuitous nudity, lesbian love scenes, and a groovy soundtrack featuring a harpsichord, thumping electric bass and jazz drumming. The plot comes into focus late in the game and an overlong but necessary summary of the storyline by one of the survivors may fill in the details, but it drags the ending down. Other than that, the cast of giallo all-stars shines and benefits from expert editing by Romeo Ciatti.

  • Director Tano Cimarosa cast himself as Sergeant Panto, the short, wisecracking sidekick to the noble Police Inspector. Could "Sergeant Panto" be a reference to Sancho Panza from Cervantes' Don Quixote?
  • This movie features a classic "lovers alone in the woods stalked by the killer" scenario, which first appeared in 1973's Torso and was inspired by the true events of the Zodiac Killer case.
What the Hell am I Watching?

After being questioned by police about Emma's death, Leondra goes to her room. Her maid soon follows and, in an effort to console her, silently starts to undress. Leondra is too upset for grownup time and tells the maid to leave. It's a revealing scene, to be sure, but it's staged in a very strange way.

Leondra then flashes back to a poolside makeout scene with Emma and, rather than using the traditional hazy focus, the flashback looks like it was shot through a glass of milk.

When I started this blog, I decided not to have a checkbox for "horribly misogynistic" because that's sort of a given in the giallo genre. But it's never been so overtly stated as when Sergio (Marco Busciala) tells Anna (Ursula Davis) "Try to keep your impulses to the bedroom and supermarket." 

Fashion Moment

 Fast-talking drug dealer Sandro (Ninetto Davoli) illustrates everything that was wrong with 1970's fashion:

 A tight muscle shirt under a glaringly loud cropped shirt with nine-inch cuffs and a collar fashioned from a couple of airplane wings. Add tight polyester high-wasted bell-bottoms and a Juan Epstein hairdo and you've got yourself a look.

Later, he tops it with a full-on Disco Stu rhinestone denim jacket that reads "OHIO BASE 47."

The Killer with a Thousand Eyes

The Killer with a Thousand Eyes

"I've never dropped a case yet and I won't stop now."

When English Interpol agent Alistair McAndrew is murdered by a kabuki-masked assassin, his colleague, Michael Laurence (Anthony Steffen) is sent to Lisbon to identify and retrieve the body. But while in Portugal, Michael gets pulled into Alistair's case and, with help from an international team of agents, starts his own undercover investigation into the city's drug smuggling operations. As he gets closer to his friend's killer, informants and fellow agents are getting taken out by the mysterious gloved killer. Could it be the work of crime boss Costa (Eduardo Fajardo) or is someone else pulling the strings? Michael must hurry to find out before more people are murdered!

The Killer with a Thousand Eyes (not to be confused with The Man with Icy Eyes) is one of those fun gialli-poliziotteschi hybrids, combining the mysterious black-gloved killer and mystery aspects of a giallo with all the action and idiomatic themes of an Italian police procedural. And boy is this one action-packed. There's intrigue, explosions, six kung-fu fight scenes, a shootout in a dark warehouse and a couple of car chases - the last of which ends with the bad guys driving over the side of a giant suspension bridge. And it all winds up with a satisfying twist ending.

  • 1974 was director Juan Bosch's giallo year. He's best known for his Westerns, but he released this movie and The Killer Wore Gloves within a few months of each other.
  • Marcello Giombini's score mixes a 1970's crime movie aesthetic with a strange electronic bebop style of synthesized bleeps.
  • This movie has a really high body count, but in includes six anonymous thugs, who are gunned down in the warehouse shootout in the course of four minutes.
What the Hell am I Watching?

 When French agent DuVallier (Raf Baldassarre) lets Michael crash at his apartment, he makes a point of showing off an exercise device he keeps in the kitchen. I thought for sure that this would pay off later on - maybe Michael could choke an intruder with it - but it never does.

Crime boss Costa's girlfriend, Sarah is a real psycho, as evidenced by her boisterous bloodlust during a cockfight at a dinner party.

Crime movie cliché #104: the detective and the crime boss square off over a quiet but intense game of chess. Because the chess game is a metaphor for their contentious relationship.

DuVallier's murder scene takes place in the woods and as the tension builds, the birds get louder and louder - but instead of sampling actual bird sounds, they used electronic chirps and whistles, building to a weird robotic cacophony.

Fashion Moment

When we first see Michael, he's getting his hands dirty, busting up a small-time London drug ring in this cool black jacket and turtleneck.

In Lisbon he gets decked out in his Carnaby Street finest. Love this chic jacket-waistcoat-ascott combo.

But for the rest of this investigation, he wears these less flashy outfits: sport coat, chinos, and a wide tie, all in solid colors. He does have a magnificent gold belt buckle, though.

But the real fashion iconoclast of the movie turns out to be Michael's commanding officer, Albert (Antonio Pico) who climbs out of a pool in one scene wearing a tiny white banana hammock.

Fatal Frames

Fatal Frames

"Christ, that woman gave me the creeps. This is a weird situation."

American film director Alex Ritt (Rick Gianasi) is mourning the death of his girlfriend, who was the third of five victims of the "Video Killer" - a serial murderer who hacked his victims with a machete, videotaped the bodies and sent the tapes to the police. Eager for a change of scenery, Alex accepts a job from his friend Daniel (Leo Daniel) to make a music video in Rome for pop singer Stefania Stella (Stefania Stella).  But old memories resurface when the women around him are brutally murdered one by one as he helplessly watches and eerie videos of the crime scenes are delivered to the police. In his anxious state, Alex is hallucinating visions and voices of the victims... or is he seeing ghosts?  Did the killer follow Alex to Rome or is a copycat murdering these women? Can he and his friends get the answers they need at a seance? And can Alex convince American investigator Professor Robinson (Donald Pleasence) that he's not the killer?

Fatal Frames (which is sometimes audaciously called Susperia 2000) is a messy, poorly-rendered homage to Dario Argento. Story elements of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red are crammed together and shot in a weak imitation of Susperia's color-soaked cinematography. It takes more than a couple of lens filters and a handful of gels to get Argento's look right.  You can't fault director/composer Al Festa for his ambition and his choice of inspiration, but the final product is a poorly shot, badly written, terribly-acted muddy-sounding mess.

  • Fatal Frames is Donald Pleasence's last screen credit.
  • Besides Donald Pleasence, you many recognize familiar faces in the smaller roles - Alida Valli (Susperia), Angus Scrimm (Phantasm), Ugo Pagliai (The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) and Geoffrey Copleston (Perversion Story) all make appearances.
  • The movie does make a decent travelogue of Rome, taking us to popular tourist sites like the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. I only wish the movie would ditch the characters and explore the ruins of the Forum instead.
  • At the end of the movie is the security guard in the building's foyer dead or was he knocked unconscious? Based on the movie's disappointing resolution, I'm pretty sure he was just knocked out, so I didn't include him in the body count above.

What the Hell am I Watching?

 In his final scene of the movie (and his final scene ever on film), Donald Pleasence phones the police from the airport, telling them that he has to leave town because an old case has re-opened. He then walks into the distance to the theme from John Carpenter's Halloween. This is the best moment in the entire movie.

The seance scene is crazy. Alex, Daniel and Stefania go to an opulent palazo lit only by candles (for some reason) where a fancy formal party is taking place. The whole situation gives off a weird Eyes Wide Shut vibe. They meet a blind psychic Countess (Alida Valli) before winding through a maze of rooms to consult with the medium.

Let's talk about that cemetery scene. In a story thread that leads absolutely nowhere, Alex searches out the grave of a mysterious artist and meets a scowling priest (Angus Scrimm), who starts shouting and ranting... and then disappears without warning. That whole segment is bonkers.

Fashion Moment

Fatal Frames was released in 1996 but the look is pure 1988. Long ponytails, luxurious shoulder-length hairdos, loose-fitting, unbuttoned blouses billowing in the breeze, tight light-washed jeans... and that's just the guys.

Everyone looks like Fabio. Or the saxophone player in The Lost Boys.  Also, here's a shot of Stefania's costume for her music video.

Guys, can you get out of the way? You're ruining my view of the Colosseum.