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.