The Designated Victim

"You have a great talent for simplifying everything, don't you?"
Advertising executive Stefano (Tomas Milian) has the opportunity to sell his company for a massive sum, but the shares are in his wife's name and Luisa (Marisa Bartoli) refuses to sell. Despondent, Stefano takes his mistress Fabienne (Katia Christine) to Venice, where they meet Russell Brand look-alike, Count Matteo Tiepolo (Pierre Clémenti), a flamboyant libertine, in a chance encounter. Stefano keeps crossing paths with Matteo and the two share their problems - Stefano tells about his wife and Matteo confides about his abusive brother. Their problems would each be solved with the death of someone in their lives and Matteo suggests that they kill for each other. With no motive connecting them to each other's crimes, neither would be a suspect. Problems escalate for Stefano until his wife turns up dead. Did Matteo take his joke too far? Is he expecting Stefano to kill his brother in return? With the police hot on his trail, Stefano has to think fast.

Though she wasn't given credit, The Designated Victim (not to be confused with The Fourth Victim) is clearly based on Patricia Highsmith's "Strangers on a Train." It's a fantastic concept ideally suited for a giallo remake, but this adaptation suffers from slow pacing, too many unnecessary scenes and too much detail weighing down the plot. It could easily have been edited down to a lean and more suspenseful hour and 15 minute-long film.

• This movie almost didn't make it onto the list, because it lacks the mystery component essential to my definition of "giallo" - we know who the killers are throughout the movie. But it's so stylish and uses so many other tropes of the genre that I decided to include it anyway.

• In an egregious example of "inept police," Stefano tries to tell the Commissioner the whole story but the Commissioner not only won't believe him, but refuses to investigate the claims and stubbornly insists on sticking with his own (incorrect) theory.

• The title The Designated Victim is the direct translation of the Italian La Vittima Designata, but it's sometimes mis-translated as Murder By Design.

That the Hell Am I Watching?:

There's a lot of wild stuff in this movie involving Matteo's machinations, but the weirdest involves his partner at the beginning of the film.


Serious Vampira vibes. I believe this is actress Cathy Marchand, who is uncredited in the movie. On the boat back from the Casino, Stefano asks about their relationship. Matto refers to her as his "slave" and casually mentions that he recently "sold" her just for the experience. Yikes.

At that point Stefano should have said "Well, thanks for the ride, I'll just swim from here," then dived off the boat and freestyled it back to his hotel. Roll credits.

Fashion Moment:

It's not surprising that Matteo, an obscenely wealthy hedonist, has the most decadent wardrobe. Layers and layers of clothes and always with those leather gloves and a floor-length coat around his shoulders. He's not afraid of color, but his fashion sense seems to be based on texture, more than anything else.

While we're here, let's take a moment to appreciate this pair of high-angle interior shots in all their mod 1970's technicolor glory.

The Fish With the Eyes of Gold

"But don't you forget that we're looking for a madman, not a con man.
A madman obsessed with fish."
While hitchhiking through a Spanish beach town, Derek (Wal Davis) gets picked up by Monica (Monserrat Prous), who drives him directly to a hotel for some aggressive adult time. When he awakes hung over, he sees Monica stabbed to death in bed next to him and flees to his friend Zachary's house. It turns out that Zachary witnessed a woman getting stabbed on the beach just a day before and with police suspicions looming, the two men set out to prove Derek's innocence. The investigation leads them to a jewler's shop, the local aquarium and the hospital. Who is the killer and why are they targeting the people closest to Derek? The answer lies in a mysterious golden pendant.

The Fish With the Eyes of Gold (not to be confused with Seven Deaths in a Cat's Eye) is a meticulous study of the Italian-style giallo that was reaching its peak in the mid-70's. While it's clear that the creators paid close attention to the work of Ernesto Gastaldi and Dario Argento, this rare title is ultimately unsatisfying due to a nonsensical ending that's spoiled in the first 15 minutes.  If you love giallo for its signature style, with wild fashion, mod design, and bed-hopping characters, there's still lots to enjoy, but don't expect a lot from the writing.

• The title "sort of" makes sense because, while the titular fish does have eyes of gold, it also has everything else of gold. It's a pendant made of gold. I'm sure they singled out the eyes to fit it into the Argento title formula, a la The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

• At the halfway mark in this movie, please to enjoy the craziest car wreck ever committed to film. The out of control car takes a cautious, low-speed dip down a hillside. Cut to Derek pretending to tumble out in shock, followed by a shot of him dragging Zachary's body from the gently overturned, flaming car. This is followed by a massive explosion, that was clearly over-charged. I wouldn't be surprised if ears are still ringing 40 years later.

• Note that one of the murders listed is shown in a flashback, years before the main action of the movie takes place.

• The "main characters in a creative profession" are Zachary and his wife, Virginia. Also, their student, Marina is said to be an aspiring designer and artist.

• I'd just like to point out that the owner of the Aquarium named his daughter Marina.

What the Hell am I Watching?

The killer's motivation is told through a flashback of his boyhood trauma, as he watches his mother spill a fish tank on the floor as she was being stabbed by her husband. Seeing fish and fish imagery later in life sets off his psychosis. You may look at all this and think it's a direct ripoff of Dario Argento's Deep Red.

The boy is even hiding behind a curtain and wearing a suit, just like in Deep Red. HOWEVER, The Fish With the Eyes of Gold came out the year before Deep Red, probably while Deep Red was already written and in production. It's more likely that both films were influenced by 1965's Libido, co-written and co-directed by Ernesto Gastaldi. Libido featured a flashback where a boy in a suit witnesses his father kill his mother while he plays with a Jiminy Cricket music box and, later in life, the sound of the music box triggers a homicidal rage.

Fashion Moment:

Derek only has a few outfits in his travel bag, but he makes each one count.


It's hard to tell on this screenshot, but the last one is an embroidered design on a black mesh fabric.

Bonus: Here's a close-up of the fish sketch that could only be done by a psychotic mind (teased in the flashback scene):

Killer Without a Face

"Nobody can convince me that this place isn't haunted."
Barbara (Mara Berni) and her husband Walter (Giuliano Raffaelli) live in an English medieval castle, joined by Barbara's friend Francis (Janine Reynaud), the accountant Clark (Luigi Batzella, credited as Paolo Solvay) and a small staff. When handsome architect John (Gianni Medici) arrives to renovate the estate, he charms with all the ladies but soon uncovers some shocking secrets. First, that the castle is said to be haunted by an ancient curse. Then he learns that Barbara's cousin fell from the high tower and died shortly before his arrival, which helps to explain her wild mood swings from deep depression to manic joy. Before long, more residents of MacDonald Castle show up dead. Could the curse be responsible? Or has Barbara's trauma led to a deadly psychotic break? Could target shooting hobbyist Francis be involved? 

Killer Without a Face (not to be confused with Eyes Without a Face) is a quaint early giallo, more in line with Agatha Christie than with Mario Bava. The gothic flourishes are all there, from the dark castle, raging storms and spooky cellar to the family curse. This pre-dates the flashy, wild style that the genre is famous for and the only real modern element is the jazzy score. Still, it's a cozy and fun little tale.

• You may remember Giuliano Raffaelli from Blood and Black Lace and he also had an uncredited part in Roman Holiday. Janine Reynaud would go on to appear in The Case of the Scorpion's Tail.

• The most famous face in the cast is probably Lawrence Tierney, who plays the mute groundskeeper, best known to modern audiences as mob boss Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs.
• This is the last film credit for Anita Todesco, who plays replacement maid Mary.

• The title couldn't be more generic and doesn't relate specifically to the story.

What the Hell am I Watching?

Again, this is a buttoned-down early giallo, so there's not a lot of visual excitement or insane plot twists here. But Francis's target pistol with a silencer attached (so as not to disturb Barbara) is kind of bonkers.

Fashion Moment:

No flash on the fashion front either - pretty much conservative suits, dresses and domestic uniforms. This nightgown is as daring as it gets.

Also, here's a gorgeous shot of the castle's spiral staircase.


"You don't need me. All you need is your own ball of shadows and hatred."
Miguel (Stephen Boyd) is a wealthy man of leisure with severe Oedipal issues and a family history of mental illness, who lives alone in a sprawling estate outside Rome, ever since his unfaithful wife, Pilar (Marissa Mell), left him. One day, a beautiful stranger named Marta (also Marissa Mell) appears on the estate, desperately explaining that she killed a man nearby and needs to escape. Miguel takes her in and covers for her when the police start asking questions. Before long, Marta and Miguel start a romantic affair despite her lingering questions - where is Pilar? What were the circumstances in the mysterious death of Miguel's mother, Clara (Nélida Quiroga)? Is Marta who she says she is and why does she look exactly like Pilar? A trap is set, but you'll be guessing until the end about who is the hunter and who is the prey.

This little gem of the genre almost didn't make the list, because it was unclear if it met all the criteria to be called a giallo. But after finally getting to review it, I can say that this is clearly a giallo and a really fun one at that. The beginning might be a little slow, but the last half hour ramps up with a succession of mind-bending twists that make it really fun.

• A cast of giallo all-stars makes this one particularly good. You'll recognize Marissa Mell from Una Sull'altra and Isa Miranda, who plays the maid, Elena, was in Mario Bava's Bay of Blood. And, of course, the great George Rigaud, who appears as butler Arturo, was in Knife of Ice and The Case of the Bloody Iris, among many others.
• For the purposes of the checklist above, the manor's staircase curves, but isn't spiral. Also, the rooms are decorated with several animal trophies, but none were killed during the course of the film. Also, there were two deaths on screen, but one appears to be a genuine accident, rather than a murder.
• The title Marta does make sense, but the original Italian title, which translates to ... After That it Kills and Devours the Male does not.  It's possible that this relates to Miguel's insect collection, but if there was a scene that ties the title in, it was cut from the final edit.

• There's a quick shot of a famous location from another giallo - Miguel and Marta have a date at the Spanish Steps, where The Girl Who Knew Too Much took place.

What the Hell am I Watching?

Marta is an accurate title for this movie, but a more precise one might be Every Hitchcock Movie at the Same Time. At the beginning, a guy with oedipal issues shows a desperate woman to her room, spies on her through a peep hole in the wall as she undresses and then contemplates killing her in the shower. Clearly an homage to Psycho. Later, it's revealed that Marta and Pilar look identical and Miguel keeps pushing to get Marta to look more and more like his lost wife. Sounds a lot like Vertigo to me. As the mystery deepens, Marta dresses in a 19th century ball gown to match a painting in the great hall, before the servants reveal some ulterior motives, much like in Rebecca. Throw in some of Poe's "Cask of Amontillado" and you've got a movie!

Fashion Moment
There seems to be a loose color motif in Marta's wardrobe. When we first see her, she's making maximum visual impact in a striking white mini dress with a matching cape and black thigh-high boots. Hard to miss with all that flowing fabric.

Throughout the movie, she seems to wear black and white outfits when she is at her most vulnerable and innocent. Here's a different dress she wears while hiding, as Miguel distracts the police.

When she's feeling more confident or when emotions are heightened, we see Marta in red or pink. She wears this sequined gown several times as her romance heats up, along with a Neuhu-style suit and several other red and pink looks.

Is she Marta or is she Pilar? Late in the movie, we discover that she actually has a third identity - Veronica! And Veronica's color seems to be blue. She wears this exact same outfit - with the black pants and slouchy belt- in red earlier in the movie.

Honorable Mention: Marta (posing as Pilar) is ready to log on to the Matrix in this chic leather duster. The director seems eager to find any excuse to get Marissa Mell out of her clothes, but she always looks her best when she's making these flowy, draping outfits move.