"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!
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.