Macabre/Vjale AI Vacio/Journey To Emptiness/The Invisible Assassin/Shadow of Death (1969)

Macabre/Vjale AI Vacio/Journey To Emptiness/The Invisible Assassin/Shadow of Death (1969)‘In medicine, it is called a para-logic ultra-inhibition.’

An unhappily married woman is having an affair with her husband’s twin brother. Then a face from her past shows up with blackmail on his mind. Rather than pay up, the lovers decide to turn the situation to their advantage…

Serviceable, but ultimately fairly absurd, Giallo thriller from director Javier Seto who co-wrote the screenplay, and also has a partial credit for the original story. Initially, it’s an intriguing setup with many possibilities, but the finished film resembles nothing so much an extended television episode crafted for a suspense/mystery anthology show. Perhaps it would have been better presented in that format and length.

Young wife Denise (Teresa Gimpera) has a problem. She’s tired of small-town life with successful, but dull, businessman John (Larry Ward) and longs for glamour, excitement and the bright lights of Paris. An affair with John’s twin brother, Peter (Ward, again) isn’t really helping too much and the two long to be free of John’s control. Their plotting has come to little, however, until opportunity knocks in the form of Gert Muller (Giacomo Rossi Stuart). He’s an old flame from Gimpera’s murky past and demands money to keep quiet about what he knows. So, our two lovebirds put a long considered plan into action, taking advantage of both Peter’s job as a druggist working for John and the latter’s epileptic condition.

Inducing a seizure and keeping John under wraps for a couple of days, allows Peter to impersonate his brother. In that guise, he sleeps with his own occasional girlfriend Annie (Silvana Venturelli), and rendezvous with Rossi Stuart at the money drop as if by accident. Afterwards, he and Gimpera use a mixture of drugs, electro-shock therapy and re-enactments to convince John that it was he who did these things. Later on, when he comes out of his stupor, he comes to believe he has killed Rossi Stuart, and the scene is set for a long-term committal to an institution for the insane, leaving Peter to step into his brother’s financial shoes.

Macabre/Vjale AI Vacio/Journey To Emptiness/The Invisible Assassin/Shadow of Death (1969)

‘We are not singing ‘I Got You Babe’ again…’

Yes, the premise is a little hard to swallow. Apparently, Peter is au fait with brainwashing techniques because he saw them practised in Vietnam, but that does seem a little too pat as we’re given no further information on his experiences. Also, the final act finds credibility taking a powder as the story lurches across the thin line between the implausible and the unbelievable. The tight focus on the lead characters also gives events a very small-scale feel; sure, a couple of doctors are consulted, and the police hang around a bit, but they hardly get much of a look-in. On the bright side, Gimpera does make an excellent, cold as ice femme fatale, although Ward is merely adequate in his dual role.

Ward was an American actor who worked mostly in TV; initially in Westerns, including playing the lead on short-lived 1960s series The Dakotas’. As the decade progressed, he diversified, appearing on shows such as ‘Lost In Space’, ‘I-Spy’, ‘The Fugitive ‘, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘The Time Tunnel’, ‘The Invaders’ and many more. In the late 1960s, he picked up a few roles in Italian films, mostly Westerns, before moving back into US TV in the 1970s. He also wrote and starred in poorly-regarded Pilipino horror ‘The Deathhead Virgin’ (1974). Gimpera was still active in 2016 after a long history of credits ranging from Jess Franco’s feeble Eurospy ‘Larry, the Inscrutable’ (1967) to a lead role in Victor Erice’s acclaimed arthouse picture ‘The Spirit of The Beehive’ (1973), a film which Guillermo Del Toro has acknowledged as a major influence on his work.

Macabre/Vjale AI Vacio/Journey To Emptiness/The Invisible Assassin/Shadow of Death (1969)

‘For that fashion sense, you deserve to die…’

Rossi Stuart’s time on the big screen began with biblical epics, sword and sandal films and Westerns before he appeared opposite Vincent Price in ‘The Last Man On Earth’ (1964). Work with horror maestro Mario Bava followed in ‘Knives of the Avenger’ (1966) and ‘Kill, Baby… Kill’ (1966) before Eurospy ‘The Big Blackout’ (1966), and a couple of appearances as heroic Commander Rod Jackson in space operas directed by Antonio Margheriti. The next decade brought a number of other Giallo outings, including ‘The Weekend Murders’ (1970) and ‘The Crimes of the Black Cat’ (1972). However, by the end of the decade, he had been demoted to material such as Alfonso Brescia’s dire ‘Star Wars’ (1977) rip-off ‘War of the Robots’ (1977). He remained active until the late 1980s and died in 1994.

A middling Giallo thriller that provides an acceptable level of entertainment but requires some serious suspension of disbelief in the final stages. And as for what a couple of the film’s English titles are supposed to mean…well, your guess is as good as mine.


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