‘You’re an idiot with the brain of an ant.’
A beautiful translator living in Amsterdam suspects that she’s under surveillance. After receiving a panicky telephone call from her twin sister in London, two men try to force her into a car out on the street. Fortunately, her lawyer and his visiting friend step in to rescue her…
The prize is a fabulous stolen diamond in this mystery thriller from Italian director Osvaldo Civirani that boasts some familiar faces in the cast. He shares screenplay duties with Tito Carpi, whose writing slate for the year included other Giallo films such as ‘Marta’ (1971), ‘Cold Eyes of Fear/Gli occhi freddi della paura’ (1971) and ‘Seven Murders For Scotland Yard/Jack el destripador de Londres’ (1971).
American blonde in Dutch exile, Julie Harrison (Carroll Baker, who else?) has been spooked by several strange incidents, including being photographed by a creepy man on the street at night after a house party. She’s lost track of her twin sister, Mary, so it’s another shock to get a phone call from England. Mary’s in trouble, and it’s something to do with her husband, but she’s cut off before she can explain. Baker goes to meet her lawyer, handsome Dave Barton (Stephen Boyd), who’s being visited by old friend, racing driver Tony Shane (George Hilton). Two men try to grab Baker after she leaves, and the intrepid duo dive in to fend off her attackers.
Baker takes an immediate shine to Hilton, much to the chagrin of Boyd, who contents himself with secretary, Margaret (Lucretia Love). The would-be kidnappers break up Baker and Hilton’s romantic evening and ransack her home. Even when she’s threatened with a knife, Baker insists she doesn’t know what it’s all about, and it seems clear the gang have mistaken her for her sister. Boyd gets a visit from insurance investigator Steve Hunter (Luciano Pigozzi), who tells him that the whole business revolves around a priceless diamond lifted by Mary from a visiting Maharajah. He neglects to mention that he’s been fired from his job and is working his own end of the street in alliance with some of the crooks involved.
Thieves fall out is the theme of Civirani’s Giallo adventure as characters circle each other, lining up their sights on the elusive gem. Everyone seems to have their eyes on the prize, and is anyone who they claim to be? This tangled skein doesn’t take a genius to unravel, but there are some pleasing diversions along the way. Baker rocks a bright blue wig on the beach (for some reason!) and displays her usual strong commitment to her role. This time around, the physical demands involve more than just casual nudity (in fact, she keeps well covered) but instead focus on the later action scenes, and she handles them well. Hilton is his usual suave, but slightly sinister, presence and Boyd turns on the charm with effortless ease.
The machinations of the plot are never genuinely gripping, but Civirani keeps up a decent pace, and the audience is invested enough to stay on board. The twists and turns are generally predictable and, although some don’t stand up to close scrutiny, the suspension of disbelief remains intact. Nothing is exciting from a technical standpoint, although a gun battle is well-staged and setting the finale in a windmill and its immediate surroundings makes for some good visuals. Things are a little thin in terms of its Giallo credentials, with an early scene of Baker being stalked and her nervy examination of the attic in her new flat being the most prominent examples. Elsewhere, events resemble more of a Euro-Crime thriller. Probably it’s the casting of Baker and Hilton, the year of production and the Italian origin that’s promoted its inclusion on most Giallo lists.
Hilton was one of the premier actors of early 1970s Giallo, appearing in a formidable number of films, including some notable examples. He began with a minor role in ‘The Sweet Body of Deborah/Il dolce corpo di Deborah’ (1968) but came to prominence with an eye-catching turn in the outstanding ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh/Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh’ (1971). ‘The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail/La coda dello scorpione’ (1971), ’All the Colors of the Dark/Tutti i colori del buio’ (1972) and ‘The Case of the Bloody Iris/Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer?’ (1972) followed, along with several less distinguished Gialli projects. Hilton spent most of the rest of the 1970s in Spaghetti Westerns before turning up as a Professor in Ruggero Deodato’s bonkers science-fiction action flick ‘The Atlantis Interceptors/I predatori di Atlantide’ (1983). The 1990s saw him mainly on television, and he kept working until a few years before his death in 2019.
Civirani began his career with the adult documentary ‘Sexy proibito/Forbidden Sex’ (1963) and moved into the mainstream with threadbare Peplum ‘Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun/Ercole contro i figli del sole’ (1964), on which he served as co-writer, director and cinematographer. He delivered Eurospy adventures ‘Operation Poker’ (1965) and ‘The Beckett Affair’ (1966) before switching to Spaghetti Westerns, which included ‘Return of Django/Il figlio di Django’ (1967) with US actor Guy Madison. Other projects included motor racing drama ‘Le Mans scorciatoia per l’inferno’ (1970) and several comedies starring Italy’s favourite funnymen Franco and Ciccio. One of these was ‘I due della F.1 alla corsa più pazza, pazza del mondo’ (1971) which also had a motor racing theme. One of his final films was supernatural horror ‘Voodoo Sexy’ (1975) with Karin Schubert and Chris Avram.
A workmanlike but rather uninspired feature.
Knife of Ice/Il coltello di ghiaccio (1972) – Mark David Welsh
I due gattoni a nove code… e mezza ad Amsterdam (The Two Big Cats with Nine Tails… and a Half in Amsterdam) (1972) – Mark David Welsh