Psychout For Murder/Salvare la faccia (1969)

Psychout For Murder/Salvare la faccia (1969)‘All must die…but daddy’s got to go by inches.’

A rich industrialist’s daughter has an affair with a gold digging photographer. Concerned with her somewhat erratic behaviour, her father has her placed in an asylum. When she is released back into his custody, she begins tp hatch a campaign of deadly revenge…

Late 1960s Giallo from writer-director Rosano Btazzi, who is far better known as an actor, particularly for his starring role in famous musical ‘South Pacific’ (1958). Here he delivers a competent thriller despite alleged interference from the film’s producers that left him deeply unhappy with the finished product and may account for a few of the rough spots in the final article.

Btazzi is businessman Marco Brignoli, rich and successful, but burdened with flighty young daughter, Licia (Adrienne Larussa). She’s head over heels for paparazzi Mario (Nino Castelnuovo) but he’s more interested in her father’s money than a long term relationship. Her infatuation with him is shown in an early scene of quick cuts and somewhat hyperactive behaviour. This was probably designed to display her unbalanced psyche but, being a late 1960s film, it can just as easily be interpreted as an affectations of the era’s signature style. The scenes in the asylum which follow were apparently the ones inserted at the insistence of the producers (probably to provide Larussa with clearer motivation for her later actions) but she’s only confined, rather than mistreated in any way, so their presence seems pointless at best.

Psychout For Murder/Salvare la faccia (1969)

‘You didn’t say anything about another guy.’

The action really begins when Larussa gets back home, and begins to plot her revenge. This is mostly low key at first but rapidly escalates, focusing partly on Brazzi’s long term daliance with politician’s wife, Giovanna (Paola Pitagora). Her husband Nestor Garay is right on the verge of important public office, his campaign bankrolled by a willing Brazzi. The adulterous couple are planning to make a killing when their puppet approves a new motorway project, but Larussa overhears their plans.

Larussa is also flirting outrageously with good guy Francesco (Alberto de Mendoza)  who is happily married to Brazzi’s sister, Giovanna (Paola Pitagora). There is no real mystery to all this; it’s clear that Larussa’s machinations are the film’s focus, and it’s just a question of how far she’s prepared to go and how the principals will be affected by the outcomes of her schemes. 

Psychout For Murder/Salvare la faccia (1969)

‘I do not like your Happy Talk.’

Given the nature of the story, an awful lot of the burden of the drama rests on Larussa’s young shoulders. She was only 21 at time of filming and very inexperienced, especially for a role of this prominence, but it’s pleasing to report that she’s rather good here. It’s a difficult and, to some extent, contradictory character, but she convinces as someone potentially unbalanced and the audience is never entirely sure what she is going to do next. Unfortunately, the script does not provide her with a great deal of assistance. Without any examination of her personal history, beyond Brazzi breaking up her fling with Castelnuovo, there’s little context to inform her behaviour and no significant insight into her psychological makeup.

There’s also some rather dated filmmaking technique from Brazzi, with some cutting within scenes that is so fast, it’s hard to be sure which character is speaking. It doesn’t serve the story in any way and quickly becomes rather tiresome. There are a few other good points, apart from Larussa’s performance, though. Pitagora and de Mendoza are given a refreshingly happy and positive relationship, which is rather unusual in the film about the idle rich from this period. Of course, de Mandoza starts thinking with an organ other than his brain when Laruzza starts playing Lolita, but this has far more impact than usual because we know the significance of what he’s throwing away.

Psychout For Murder/Salvare la faccia (1969)

HIs facial cream was just not up to the job.

A significant career might reasonably have been expected for Laussa on this evidence but, after taking the title role in Lucio Fulci’s historical drama ‘Beatrice Cenci’ (1969), she took a four year break. Then she turns up in obscure Canadian comedy ‘Keep It In The Family’ (1973) before the first of a couple of dozen guest slots on US network TV shows, gigs that became steadily more sporadic until her last appearance in 1991. These included ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’, ‘Logan’s Run’ and ‘Project UFO.’ A rare big screen outing saw her in a minor supporting role in Nicolas Roeg’s science fiction epic ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ (1976) with David Bowie. She was briefly married to action star Steven Seagal in the 1980s and later became a real estate agent.

A little more plot would have helped but, when the camera calms down and the story is allowed to develop its own pace, at times this is a well played and quietly effective little thriller if nothing very special. 

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)‘The killer strangled his victim with quite ferocious might!’

A notorious criminal who has terrorised London for years finally meets his maker at the end of the hangman’s rope. However, when his body goes missing, and a woman is killed in a village nearby, people start to believe that state justice hasn’t been so effective after all…

Curious, black and white borderline Giallo from the early days of the genre, which only goes to demonstrate how unformed its conventions were in the early 1960s. Yes, we have an unidentified killer stalking the streets and a mystery to solve, but it’s all wrapped up in endless romantic intrigues and an unconvincing splash of pseudo-science thrown in at the climax.

The time: 1883. The place: London (or some still pictures of it, to be more precise). Super crook Martin Bauer is executed, and the populace breathes a collective sigh of relief. He’d been the scourge of the city for years. However, in a taste of things to come, the film doesn’t elaborate on his various crimes. All we find out was that he was known as ‘The Hyena of London’. A rather bizarre nickname, to be sure. The audience does get a kind of ‘Jack the Ripper’ type vibe about him though, so I guess that’ll have to do.

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

‘After you.’ ‘No, after you.’

Despite the title of the film, we relocate to the neighbouring village of Bradford (in reality, some 200 miles from the capital!) It is much cheaper to film in rural locations, after all. No need to do any period set dressing in a wood. However, the action (such as it is) begins in the darkened streets of the village. A woman is stalked and killed by an unseen assassin. Her drunken husband, John Reed (Robert Burton, real name Mario Milita) is accused of the crime by local plod, Inspector O’Connor (Thomas Walton, real name Gino Rossi). Medical examiner Dr Edward Dalton (Bernard Price, real name Giotto Tempestini) is less convinced of the man’s guilt, but it’s his household that eventually provides the solution to the mystery.

His main headache is beautiful daughter, Muriel (Diana Martin) who’s in love with poor boy Henry (Tony Kendall, real name Luciano Stella). He’s been away for a while, although we never find out why he left or where he’s been. The two lovebirds are meeting secretly in the woods, actions mirrored by Tempestini’s dodgy assistant, Dr Finney (James Harrison, real name Angelo Dessy). He’s having some kind of clandestine affair with rich city girl Elizabeth (Claude Dantes), but he’s much more interested in heroine Martin. When an unidentified corpse turns up in the woods, it seems there’s a serial killer on the loose. Could it be that the Hyena of London has returned from the grave, or is the killer someone much closer to home…?

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

There was trouble in paradise for love’s young dream.

Despite its heroic efforts to appear as an American (or possibly English!) production, this historical thriller manages little more than to lull its audience gently to sleep with its slow and tedious story development. Proceedings are assembled in a flat, lifeless package by writer-director Henry Wilson (real name, Gino Mangini). Most of the time, the notion of a supernatural killer is almost entirely irrelevant, and the emphasis is placed instead on the less than riveting romantic entanglements of the main characters. The fact that Kendall gets banged up for trespassing on Tempestini’s property is a curious way to place him in the crosshairs of Inspector Rossi and only serves as an excuse to bring him into the frame as the possible killer. In the end, things are tied up in a hasty and incredibly lame conclusion that hasn’t been foreshadowed in any way and completely fails to convince.

The young Kendall went onto become quite the stalwart of European Cult Cinema over the following couple of decades. He’d already played the thankless ‘handsome hero’ role in Mario Bava’s creepy, gothic horror ‘The Whip and the Body’ (1963) and was only two years away from his first appearance as agent Joe Walker in the ‘Kommissar X’ series of Eurospy films. He also took time out to appear as one of ‘The Three Fantastic Supermen’ (1967) and as Western gunman Django in ‘Django Defies Sartana’ (1970). Further roles followed for Spanish director Amando de Ossorio in ‘The Loreley’s Grasp’ (1972) and ‘Blind Dead’ sequel ‘Return of the Evil Dead/El ataque de los muertos sin ojos’ (1972). There was also cheap and cheerful ‘King Kong’ knock-off ‘Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century’ (1977).

La jena di Londra/The Hyena of London (1964)

‘You mean I’m stuck in stuff like this for the rest of my career?’

Elsewhere in the cast, there’s a welcome appearance by Luciano Pigozzi, playing a servant, and well on his way to assembling a credit list of Cult Cinema titles unrivalled by almost everyone in the business. Dantes also turned up in a supporting role in Mario Bava’s seminal ‘Blood and Black Lace’ (1964). Although she and Martin seem to be the only members of the cast not hiding behind Anglicised pseudonyms, the two actresses managed less than a dozen screen credits between them and, with no biographical information available, it’s quite probable that both of them were Italian as well.

It’s is hard to stir up much enthusiasm for a film where so little happens and, by the time the film limps to its weak conclusion, most of the audience are likely to have checked out.

Blood and Black Lace/6 donne per l’assassino (1964)

Blood and Black Lace (1964)Guaranteed! The 8 greatest shocks ever filmed!’

A young model is brutally slain by a masked killer in the grounds of a major fashion house on a stormy night. Without an obvious motive for the crime, the police investigation flounders, but then another girl is killed. Is the culprit a crazed psychopath or is there something more behind the murders? It seems that everyone involved has got something to hide …

Massively influential horror thriller from Italian director Mario Bava which has rightly earned the status of a cult classic. The avalanche of Giallo thrillers that dominated the Italian film industry until the mid-1970s may have been unleashed by Dario Argento’s ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’ (1969), but his debt to this film is clear. Its fingerprints are also all over the American slasher craze of the early 1980s, even if those films are painfully simplistic by comparison.

There are dark secrets aplenty at the fashion house owned by Contessa Cristiana (Eva Bartok) and managed by her lover, Massimo (Cameron Mitchell). The killing of top model Isabella (Francesca Ungaro) ignites a whirlwind of murder, violence and death. Next to go is blonde bombshell Nicole (Arianna Gorini) who has the misfortune to discovers Ungaro’s diary and is killed at the antique shop of her drug-addicted lover, Franco (the excellent Dante DiPaolo).

Too many suspects is a major issue for poor police Inspector Silvestri (Thomas Reiner).  Possible motives and alibis make for a bewildering puzzle. Is designer Cesare (Luciano Pigozzi) the victim of a psychosexual obsession? What’s up with his pill-popping assistant Marco (Massimo Righi) and does the Marchese Morelli (Franco Ressel)’s relationship with dark haired model Greta (Lea Lander) play a part? Although the escalating violence of the crimes suggests a male perpetrator, suspicion also falls on models Peggy (Mary Arden) and Tao-Li (Claude Dantes) who have secrets of their own to protect.

The central mystery here may owe some debt to writers such as Agatha Christie, but it’s well-balanced and genuinely surprising, with twists and developments unsuspected right until the end. But what sets the film apart is the stylisation that Bava brings to the table, creating something little short of a visual masterpiece. Almost every shot is a perfect blend of technique, lighting and colour, evoking a unique atmosphere that drips with fear and menace, whilst still drawing the audience deeper into the mystery. The interiors are almost impossibly rich in detail, giving the impression that the director hand-selected every single prop on display, and positioned it on the set himself. Given that the film takes place in a world of haute couture, where appearance is everything, this approach is a perfect fit.

Blood and Black Lace (1964)
There are no main characters in the film either; it’s most definitely an ensemble piece. This provides further uncertainty as to how events will develop and heightens the tension. The fine cast is another plus; Mitchell is enigmatic, Bartok regal, and all the other players invest their roles with a distinct personality, Lander’s nervous beauty being the quiet standout. Mention must also be made that filming took place in English and it was actress Arden who tweaked the script’s dialogue to sound more natural. She was a top model herself, having appeared on the covers of Italian Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and in other top fashion magazines.

Bava began his career as a cinematographer and graduated to the director’s chair with gothic classic ‘The Mask of Satan/Black Sunday’ (1960); a reward for being a multi-talented ‘fix-it man’ on more than a few projects abandoned by other directors. Although this film was not a big hit at the time (and he followed it with a western!), it’s influence has become legendary. As per usual, all was achieved on a shoestring budget, dolly shots realised by placing the camera in a child’s red wagon and riding it around the set. This is particularly notable in the fashion show scenes where multiple characters move in and out and across the moving frame in what must have been tightly choreographed sequences.

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Given the graphic nature of the kills on display, and some are still pretty strong, it was inevitable that the film was mangled by censors worldwide. There’s not too much blood on show here but, before this, murder on-screen was generally a ridiculous swift occurrence with victims barely putting up a fight. The women here are struggling for their lives with a far greater determination. This increases both the realism and the uncomfortable nature of those scenes for the audience.

The fact that the victims are beautiful women, mostly in some state of undress, has given rise to accusations of misogyny and objectifying women, but that’s a very superficial interpretation of the film. These female characters are objectified already, by the fashion industry in which they work, one that has caused many, many more real-life tragedies than a single motion picture could ever achieve. Bava portrays it as a world of artifice with a sleazy underbelly, brilliantly assisted by the moaning brass and jazzy touches of Carlo Rustichelli’s outstanding musical soundtrack. Additionally, Reiner’s ultimately fruitless investigation concludes that the killer is a ‘sex maniac’, but that’s not the case at all; each of the murders has a very specific motive woven into the complex narrative, and are driven by necessity rather than just bloodlust.

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

Mitchell worked with Bava on several pictures, although only two where he occupied the canvas seat, Viking epics ‘Erik The Conqueror’ (1961) and ‘Knives of the Avenger’ (1965) and went onto appear in many Cult Cinema titles, of extraordinarily variable quality. This was Barktok’s penultimate big-screen role as she was retired by the close of the decade. She was married four times, although two were marriages of convenience, and gave birth to one child, a daughter, in 1957. Although still married at the time to actor Curd Jürgens, she later claimed that the father was Frank Sinatra, with whom she had an affair when working on ‘Ten Thousand Bedrooms’ (1956), her only American picture. In the early 1950s, she worked in the UK, starring in a couple of minor science-fiction entries; ‘The Gamma People’ (1956) and ‘Spaceways’ (1953), an early Hammer production. Most of the other female members of the cast have few additional credits. Arden appeared in Giallo ‘A For Assassin’ (1966), the underwhelming adaptation of the successful stage play by genre stalwart Ernesto Gastaldi, but enjoyed far greater success as a prominent globe-trotting businesswoman after she retired from the screen.

A masterful exercise in filmmaking with a breathtaking visual tapestry, this groundbreaking work proved to be a significant influence on the horror genre as well as crystalising the elements of what modern audiences consider to be an Italian Giallo film. It’s an outstanding motion picture and the work of a true cinematic genius.

(This is a revised and expanded version of a post originally published on 3rd January 2017)

The Whip and The Body/La Frusta e il Corpo (1963)

The Whip and The Body (1963)‘Someone will pay for this father, be it man or ghost! I promise you! ‘

A young nobleman is about to be married, but the wedding is under threat when his disgraced older brother returns home. The bride is one of his ex-lovers, and it’s not long before the two resume their relationship and murder is just around the corner…

Darkly Gothic thriller from Italian director Mario Bava, who mixes Sado-masochism and the supernatural with his customary stunning visuals and production design. A capable cast led by horror legend Christopher Lee prowl cobwebbed corridors, secret passages and a windswept beach to tell a twisted tale of family dysfunction, kinky sex and violent death.

Kurt Menliffe (Lee) returns to the family castle after many years away, persona non grata after violating the daughter of housekeeper Katia (Evelyn Stewart). The girl committed suicide after the act, and Stewart has retained the knife she used to do the deed; the first sign that this is perhaps not a particularly well-adjusted household. Patriarch Count Vladimir (Gustavo De Nardo) had originally selected the beautiful Nevenka (Daliah Lavi) as Lee’s wife, but, in his absence, has pushed her onto younger brother Christain (Tony Kendall). The young man has agreed to go on with the wedding, even though he is really in love with cousin Georgia (Harriet Medin).

The Whip and The Body (1963)

Most people preferred a book before bedtime…

Unsurprisingly, Lee’s surprise return puts the cat well and truly among the pigeons, especially when he encounters Lavi on a deserted beach. A few quick strokes of his whip later, she’s his, and their affair is on again. Striding around the castle in his black cloak and riding boots, Lee is arrogance personified, his character revelling in the uproar he is creating and the emotional distress of all around him.

So it’s no great shock when he turns up dead, slashed in the throat with the very same knife Stewart’s daughter used to kill herself. Curiously enough, there’s no investigation of the murder or intrusion by the authorities; Lee is just interred in the family vault, and that seems to be that. Only, of course, it’s not, because Lee refuses to stay dead; leaving muddy footprints all over the castle and visiting Lavi in her boudoir, where he resumes his somewhat dubious attentions. Does his vengeful spirit now haunt the castle’s bed chambers, or is he somehow still alive?

The Whip and The Body (1963)

Lee really needed to start taking his vitamins again…

This is a pleasingly twisted thriller, bursting with adult themes not often tackled by mainstream cinema of the period. These mostly concern Lavi’s character, whose eager acceptance and obvious enjoyment of the whip is front and centre. The actress really throws herself into the role, her character seemingly in a permanent state of arousal, her desperate need for love always overwhelmed by her violent sexual urges. It’s a powerhouse turn, and very daring for its time. Lee’s part is not a nuanced one, but he delivers steely arrogance like few others, and it’s a shame his screen time is somewhat brief. The pair overshadow the rest of the cast, although it’s always good to see cult cinema favourite Luciano Pigozzi, here in the role of a family servant.

To sell the movie in the States, the vast majority of the crew hide behind anglicised pseudonyms. Bava became John M Old, screenwriters Ernesto Gastaldi, Ugo Guerra and Luciano Martino were credited as Julian Berry, Robert Hugo and Martin Hardy, and cinematographer Ubaldo Terzano transformed into David Hamilton. But anyone familiar with Lee was not likely to be fooled, his voice obviously dubbed by another actor in the English language release. This was common practice in the Italian film industry of the time as a cost-cutting exercise, but it irked Lee. Subsequently, he had it written into his contracts that producers would pay the necessary costs required to call him back for the necessary voice work.

The Whip and The Body (1963)

Bava’s remake of ‘From Here To Eternity’ took a decidedly different approach…

Being a Bava film, it’s visually stunning, of course, and it’s interesting to note that he foregoes his usual technicolour palette in favour of much darker tones, draping the long passages in deep shadows cast by flaming torches. The main weakness here is the story, which needed a few more layers of complexity to elevate this to classic status. There are ambiguities too; just who is Lavi’s character? She’s given no backstory or identity beyond her relation to the family. Some commentators have theorised that De Nardo is keen to marry her off to one of his sons because she’s his mistress and he needs to legitimise her presence within the castle. It’s an interesting thought, although there is little concrete evidence to support it.

The explicit nature of the relationship between Lee and Lavi was enough to get censors hot under the collar, and the whipping scenes were cut in many countries, including the UK where even the title was changed to the more neutral ‘Night Is The Phantom’. An action for obscenity was brought against the producers, which may serve to explain why the film flopped in its homeland. American-International Pictures which had distributed Bava’s last few films in the US refused to touch it, and it was released by a company with a far lower profile.

The Whip and The Body (1963)

‘That’s the last time I make an album with Marilyn Manson…’

Lavi retired for films in the early 1970s after notable roles in ‘Lord Jim’ (1965), Matt Helm spy spoof ‘The Silencers’ (1966), comedy ‘The Spy With The Cold Nose’ (1966) and the Western ‘Catlow’ (1971) with Yul Brynner. Subsequently, she enjoyed far greater success as a singer and recording artist, enjoying many hits in Germany before retiring in 1983. She was popular enough to mount a farewell tour shortly before her death in 2017.

A striking contrast between elegant romanticism and sexual violence distinguishes another technical masterclass by director Mario Bava. If the story doesn’t quite deliver on the same level, the result is still a classy, atmospheric portrait of murder and aristocratic moral decay.

Black Sabbath/The Three Faces of Fear/I Tre Volti Della Paura (1963)

Black Sabbath/The Three Faces of Fear/I Tre Volti Della Paura (1963)‘No-one can love you as much as we do.’

Boris Karloff invites us to watch three stories of spine-tingling horror. A beautiful young woman is menaced by threatening telephone calls when alone in her apartment. A peasant family fear that their returning father has fallen prey to the curse of the undead. A nurse unwisely steals a ring from the corpse of a medium who died when she was in communication with the other side…

Despite the international success of classic ‘The Mask of Satan/Black Sunday/La Maschera del demonio’ (1960), Italian director Mario Bava did not return to the horror genre immediately. Strong elements of the macabre were undoubtedly present in his subsequent films, notably ‘Hercules In The Haunted World’ (1961) and ‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much’ (1961), but it was this film that brought about his wholesale return to the fold. Another deal was struck with American-International Pictures to distribute the film stateside, but this resulted in two somewhat different films.

Black Sabbath/The Three Faces of Fear/I Tre Volti Della Paura (1963)

The 3:30 at Market Rasen was in the bag!

Taking its cue from British pictures such as the famous ‘Dead of Night’ (1945), this is a ‘portmanteau’ film, three separate spooky stories; in this case with no narrative framing device. Bava’s original Italian cut opens with Boris Karloff’s introduction to the camera. The great man looks happy as a clam to be taking us on this horrific ride but, sadly, we don’t get to hear his voice as he’s dubbed into Italian by another actor.

Our first story is ‘The Telephone’, an early example of the Giallo suspense thriller that the director had pioneered with ‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much’ (1961). Beautiful Rosy (Michèle Mercier) returns to her luxurious apartment from a night out when the phone rings. The caller is a man who threatens her and seems to be able to see what she’s doing. A clipping pushed under the door reveals that a man named Frank has broken jail. Their relationship is never clearly explained; he might be her ex-pimp, lover or both, but what we do know is that she was the one who turned him in to the police. In a panic, she calls Mary (Lidia Alfonsi), the lesbian lover she has just shown the door…

Black Sabbath/The Three Faces of Fear/I Tre Volti Della Paura (1963)

‘If my call is so important to you, then why don’t you answer it?’

This story is a decent opening to Bava’s film, although it’s somewhat overshadowed by the segments that follow. The action takes place entirely in the apartment, which adds a claustrophobic feel, and the set is sumptuously dressed with decadent trappings, further inferring that Mercier’s character is a high-class call girl. The plot has a couple of pleasing twists, but, ultimately it’s rather a minor piece when viewed today, perhaps partly because it’s a scenario that’s now very familiar to movie audiences.

The lesbian element was unacceptable to an American public of the time, so it was cut from the U.S. release. Instead, an attempt was made to cast Frank as a supernatural presence; Mercier and Alfosi’s redubbed dialogue refers to him as dead, and the newspaper clipping becomes a blank piece of paper on which ghostly writing appears. It seems that this was not entirely post-production tinkering as the American release also features footage not present in the original cut, and the phantom handwriting that materialises on the card was apparently Bava’s own. So, it would appear that this alternative version of the story was filmed at the same time with an eye to the American release. Unfortunately, Frank’s presence as a phantom isn’t established sufficiently to prevent some confusion, and the notion of a ghost using the telephone isn’t a convincing one. Thankfully, the other stories did not raise similar concerns and escaped such treatment.

Black Sabbath/The Three Faces of Fear/I Tre Volti Della Paura (1963)

‘He shouldn’t have called me Bela!’

The second tale finds nobleman Mark Damon coming across a murdered man as he rides through the mountainous countryside of Eastern Europe. The family living at a nearby farmhouse confirm that it’s the body of a notorious bandit who had been terrorising the region, and the dagger retrieved from the corpse belongs to their father (played by Karloff). Damon thinks this is a cause for celebration, of course, but the family are frightened. The thief was rumoured to be one of the undead, a Vurdulak, and Karloff has not returned…

The longest, and most well-known, of the stories, ‘The Vurdulak’ is a wonderfully stylish spin on the usual vampire mythology, this fiend being drawn to drink the blood of those he loved the most in life. Karloff is on top form as the family patriarch; imperious, commanding and supremely sinister, utilising his decades of experience to bring on the chills. The supporting cast is generally excellent too, with a stand out turn by Rika Dialyna as the young mother driven to choose between her husband and her dead child. The creeping atmosphere of death and decay is almost a character in itself, and the stormy Balkan wildlands are a dark kaleidoscope of black, shivering trees, turbulent skies and ancient ruins, superbly evoked by Bava’s technical mastery.

Black Sabbath/The Three Faces of Fear/I Tre Volti Della Paura (1963)

‘Hello Boys!’

The last of the stories is ‘A Drop of Water’, which might be a somewhat slight tale in terms of plot but is undoubtedly one of Bava’s outstanding visual achievements. A dissatisfied middle-aged woman (Jacqueline Pierreux) is summoned to dress the body of a recently deceased countess. The noblewoman’s maid (Milly Monti) explains that her mistress died while in a mediumistic trance and so has a foot in both worlds, but Pierreux is not impressed. Unable to resist temptation, she takes a ring from the dead woman’s finger…

This segment is a tour de force of visual moviemaking and a genuinely unsettling mixture of suspense and the grotesque. The two sets on which the action takes place are works of art in their own right. Pierreux’s gloomy, cluttered apartment lit as if by the neon signs of hell, and the high-ceilinged, wide expanses of the medium’s mansion patrolled by an army of cats and littered with rubbish and broken dolls. It’ a visual feast and Bava slowly tightens the screw with an expert hand until the final payoff.

Black Sabbath/The Three Faces of Fear/I Tre Volti Della Paura (1963)

She needed to have a word with her interior decorator.

Apart from the changes already mentioned, the American release underwent further revisions, several inexplicable, almost all detrimental. The stories were re-ordered; placing ‘A Drop of Water’ at the beginning and ‘The Vurdalak’ at the end. It does make some sense to conclude with the Karloff-starring vampire tale, but it’s still not as effective in building the tension over the entire running time. New, deliciously humorous introductions to each story were filmed with Karloff, but Bava’s original jokey wrap-up with the great man was cut and not replaced.

One of the most significant issues, however, is with the sound design. Roberto Nicolosi’s original score is an elegant, understated piece of work, but, most importantly, it’s only used sparingly in the original cut. Silence and highly specific sound effects are used to heighten the suspense. A.I.P. executives commissioned composer Les Baxter to write a new score instead and, although it incorporates some of Nicolosi’s themes, it’s used far too much. Loud musical stings enhance dramatic moments that simply don’t need such emphasis and are far creepier without them. Unforgivably, the colour palette was also diluted, toning down Bava’s beautiful compositions. These alterations were presumably made to present a far more conventional, and less challenging, horror film.

A mesmerising exercise in terror, which has stood the test of time with remarkable ease.

24 ore di terrore (1964)

24 ore di terrore (1964)‘Let’s whack a tune on.’

A local crime boss calls for assistance from New York when he needs to move a large consignment of heroin through France, but by the time the courier arrives, he has been replaced by another man. Shortly after his arrival, the bodies begin to pile up…

A lacklustre, black and white thriller that fails to take advantage of an interesting idea: setting a Giallo murder-mystery in the world of organised crime. Many of the cast and crew hide behind Anglicised credits to make the film appear American, but they needn’t have bothered; it was never released outside its native Italy.

The film opens with an eight-minute sequence with no dialogue. A man arrives on an Alitalia flight from New York. Someone following him is killed in the airport restroom, and the assassin escorts the traveller to a nearby hotel. Dialogue begins inside the vehicle, and it becomes clear very quickly that the lack of conversation beforehand was not down to an attempt at style but more likely a lack of budget. After being dropped off, the newcomer is assaulted in his hotel room and replaced by mysterious American Joseph Warrender (real name Pino Colizzi).

24 ore di terrore (1964)

The World Snooker Final had reached a very crucial point.

Meanwhile, waiting at his remote French estate is kingpin Jean (Paul Janning), along with girlfriend Marie (Annie Stewart), a couple of bodyguards, cook Pierre (Sterling Roland, real name Sergio Rossi) and new girl Danielle (Lauren Madison). Once Colizzi arrives, the action switches from a thriller peopled by men in hats and sunglasses to something far more sinister. The shipment of drugs is yet to arrive, so everyone needs to mark time, and that’s when the body count begins.The black-gloved assassin uses a bow and arrow as well as a blade. However, the corpses are only displayed after the fact. The audience never gets to see any of the actual kills

Despite a running time of only 80 minutes, this is a fairly tedious experience. It’s hard to whip up any enthusiasm for such a slow-moving story, and anonymous, underdeveloped characters and the final reveal of the killer’s identity is hardly a surprise. Events are presented in such a way that it really couldn’t be anyone else, and the motivation behind the murder spree is as generic as could be imagined. However, there is a lovely outdoor location with an impressive pedestrian suspension bridge over a deep gorge.

24 ore di terrore (1964)

A very nice bridge.

Co-writer and director Gastone Grandi adopts the superb identity of Tony Bighouse for the credits but, unsurprisingly, this would appear to be the most significant entry in a very short career. The action scenes, such as they are, do not come across well and, at times, the film almost feels like an amateur production. The performers are relentlessly bland, and many have no other recorded credits, which strongly suggests that their names are pseudonyms and, whatever else they may have done is not notable enough to aid in their identification.

This is a minor picture in just about every conceivable respect and should trouble only the Giallo completist who is determined to track down every example of the genre.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much/La ragazza che sapeva troppo/The Evil Eye (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)‘But what does medicine say about ectoplasm?’

A young American girl who likes murder mysteries arrives in Rome to visit her sick aunt. When her elderly relative passes away, she runs out into the stormy night to summon help but witnesses a murder instead. But there’s nothing to corroborate her story, so no-one believes her…

Slick and highly influential suspense thriller from Italian director Mario Bava, credited with birthing the entire Giallo sub-genre of film. Initially, the Giallo was simply a murder-mystery, taking its name from the series of cheap paperbacks that flooded the Italian market after World War Two. Eventually, it evolved into the precursor of the American slasher film popularised by John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ (1978) and ‘Friday the 13th’ (1980).

Pretty young American Letícia Román is travelling to Rome to spend some time with her sickly aunt. On the flight over, she accepts cigarettes from her neighbouring seat passenger, only to seem him grabbed by police at the airport for smuggling drugs. It’s hardly a great start to her holiday and things soon go from bad to worse. The weather is atrocious, and her sick aunt passes away on the first night. It’s this scene that provides the audience with the first indication of the distinctly macabre edge Bava applies to the material. Wrestling with the language barrier and the unreliable telephone system, Román is unable to summon help and runs out into the stormy night when the corpse seems to move in the bed. It’s just a cat with its claws caught in the bedspread, but the shot is a hundred times more effective than the kind of jump-scare most filmmakers would employ today.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

‘Why did she always get the seat next to the creep?’

Those familiar with Bava’s other work might be disappointed to find that this film is shot in black and white, but the rain-washed streets look both gorgeous and frightening thanks to Bava’s cinematography and framing of shots. It’s a twisted take on the usual ‘tourist board’ depiction of the city, taken even further when Román is mugged by a purse snatcher. Dazed from the attack, she witnesses what seems to be a murder when a woman is knifed in the back. However, the body disappears, and the rain washes away all the blood. The local police think she’s just overwrought, and even her prospective new boyfriend Marcello (John Saxon) is sceptical.

While attending her aunt’s funeral, Román meets Laura Craven (the excellent Valentina Cortese), who has an apartment close to the scene of the apparent murder. Accepting the older woman’s kind offer of the use of the flat, Roman begins to investigate and uncovers a link to a cold case; the so-called ‘A, B, C Murders’ of three young women many years earlier. The mystery deepens, and it’s not long before Román starts to believe that she’s the killer’s next target…

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The new Lady GaGa album was somewhat underwhelming…

Taken on its own merits, and without the burden of hindsight and cinematic history, this is still a fine thriller, although it does possess some minor flaws, particularly with the tone. The original script (a collaboration by several writers, including director Sergio Corbucci) aimed at more of a comedy-thriller, but Bava favoured darker material. Before the director came on board, the entire murder-mystery plot was ultimately revealed to be just a hallucination experienced by Román after she smokes a marijuana cigarette on the plane. Bava sensibly ditched this notion, but the fact that the initial sequence setting this up remains in the film suggests that some rewriting took place after filming began.

As a result, the film can feel a little schizophrenic at times and only certain sequences achieve the kind of suspense that Bava probably intended. His directorial debut, ‘Black Sunday/La maschera del demonio’ (1960) had enjoyed considerable success stateside when released by American International Pictures. So it seems likely that there was already at least a distribution deal in place for this film, as their executives were able to request further scenes to emphasise a lighter approach; scenes which do not appear in the Italian version. A more upbeat score by composer Les Baxter was added, and the film released under the meaningless title of ‘The Evil Eye’. It does have some points of interest; notably, a rare (and somewhat bizarre) cameo by the director and, in a way it is a more consistent viewer experience, but it’s ultimately far less satisfying.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

‘Why do killers never pay their electricity bill?’

Although reviews of Bava’s work tend to emphasise his skill as a technician, it’s worth noting that the performances are also a real asset here. Although modern audiences could be forgiven for initially casting Román in the role of the plot’s inevitable final victim, instead the character emerges as a lively, proactive presence whose actions drive the story. The actress does overplay a little in a couple of scenes. However, these were likely filmed early in the shoot when the overall intention was more comedic. Otherwise, she’s spot-on in her depiction of a bewildered, but determined, outsider, who gets caught up in murder in Italy’s capital. It’s a character that became a standard Giallo trope in subsequent years. Ironically, Román was an Italian, born in Rome, whereas Saxon, playing her love-interest was born in Brooklyn, although he was of Italian stock.

On reflection, some minor plot points don’t make a tremendous amount of sense. Still, some subsequent Giallo films commit far graver crimes against logic, and these inconsistencies may have been caused by the production process and rewriting. There’s one particular scene where Román goes to visit ex-journalist Landini (Dante DiPaolo) at his apartment. She asks the desk clerk for his room number and checks the doors to find it when she reaches his floor. All fine, of course; only Saxon, DiPaolo and Román have already played a brief scene in his room earlier in the picture.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)


Román did not enjoy the very successful screen career that might reasonably have been expected after this performance and her family background. She was the daughter of highly respected costume designer Vittorio Nino Novarese, who had taken her to Hollywood when he began work on ‘Spartacus’ (1960). After a handful of subsequent movies in her homeland, she returned to America to try her luck, but only succeeded in landing several guest spots on Network T.V. These did include some notable shows, such as ‘I-Spy’, ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and ‘The Big Valley’ but she retired from acting at the end of the 1960s and became a highly successful Hollywood real estate broker.

Saxon, of course, went onto to become a cult movie legend with leading roles in films as diverse as Bruce Lee’s swansong ‘Enter The Dragon’ (1973), and Dario Argento’s ‘Tenebrae’ (1982). There were also notable appearances in ‘Battle Beyond The Stars’ (1980), ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ (1984) and ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ (1996), as well as many appearances on T.V. and in more mainstream films.

There is a sense of an opportunity missed here; that given a free hand Bava could have delivered something exceptional indeed. However, the film turned out to be very influential and, if it didn’t spawn dozens of imitators like Dario Argento’s ‘The Bird With The Crystal Plumage’ (1970), then it arguably provided the first significant building blocks of the Giallo film.

There is a certain amount of coincidence and contrivance in the plot, but if you’re willing to accept that, then you will find this to be an enjoyably taut thriller with some highly memorable moments.

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.

Death Knocks Twice/La morte bussa due volte/Blonde Bait for the Murderer/Hard Women/The Blonde Connection (1969)

Death Knocks Twice/La morte bussa due volte / Blonde Bait for the Murderer / Hard Women / The Blonde Connection (1969)‘Our annexe is used for unusual guests and their extravagant desires.’

A young blonde is found strangled on a moonlit beach, and her priceless necklace is missing. With the police at a loss, her husband turns to a small private detective agency to bring the murderer to justice…

Unfocused meander through some well-worn mystery tropes in this Italian Giallo from director Harald Philipp, who doesn’t seem to have a sufficient grasp of the various elements to connect them in a satisfying manner. There’s the ‘cookie-cutter’ whodunnit puzzle, the hunt for the valuable jewel, feuding mobsters, and a hero who comes over as a cut-price James Bond.

Moonlight washes the empty beach where handsome young artist Francesco Villaverde (Fabio Testi) frolics with beautiful blonde Lois Simmons (Femi Benussi). Little do they know that they’re being watched by handyman Riccardo (Mario Brega) who seems to be enjoying the show. But when things start to get really interesting, Testi has some kind of a psychotic episode, and Benussi is found dead in the sand shortly afterwards.

Benussi’s older husband, Mr Simmonds (Renato Baldini) engages local P.I. Pepe (Leon Askin) after the police fail to find the killer (and barely appear in the movie at all). Askin can’t do it alone though and convinces smooth American operator Bob Martin (Dean Reed) to help. This doesn’t sit well with Reed’s girlfriend Ellen (Ini Assmann) who thought they were going back to the States to get hitched. So he brings her along on the job instead, which turns out to be a shrewd tactical move.

Death Knocks Twice/La morte bussa due volte / Blonde Bait for the Murderer / Hard Women / The Blonde Connection (1969)

‘You really need to get some more bling if you want to be a successful pimp.’

You see, Askin and Reed have already pegged Testi as the likely culprit, mainly because he’s painted a nude of the murdered girl and the picture includes the missing necklace. It’s a mystery why the police didn’t tag him as ‘a person of interest’, especially considering his past predisposition to violence towards women and time spent in a mental hospital. Still, I guess they had good reason to rule him out. Reed then has Askin and Assmann pose as father and daughter and ensures that she and Testi meet and get close. What a guy! Pimping out his girlfriend to a psychotic killer while he gets handsy with the local girls working the mob-fronted hotel ‘The Sun and Sea’. Of course, that’s all part of his investigation and completely necessary.

This dubious boarding establishment is run by Charley Hemman (Werner Peters) and Amato Locatelli (Riccardo Garrone), who run crooked gambling on the ‘Estrella’ floating just offshore, as well as letting their girls roll drunks in the bar. But they have a problem; a jumbo loan due to mobster Ferretti, who sends his wife Sophia (Anita Ekberg) and enforcer the Professor (Adolfo Celi) to collect.

Death Knocks Twice/La morte bussa due volte / Blonde Bait for the Murderer / Hard Women / The Blonde Connection (1969)

‘You do know your boyfriend’s an absolute dick, don’t you?’

The original release of this film is listed as having a running time of 96 minutes. That accounts to some extent for the disjointed feel the film has now because almost 20 minutes of footage is missing in the versions currently available. These missing scenes might have helped establish one of these story threads as the primary focus. As it plays now, the initial murder investigation begins taking a back seat to the mob-related intrigue before the two join rather clumsily for the climax.

Without giving too much away, Peters and Garrone decide to avoid paying back the mob loan by having Testi and maneater Ekberg meet. Hopefully, bedroom antics and murder will follow. How they can be sure that Testi is the killer and how this outcome would get them out of hock with an organised crime syndicate anyway is a bit obscure, but hey! At least it’s a plan. Meanwhile, Reed makes instant friends with Peters’ vicious attack dog, Fritz, after a dip in the pool. I guess the canine recognises a nice bloke when he meets one. This looks like it’s going to be vital at the finish, but then it isn’t. Sure, Fritz the Wonder Dog lends a helpful paw, but I think Reed would have coped on his own.

Death Knocks Twice/La morte bussa due volte / Blonde Bait for the Murderer / Hard Women / The Blonde Connection (1969)

‘Can I interest you in a raspberry ripple?’

What would make a far more interesting film than this is the story of Reed’s life. After first training as an actor, he signed to Capitol Records in 1958 as a singer, being promoted to the teenage market. Although never very successful on home turf he was a big hit in South America and, while on tour there in the early 1960s developed a radical political philosophy that had him tagged back home as ‘Red Elvis.’ Rather than return to the U.S., he remained in Argentina until a change of government saw him deported, and he relocated to Europe, spending a lot of time in East Germany. His records continued to sell, and he was immensely popular in the Soviet Union where he also toured.

Reed was a vocal opponent of American foreign policy, but never renounced his U.S. citizenship and continued to file the necessary tax returns. An appearance on CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ in 1986 provoked hate mail when he compared U.S. President Ronald Reagan to Josef Stalin. Six weeks afterwards, Reed was found dead near his home in East Berlin. The official verdict was accidental drowning, but suicide was suspected because of problems with his third marriage. A suicide note was uncovered after German reunification in 1990, but members of his family still believe that he was murdered. A documentary in 2004 also floated the possibilities that he was working for the KGB, the Stasi or the CIA.

A muddled and clumsy Giallo that will appeal only to completists. The original cut probably solves some of its issues, but it’s hard to believe that it would result in a very significant improvement.

Killer Without A Face/Assassino senza volto (1968)

Assassino senza volto (1968)‘There is an abundance of spirit here; you will find it hard to accommodate yours!’

A young architect gets a commission to remodel a rundown castle but when he arrives, finds the resident noble family behaving oddly. The lady of the house is prone to sleepwalking with a loaded gun and lapses of memory. Her condition seems to have worsened since her cousin fell to her death from the battlements…

Clumsy and slightly muddled black and white Giallo from writer-director Angelo Dorigo, who had already tackled similar material with the underwhelming ‘A… For Assassin’ (1966). Unfortunately, the second time around, there is little evidence of improvement, and he delivers another generally unsatisfying experience.

The Lady Barbara McDonald (Mara Berni) is not in a good place. After her cousin Mary (Anita Todesco) takes a header off the roof one night, her mental condition takes a turn for the worse, further worrying over-attentive husband Walter (Giuliano Raffaelli). As the audience, we know that Todesco’s accident was nothing of the sort; she fell while being chased in the film’s opening sequence.

Enter handsome young architect John Brenton (Gianni Medici) who gets his gig on the recommendation of old college chum Frances (Janine Reynaud) who also happens to be a seemingly permanent guest at the castle. Medici finds himself drawn to Berni, despite her mood swings and the insistence of everyone else that she’s going mad. The staff provide further complications; there’s smooth estate manager Clark (Luigi Batzella), a gossipy maid, a hard as nails housekeeper and suspicious handyman, The Mute, played by US ‘hard man’ actor, Lawrence Tierney!

Assassino senza volto (1968)

‘You mean, you’re not my knight in shining armour?’

Sadly, all this results in is a lot of heavy-handed dialogue exchanges which rob the film of any pace or interest. One particularly odd thing is the frequent reference to chivalry and something called ‘The Tower Game’ which is insufficiently explained. It would seem to be a party game that involves choosing who you would throw off a building if there were three of you and only space for two. At least that’s all I can make of it.

These regular ruminations on courtly behaviour may help to explain one thing about the production, though. The cast all speak their native Italian (except Tierney who doesn’t get to talk at all) but are supposed to be English. The film takes place at ‘Nottingham Castle’, and there is talk at one point of a quick trip to London to buy antique furniture in Regent Street. (Dorigo obviously didn’t know his English geography too well, that’s a round trip of about 250 miles!) Perhaps he also believed that we English still behave like knights of the round table, so his somewhat obscure examination of the art of chivalry needed to take place here.

Perhaps the writer-director would have been wiser to concentrate on his plot a little more. A lot of the developments don’t stand up to very close scrutiny. Even after the (unsurprising) resolution of the mystery, it’s hard to work out why some of the killer’s victims were targetted. Replacement maid Betty (Rita Klein) has only been on-site a couple of days before she’s despatched. What she could have learned in so short a time that would be a threat to the killer is never revealed. Perhaps it was that she was too lively a character, whose late introduction to the proceedings does briefly suggest that the film is starting to get going!

Assassino senza volto (1968)

‘This catalogue modelling lark is a piece of cake.’

There’s also a curious dream sequence experienced by one of the principals where footage from the killer’s point of view is repeated. This would seem to be telling us the identity of the murderer. But why do that when the big reveal is more than a quarter of an hour away? And if this person isn’t the killer, then it makes no sense! Which is it? Watch the movie to find out. But either way, it’s a baffling decision to include it.

Also working against the film is the musical soundtrack by Coriolano Gori. Clashes of instruments emphasise every dramatic moment to such an extent that it almost seems the composer believed the film to be a parody. Matters are also ‘topped and tailed’ by unnecessary wrap-around scenes filmed at an Italian street festival. These seem to exist solely for the purpose of further reflections on the art of chivalry. It’s all pretty confusing and probably something lost in translation.

If Tierney’s appearance in a minor, non-speaking role in an Italian film of the late 1960s seems a little surprising, then it’s merely down to the fact that he needed the work. He’d enjoyed brief stardom in the title role of hit b-picture ‘Dillinger’ (1945) and featured in many similar vehicles before a showy  supporting role in Cecil B DeMille’s ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ (1952) seemed to promise elevation to bigger productions. Unfortunately, Tierney liked to drink, and his drinking often led to violence and trouble with Johnny Law.

Assassino senza volto (1968)

‘Give me another drink or I’ll punch your lights out.’

After multiple arrests, film roles began to dry up, and he appeared mostly on television before moving to Europe in the 1970s. A return to Hollywood followed in 1983, and he played many guest roles on network TV shows such as ‘Hill Street Blues’, ‘Remington Steele’, ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ He even appeared on an episode of ‘Seinfeld’ and was considered so good that it was possible to make him a recurring character. Unfortunately, he stole a knife from the set and pulled it on the show’s star, Jerry Seinfeld. A late-career appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992) failed to revive his fortunes as his health was already failing and, during the time of filming, he had shot his nephew during a drunken binge.

Rather weak and off-centre Giallo which may interest fans of the genre but will most likely frustrate and confuse everyone who sees it.