The young daughter of an ambassador is found strangled and it’s soon discovered that she was working as a high-class call girl. A series of similar attacks follow, with the surviving victims identifying the perpetrator as one famous actor after another…
Early example of an Italian ‘Giallo’ thriller that has some of the familiar elements of the sub-genre that inspired the American slasher craze that began in the late 1970s, but arranged to a slightly different formula. Yes, there’s the masked killer who preys on women in the night, but his attacks are unplanned and opportunistic; carried out on strangers, rather on specific individuals to achieve specific goals. Furthermore, with the notable exception of the initial murder, his attempts are always unsuccessful, interrupted by passers-by or patrolling policemen.
Unfortunately, although the story is pretty straightforward apart from the late twist, it’s poorly presented by director Roberto Mauri. Events jump around so much in the early stages that the identities of the main characters are never firmly established. After a while, we realise that our hero is actually Detective Inspector Ferretti (Alberto Lupo), but, other than the fact that he’s the investigating policeman, we never find out anything else about him; his character, his life outside the job or his back story. Similarly, the heroine is revealed as the murdered girl’s sister (Marilù Tolo) but her character is so underdeveloped that she never even gets a first name!
There are also a bunch of side-plots which never really go anywhere; the ﬁlm spends time in the company of an abusive pimp and his girlfriend, but as he’s not a viable suspect for the murder, their interactions just seem to exist to pad the run time. It also transpires that the prostitution ring run by madam Luisa (Dada Gallotti) is peddling hard drugs on the side and a whole section of the film is devoted to busting up this gang, which puts the main story on the back burner completely.
Obviously, this tangle of threads and inconsistent approach does make for a somewhat uneven end result. The film does have its champions who cite the almost expressionist black-and-white photography and shot composition. These are effective at times, but the vast majority of the ﬁlm takes place outdoors at night and, without the contrast of better-lit scenes, this is likely to frustrate some viewers. The back story of the killer is original, though and a pleasingly modern twist, although some of the final shots of the big reveal are somewhat crude and border on exploitation cinema.
What really lets the ﬁlm down is its lack of focus on the core story. It often meanders without much purpose and leaves crucial questions unanswered. It’s never satisfactorily explained why the ambassador’s daughter has chosen to turn tricks on the side, or who makes the silent phone calls that plague her on the night of the murder. These seem like they are going to be major parts of the puzzle but are simply forgotten. It doesn’t seem likely to be the killer on the other end of the line, either, as he chooses his victims at random throughout the rest of the ﬁlm. I suppose he could have just had a thing for women who disrobe beside bedroom windows without pulling the shades down? And why does he choose to disguise himself as a series of apparently popular actors? And where does he get the masks from to do it? Questions that the film just ignores.
Not a bad film by any means, but rather disappointing.