Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key/Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (1972)

‘Maybe you’d prefer to drink from my empty skull.’

A dissolute writer is suspected by the police after one of his ex-students is brutally murdered. His maid meets the same fate afterwards, and realising that this will almost certainly mean arrest and conviction for the crimes, he persuades his wife to help him hide the corpse in their wine cellar…

High-quality Giallo from director Sergio Martino, who sprinkles his tale of suspicion and murder with more than a touch of Edgar Allan Poe. The Italian film industry was pumping out these horror thrillers by the dozen in the early 1970s, and all the main cast and crew here had plenty of previous experience in the field.

Things are not working out too well for Oliviero Rouvigny (Luigi Pistilli). Once a celebrated author, he has not published in years, even teaching opportunities vanishing due to his lack of output. As a member of the nobility, he doesn’t have to worry about money, but that’s a double-edged sword. Walled up in his crumbling villa, he’s taken to the bottle, inviting local hippies around for group debauchery and knocking about long-suffering wife Irina (Anita Strindberg). He’s also having an affair with ex-student Fausta (Daniela Giordano), and when she turns up with her throat cut, local Inspector Farla (Franco Nebbia) inevitably begins looking his way. Fortunately, Strindberg backs up his dodgy alibi.

But there’s much worse to come. The unhappy couple’s maid, Brenda (Angela La Vorgna), is mysteriously murdered at the villa a few nights later, putting Pistilli’s head firmly in the noose. But he proclaims his innocence and persuades Strindberg to help conceal the body in the cellar. The girl’s disappearance seems to draw little attention, but then Pistilli gets a telegram from his niece Floriana (Edwige Fenech) inviting herself for an extended visit. She’s already on her way, so the conspirators must grin and bear it. However, once she arrives, it becomes increasingly clear that she has more on her mind than just a casual holiday. The villa seems to be under surveillance too, but just who is mystery man Walter (Ivan Rassimov) and what are his intentions?

Unlike Martino’s previous excursions into Giallo territory, this project leans more toward the traditional murder mystery. Events are almost entirely centred on Pistilli’s villa, the cast is small, and the action is focused firmly on the three principals. Rather than the escalating body count suggested by the first act, this is more of an exercise in suspense and intrigue. Martino lays out his slow breadcrumb trail of clues, courtesy of the screenplay by Ernesto Gastaldi, Adriano Bolzoni and Sauro Scavolini. When developments and revelations arrive in the final act, they are logical and satisfying. However, it’s probable that the final twist won’t surprise anyone with a passing knowledge of the horror genre.

Best of all, though, is the work delivered in front of the camera. Pistilli is superb as the twisted Oliviero, often drunk, fixated on his dead mother, protective of her black cat (named Satan!) and permanently teetering on the edge of an outburst, be it violent, sexual or both. Going toe to toe with him are the women in his life; Strindberg outstanding as the beaten-down wife with a core of steel, and Fenech note-perfect as the playful, promiscuous Floriana, whose actions progressively indicate a much darker agenda than is first suggested. Her character plays husband and wife off against each other, first just sleeping with both of them, but eventually suggesting that they kill each other. The dynamic between the trio is a tricky balance to strike in the context of a mystery plot where motivations and plans have to remain hidden. Still, all three deliver with force or subtlety as and when the situation requires it.

In the spirit of the low-key nature of the drama, Martino shows admirable restraint in his direction while still displaying a fine eye for composition and tone. The murders are gory but brief, although it could be argued that this is not so much to heighten their impact as to hide some rather inadequate FX work. Still, the camera movement is particularly good; hand-held for the violent scenes, more elegant moves reserved to build suspense and emphasise the claustrophobic surroundings.

If there’s not all that much here for the committed gore-hound, then Martino compensates for the lack of blood with plenty of sex. Not only do we get to see quite a lot of Fenech and Strindberg, including a shared scene, but there’s an undercurrent of sexual violence and perversion present throughout. It’s implied that Oliviero slept with his mother, and he forces himself on Strindberg a couple of times, once after attempting to stab her in a cage of doves in clear sight of anyone who might be passing by. Servant La Vorgna tries on an old dress that belonged to Pistilli’s mother, something which is clearly pushing her buttons, only to be slaughtered in the process. No judgement here, but this is a household with a lot of issues!

Despite the film’s undoubted strengths, a few flaws hold it back from the first rank of the Giallo thriller. These mainly revolve around the film’s second act. Yes, the story is designed as a slow burn, but there’s a feeling of marking time at this point. Fenech’s liaison with delivery boy and motorbike racer Dario (Riccardo Salvino) is the main culprit, and although it does play into the story’s eventual outcome, it could have been integrated a little more into the overall plot or discarded altogether. The police investigation also seems strangely half-hearted. Yes, there’s a somewhat contrived development halfway through that takes the heat off Pistilli, but is no one in authority interested when the only servant of a murder suspect suddenly up and leaves the district without a word to anyone? The Poe references also feel a little forced at times, although it only becomes obvious towards the end of the film.

Martino began his film career in various behind-the-scenes roles, including a few projects as an assistant director, before taking the plunge as the man with the megaphone on Spaghetti Western ‘Arizona Colt, Hired Gun/Arizona si scatenò… e li fece fuori tutti!’ (1970). A year later, he delivered the outstanding Giallo ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh/Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh’ (1971), which again starred Fenech. That film provided the title for this one, with the phrase appearing in a threatening note that she receives at one point in the story. Further Gialli followed and included two of the sub-genre’s most prominent examples, ‘All the Colors of the Dark/Tutti i colori del buio’ (1972) and ‘Torso/I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale’ (1973). He subsequently worked in comedy and crime drama but was also responsible for the controversial jungle exploitation of ‘Slave of the Cannibal God/La montagna del dio cannibale’ (1977) and the less contentious ‘Island of the Fishmen/L’isola degli uomini pesce’ (1979). Later, he ventured into the post-nuclear wasteland with the stupidly enjoyable ‘2019: After the Fall of New York/2019 – Dopo la caduta di New York’ (1983) and the rather dreary ‘Hands of Steel/Vendetta dal futuro’ (1986). He retired from the business in 2012.

A strong mystery thriller, elevated further by a trio of excellent lead performances.

Death Walks at Midnight/La morte accarezza a mezzanotte/Cry Out in Terror (1972)

‘Drugs are worse than broken windows.’

Tripping on a new hallucinogenic drug, a top model sees a woman being murdered across the street with a spiked, metal glove. The journalist who paid her to participate in the experiment doesn’t believe her story. Instead, he reveals her identity when the story is published, placing her firmly in the sights of the killer…

Italian-Spanish Giallo set against the background of the international drug trade from genre director Luciano Ercoli. Nieves Navarro and Simón Andreu are the familiar faces in front of the camera, and some of the names behind it were regular participants in thrillers that dwelt on the border between mystery and horror.

Hotshot redhead model Valentina (Nieves Navarro) has negotiated a cool payday with journo Gio Baldi (Simón Andreu). He’s writing a story on a new experimental hallucinogen called HDS, and she’s agreed to take it under controlled conditions so that he can observe its effects. However, she gets far more than she bargained for during the session. Under the influence, she sees a man in dark glasses commit a brutal murder in the building opposite, ramming a spiked metal glove repeatedly into a young woman’s face. Andreu puts it down to the effects of the drug and reneges on his promise to keep her identity a secret. He names her when he publishes his story, and she loses her job.

Things only get worse for Navarro from there. It turns out that there was a murder in that location, but it happened six months earlier. Not surprisingly, Inspector Serino (Carlo Gentili) is a bit sceptical of her statement and prefers to concentrate on real police work. His disinterest only intensifies when Navarro identifies the woman she saw is a recent suicide rather than the victim of the old killing. The poor girl doesn’t get much more sympathy from Andreu or her sometime lover, sculptor Stefano (Peter Martell). The killer believes her, though, which is a bit unfortunate.

Efficient, entertaining Giallo that makes up for what it lacks in the logic department with solid performances, a swift pace and a good quota of suspense. Director Ercoli keeps a tight hold of the narrative for the most part, and it’s only in the hurried rush of explanations at the climax that it becomes clear that the mystery was rather a mundane affair, after all. It’s a little disappointing, considering one of the team on script duty was Ernesto Gastaldi, who could reasonably be regarded as ‘the Godfather of Giallo’ from a writing perspective.

However, the film does have some very positive aspects, principally the fine performance of Navarro, who balances the different elements of her character with great skill. Rather than a damsel in distress or air-headed window dressing, this is a woman who has carved out a successful career
and is facing the world on her own terms. She’s often selfish, very money-orientated and has quite the temper. However, Navarro shows a slightly softer side in the quieter moments. It’s never enough to compromise the character’s core but enough to keep the audience on her side. And she can be forgiven for the occasional tantrum when dealing with the men in her life. Most of them won’t take her very seriously because…well, she’s ‘only a woman’ after all.

There’s also good work in some of the supporting roles. Navarro is contacted by the enigmatic Verushka (Claudie Lange), the sister of Hélène, the girl murdered six months earlier. She wants the model to identify the man convicted of the killing, junkie Nicola Radelli (Luigi Norossi). He’s serving out his sentence at the asylum run by her husband, Professor Otto Wuttenberg (Ivano Staccioli), who Lange believes was actually behind the crime. There are also a couple of apparent hit men on the loose, one of them played with manic glee by Luciano Rossi, not to mention sinister handyman Pepito (Fabrizio Moresco), who likes to hang out with dead cats. So there are plenty of suspects to keep the pot boiling.

It’s also a nice break with tradition to see the killer from the first, rather than have him revealed as one of the familiar faces at the climax. The kills are also surprisingly graphic, and Ercoli delivers these in very brief shots, which adds to their impact. However, this approach does give Navarro’s view of the murder the quality of almost a psychic vision. The distance between her apartment window and the building opposite is clearly too great for her to see much of anything, let alone a close-up of the murderer’s face. Perhaps this was a conscious decision to cast doubt on what she sees, but it just comes across as confusing and illogical.

This was Ercoli’s third film as director, following on from other Gialli ‘The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion/Le foto proibite di una signora per bene’ (1970) and ‘Death Walks on High Heels/La morte cammina con i tacchi alti’ (1971). He co-produced these projects with Alberto Pugliese, and Gastaldi and Mahnahén Velasco were behind the typewriter each time. Andreu and Navarro, billed under her usual pseudonym of Susan Scott, featured in all three, the latter taking leading roles in the last two. That’s not much of a surprise when you realise that she and Ercoli tied the knot in 1972 and remained married until he passed on 43 years later.

Navarro was born in Almeria in Spain and began her career as a fashion model before working in television commercials. An auspicious screen debut starring opposite star comedian Totò in ‘Totò d’Arabia’ (1965) led straight to an impressive performance in Duccio Tessari’s excellent Spaghetti Western ‘A Pistol for Ringo/Una pistola per Ringo’ (1965), an important early landmark in the genre. After appearing in sequel ‘The Return of Ringo/Il ritorno di Ringo’ (1965), she may have become typecast, although many of these Westerns were at least partially filmed in her hometown. The advent of the Giallo does seem to have given her career a shot in the arm, though. Her work in the sub-genre was not confined to projects with Ercoli. She featured in Sergio Martino’s ‘All the Colors of the Dark/All the Colors of the Dark’ (1972), ‘So Sweet, So Dead/Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile’ (1972) and ‘Passi di Danza su una lama di rasoio’ (1973). In later years, she moved into supporting roles, including several in the ‘Emanuelle’ series, including the first of the title roles in ‘Emanuelle e Lolita’ (1978). She retired from the screen in the 1980s.

Not one of the most notable examples of the Giallo, but still a brisk, entertaining thriller helped by an excellent central performance.

The Case of the Bloody Iris/Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer?/What Are Those Strange Drops of Blood Doing on Jennifer’s Body? (1972)

‘From the day of our celestial marriage, you belonged to me.’

An architect charged with promoting an apartment block offers one of the flats to two young models after the tenant is murdered. One of them has recently escaped a sex cult but suspects the leader has tracked her down. The building has already been the scene of two recent murders, and she begins to fear that she will be the third victim…

Awkward Giallo misfire from Spaghetti Western director Giuliano Carnimeo and veteran screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. The latter reunites with leads Edwige Fenech and George Hilton from ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh’ (1971), but, sadly, lightning doesn’t strike twice.

After fleeing a sex cult led by her ‘celestial husband’ Adam (Ben Carra), Jennifer Lansbury (Fenech) has found work as a photographer’s model, along with her friend Marilyn Ricci (Paola Quattrini). When she’s working one day at the studio of shutterbug Arthur (Oreste Lionello), in walks the handsome Andrea Antinori (Hilton). He’s an architect working for a company that owns a luxury apartment block. As the building has been the site of a recent murder, Hilton has been charged with promoting the property, and he’s interested in using nightclub performer and part-time model Mizar Harrington (Carla Brait).

Unfortunately for her, Barit lives in the apartment block in question and turns up dead in her bathtub that same night. With an eye on Fenech, Hilton offers the two girls a cut-price deal on Brait’s flat, and the friends move in. But, even as Hilton and Fenech become romantically involved, Carra reappears in her life, demanding that she rejoin his cult. When Fenech is threatened one night by a masked figure dressed in black, Carra is the obvious suspect, but could the culprit be closer to home?

Living next door is amorous lesbian Sheila Heindricks (Annabella Incontrera) and her violin-playing father, Professor Isaacs (George Rigaud). Just down the hall is straight-laced prude Mrs Moss (Maria Tedeschi), whose tastes in reading matter run to gory horror comics. Everyone is under scrutiny from stamp collecting Police Commissioner Enci (Giampiero Albertini) and his bumbling sidekick Assistant Commissioner Renzi (Franco Agostini).

Given such a rogue’s gallery of suspects and characters, it might appear that there’s plenty of potential for an engaging mystery here. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The problem is credibility. Leaving aside some plot contrivance and coincidences, the characters’ behaviour fails to ground the drama in a believable reality. After all, there’s a serial killer on the loose, but policeman Albertini is more interested in his stamp collection than finding the killer. His assistant Agostini is some stupid that he could never have passed the force’s entrance exam, let alone make detective. The worst offender, though, is Quattrini’s ‘best friend’ who constantly makes fun of Fenech’s (legitimate) fears and thinks it’s a laugh to fake her own drowning in the bathtub where Brait met her end. Of course, this is supposed to be comedic, but with Fenech and Hilton playing it as a drama, it doesn’t work.

It was a bad day at the office for screenwriter, and occasional director, Ernesto Gastaldi, who was responsible for some of the key examples of the Giallo sub-genre. His stories were usually fine examples of inventive plotting, with story developments often being unexpected and character-driven. Unfortunately, motivations get short shrift, and the characters are merely one-note cyphers; the girl in peril, the kooky best friend, the handsome hero, the predatory lesbian, the gay photographer, the nosey neighbour, and the dogged police inspector and his comedy sidekick. Actually, it’s tempting to speculate that Gastaldi intended the script as a satire of the Giallo but that no one else involved was in on the joke.

Having said all that, there are some compelling moments. The opening murder in the elevator is appropriately claustrophobic, and another highlight is a stabbing on a crowded street. As the victim staggers around bleeding out, the self-involved passersby ignore her, utterly oblivious to her obvious distress. Some commentators have called out the sequence as silly, but, again, it was possibly intended as a mixture of social commentary and black comedy, and it works on those levels. The pacing is uneven at best, but director Carnimeo and cinematographer Stelvio Massi create some memorable setups and images, although these tend to be in the conversational and quieter moments rather than in the action sequences. However, there’s also an unfortunate tendency toward outlandish camera movement with no purpose, and the zoom shots quickly lose effectiveness due to overuse.

The cast is professional enough but can’t do much with such underwritten characters. Hilton is given a phobia of blood (satire again?), linked to the usual childhood trauma. However, the reveal is shoehorned in at the last moment, almost as an afterthought. Fenech could play the damsel in distress in her sleep, although she is allowed a couple of moments to express her contempt for the ineffectual Albertini and his useless investigation, which she handles well. There’s also a striking appearance by Brait, whose nightclub act involves inviting patrons to have sex with her and then beating them up when they try. Not coming to a network TV talent show any time soon, but hardly surprising when you consider that the owner of the sleazy establishment is none other than ubiquitous cult movie character actor Luciano Pigozzi, adding another face to his seemingly endless gallery of creeps and perverts!

Carnimeo, credited under his usual pseudonym of Anthony Ascott, rose to prominence in the mid-1960s due to his work in Spaghetti Westerns, hitting paydirt with ‘I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death/Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino’ (1969). A further three entries in the series followed, with Hilton taking over the title role for ‘Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin/C’è Sartana… vendi la pistola e comprati la bara!’ (1970) before it passed on to Gianni Garko. Hilton and Garko alternated as leading men for Carnimeo on several similar projects until the Spaghetti Western craze began losing steam in the mid-1970s. Along the way, the director also reunited with Fenech for the unsatisfying crime drama ‘Anna: The Pleasure, the Torment/Anna, quel particolare piacere’ (1973). In the following decade, he made an undistinguished visit to the post-apocalyptic wastelands with ‘The Exterminators of the Year 3000/Il giustiziere della strada’ (1983), and his penultimate film was bizarre horror ‘Rat Man/Quella villa in fondo al parco’ (1988).

A disappointing entry that never gels into a compelling thriller.

Killers Are Challenged/A 077, sfida ai killers/Bob Fleming: Mission Casablanca (1966)

‘I’ve been kissed better by my Dachshund.’

Three international scientists have been collaborating on a new energy source that will make fossil fuels redundant. Two of them are murdered, and the third decides on plastic surgery to hide his identity. The CIA assign their best agent to take him into protective custody, but his mission becomes complicated when enemy agents target the scientist’s wife…

Frustrating spy-jinks from director Antonio Margheriti in a French-Italian co-production that stars US actor Richard Harrison as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget.’ It’s a sequel of sorts to ‘Secret Agent Fireball’ (1965), with Harrison reprising the role of operative Bob Fleming, this time on the loose in Casablanca and tangling with the usual mixture of guns, gorgeous girls, and low-budget gadgets.

Inventing a new energy source for the benefit of humanity is fine in theory, but scientists Maxwell and Boroloff soon discover the drawbacks when they are rubbed out. Remaining partner Coleman (Marcel Charvey) disappears, booking himself a session with a plastic surgeon to change his face. The CIA get wind of his location and send top agent Bob Fleming (Harrison) to bring him in. After some reluctance on Charvey’s part, Harrison succeeds in having him delivered to Geneva economy-class via some knock-out drops and a coffin. However, hostile forces are closing in on the egghead’s estranged wife, Terry (Wandisa Guida).

Of course, Harrison gets the job of protecting Guida, but it’s far from an easy gig. Wheelchair-bound oil magnate Tommy Sturges (Aldo Cecconi) will pay anything to have the discovery suppressed and has hired a criminal gang to do the job. Harrison goes on the offensive by romancing their beautiful but fairly hopeless operative Moira (Mitsouko), whose heart isn’t really in her work anyway. She soon incurs the displeasure of handler Halima (Janine Reynaud) and the unseen boss of the outfit. Several attempts are made on Harrison’s life, and he finds himself indebted to the mysterious and sexy Velka (Susy Andersen), who seems to have a knack for turning up just at the right moment.

In terms of plot and execution, this is pretty much your standard Bond riff of the day; scientists in the crosshairs, an invention of global consequence, a series of captures, escapes, fights and gunplay. However, Margheriti’s film does have some interesting elements, especially considering the Italian connection. Not always noted for their national cinema’s favourable presentation of women, here it’s the fairer sex in the ascendancy, albeit not too overtly. Although Harrison is the nominal lead and displays the usual smug arrogance of the alpha male secret agent abroad, he’s often shown as less than capable as the sexy Andersen, who saves his life more than once and out-manoeuvres him at every turn. He’s also very slow to tumble to the identity of the head of the gang, who are almost entirely women. Of course, they bring in men for the strongarm stuff, and oilman Cecconi provides the bankroll, but otherwise, it’s the girls in charge.

Having the men mainly reduced to delivering the physical aspects of the film works well here because Margheriti knows how to shoot action. The fight scenes are athletic and surprisingly violent, with Harrison and his various opponents performing well. The film’s highlight is an extended barroom brawl that displays the director’s familiarity with classic-era Hollywood Westerns. There’s a wonderfully humorous slant to all the mayhem, which is echoed in knowing moments elsewhere in the film. This includes the inexplicable presence of an English taxi driver who ferries Harrison around and thwarts the bad guys with a car horn that shoots jets of foam! Unfortunately, these comedic moments are too few and far between, with most other events coming across as serious, even rather downbeat on occasion. Because Margheriti doesn’t commit more to the comedy, it creates a tonal clash that can make things feel disjointed.

This is even more unfortunate because it’s plain that Andersen really gets the humour, giving the audience a playful, knowing femme fatale who thoroughly enjoys her work. There’s a natural sexual chemistry in her scenes with Harrison too, who plays the lover with other women elsewhere in the film but never with such conviction. The remainder of the cast fade into the background somewhat, although Guida scores as the ice-cold Terry. A bigger budget would undoubtedly have helped as the stunt work is mainly limited to dummies diving from high places and an empty car falling into the harbour at the climax. Gadgets are also in short supply, restricted to various bugging devices and a bomb hidden in a cigarette lighter.

The fact that the finished product is a cut above most of the spy shenanigans emerging from Europe in the wake of ‘Goldfinger’ (1964) is probably down to the team of Margheriti and scriptwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. Margheriti was a veteran of genre cinema whose solo debut in the director’s chair was science-fiction adventure ‘Assignment: Outer Space’ (1960). He worked extensively in horror, Giallo, Peplum and Spaghetti Westerns, also delivering another Eurospy, the disappointing ‘Lightning Bolt/Operazione Goldman’ (1966). His films are sometimes cheesy, often uneven, but almost always entertaining in some way.

Gastaldi is celebrated as one of the foremost screenwriters of the Giallo, with premium entries such as ‘So Sweet…So Perverse/Così dolce… così perversa’ (1969), ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh/Lo strano vizio della signora Wardh’ (1971), ‘All the Colors of the Dark/Tutti i colori del buio’ (1972) and ‘Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key/Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave’ (1974). He also directed his own classic example, the unfairly overlooked ‘Libido’ (1965). Like Margheriti, he worked in many other commercial genres, including science-fiction with ‘The Tenth Victim/La decima vittima’ (1965) and the Spaghetti Western with ‘I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death/Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino’ (1969). There were also Peplum projects such as ‘Perseus Against the Monsters/Perseo l’invincibile’ (1963) and horror for the likes of iconic director Mario Bava with ‘The Whip and the Body/La frusta e il corpo’ (1963).

Andersen had a surprisingly brief career given her excellence here, debuting as Suzy Golgi in ‘The Warrior Empress/Saffo – Venere di Lesbo’ (1960). A role in the ‘I Wurdalak’ segment of Mario Bava’s classic portmanteau horror ‘Black Sabbath/I tre volti della paura’ (1963) was followed by four releases in 1964 which was her busiest year by far. After this excursion into the Eurospy arena, she made only four more films, finishing her screen career opposite Klaus Kinski in crime drama ‘Gangster’s Law/La legge dei gangsters’ (1969).

One of the better examples of the Eurospy, although more concentration on the comedic aspects would have helped elevate it further.

Human Cobras/L’uomo più velenoso del cobra (1971)

‘Here’s that Black Mamba that you asked about.’

A man with mob connections returns to New York from forced exile in Europe when his brother is murdered. His investigations bring him into conflict with the local syndicate, and a key witness meets a bloody end. The trail leads to a businessman in Nairobi, and he heads for Kenya, accompanied by his brother’s widow…

Multi-national crime thriller with just enough of the necessary elements to qualify as a Giallo. Unfortunately, this Italian-Spanish-Swedish co-production from director Bitto Albertini turns out to be more memorable for its filming locations than anything else.

Johnny Garden (George Ardisson) is shot by a sniper rifle at the big game, leaving his wife Leslie (Erika Blanc) behind with a tangle of dubious business deals. Twin brother Tony (Aridsson, again) lives in Europe, forced out of the Big Apple by syndicate boss Humphrey (Luis Induni), who’s not pleased to see him when he returns. Investigating his brother’s death, Ardisson links up with Blanc and begins chasing down leads and witnesses. One of these is the frightened Louis Mortimer (Luciano Pigozzi), who hints at drug deals involving a Kenyan-based business partner named George MacGreaves (Alberto de Mendoza). Before he can spill the beans, though, his neck meets the sharp edge of a straight razor.

Ardisson and Blanc head for Nairobi to meet with the affable de Mendoza, who lives in a luxury villa outside the city. The couple is already struggling with their feelings for each other. An early flashback shows them as lovers before Tony left for Europe and his brother came into the picture. Ardisson’s resemblance to his brother attracts a woman named Clara (Janine Reynaud) when he visits a local casino. She promises him crucial information about the murder, but she’s killed while he showers after sleeping together. Forced to dispose of the body to avoid the authorities, Ardisson becomes more and more convinced of de Mendoza’s guilt. Events come to a head when the trio go on safari to hunt elephants.

This project must have looked like a potential winner at the concept stage. A murder mystery spanning three continents, a series of brutal slayings, a script co-authored by Giallo specialist Ernesto Gastaldi and an experienced cast with screen presence to spare. However, the final results are a disappointment. It would be tempting to point the finger at director Albertini, whose filmography is less than impressive, but it would have taken a master hand to wring something remarkable out of such a lacklustre enterprise.

The main culprit is the screenplay, which is curiously half-baked and lacking in detail. A good example is the business relationship between Johnny and MacGreaves. Apart from one vague, passing mention of drug trafficking by Pigozzi, the audience never finds out what has led to their fabulous wealth. Similarly, the reason for Ardisson’s exile from America and the antagonism of mob boss Induni is never explained. None of that is essential, of course, but some context would have helped inform the characters and their actions. However, the biggest problem is with the reveals and twists of the third act. It’s easy to see them coming, and they are as uninventive as they are predictable. Also, it’s hard to imagine how the aftermath of the endgame could have been explained to the authorities without incurring significant jail time! It would be nice to think that the talented Gastaldi had only a marginal association with the script.

The film does have a few points of interest, though, principally the unusual globetrotting element. Ardisson goes from Europe to America to Africa over the 95 minutes, perhaps prompting the actor to think he was back in one of his 1960s Eurospy roles where he buzzed around the glamorous cities of Europe as ‘James Bond on a Budget.’ At times, the production looks pretty determined to prove these multi-national credentials, with multiple shots of Ardisson walking the streets of New York and de Mendoza providing the leading couple with a quick tour of Nairobi when he picks them up from the airport.

Unfortunately, none of the characters gets any context or significant backstory. We’re never allowed any insight into Ardisson’s criminal past, although he’s clearly not phased by the necessity of dumping Reynaud’s body. The actor’s personal charisma is helpful, though, and he makes an excellent showing in the film’s best scene, an altercation with some of Induni’s goons in a New York bar. The fight choreography is solid, and Ardisson is convincingly capable.

The rest of the cast don’t get much of a look-in, with the women in particular short-changed. Even veteran scene-stealer Pigozzi only appears in a couple of brief, though effective, scenes. Underplaying his role as the number one suspect, de Mendoza makes a little more impact, despite his distracting resemblance to legendary Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros! Credit should also go to Fernando Hilbeck, who plays an almost wordless role as the assassin. For once, we see the killer’s face up close and personal right from the beginning. It’s not a question of putting a face to the murders, but rather one of the killer’s motives and who he might be working for.

Albertini remained firmly rooted in the second division during his almost 20-year directing career. His greatest success was the adult film ‘Black Emanuelle’ (1975), starring Laura Gemser and also shot in Nairobi. He began as a cinematographer post-World War Two, eventually working on international epics such as ‘David and Goliath’ (1960) and ‘The Corsican Brothers/I fratelli Corsi’ (1961) before making his debut as a director in 1967. One of his first projects was the no-budget comic book adventure of ‘Goldface, the Fantastic Superman/Goldface il fantastico Superman’ (1967) before he became involved with the heroic comedy capers of the ‘Three Supermen’ series, for which he delivered three entries. After his success with ‘Black Emanuelle’ (1975) and a couple of sequels, he remained in the adult market for the unofficial sequel to Luigi Cozzi’s ‘Starcrash’ (1978), most commonly known as ‘Escape From Galaxy 3/Giochi erotici nella terza galassia’ (1981). Its mashup of what seems initially to be a space opera aimed at children with softcore porn can still raise eyebrows today.

A disappointing production that fails to realise its potential.

Death Walks On High Heels/La morte cammina con i tacchi alti (1971)

Since you’re so good at throwing knives, why don’t you get a job in a circus?’

An exotic dancer is hounded by both the police and a mysterious criminal. They believe that she has possession of the fabulous diamonds her father stole in his final heist. She flees to London in the company of an infatuated eye doctor who takes her to his country hideaway. But is he the innocent dupe that he seems, or is he also on the trail of the gems…?

Solid Giallo mystery from director Luciano Ercoli based on a screenplay co-written by genre veteran Ernesto Gastaldi and Mahnahén Velasco. The trio had already delivered the efficient thriller ‘The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion/Le foto proibite di una signora per bene (1970)’ and cast members Nieves Navarro and Simón Andreu also return from that earlier project.

After a diamond thief is slain aboard an express train, the search is on for the haul from his last job. The authorities believe that he’s passed the booty on to his daughter Nicole Rochard (Navarro, billed as Susan Scott). It’s a view shared by a shadowy figure who threatens her over the telephone using an electronic voice-changer. She also suspects the motives of her alcoholic boyfriend, Michel (Andreu), who has links to the underworld. So it’s a godsend when her nightclub act catches the eye of a respected British eye surgeon, Dr Robert Matthews (Frank Wolff). Navarro sees a chance to escape her troubles and accompanies him back to London.

The besotted surgeon soon has her installed at his country cottage while he commutes to his clinic in the Big Smoke. However, their romantic idyll is soon under threat. Not only has Wollf’s estranged wife, Vanessa (Claudie Lange), become aware of their arrangement, but hidden eyes are observing Navarro as she walks about the cottage at night, often in states of partial undress. Could Andreu, or the mysterious caller, have followed her from the continent, or could it be a member of the less than friendly local population? One-handed caretaker Hallory (Luciano Rossi) certainly seems a likely candidate. Scotland Yard’s Inspector Baxter (Carlo Gentili) is also not oblivious to the situation.

As in their previous collaboration, director Ercoli and screenwriters Gastaldi and Velasco provide an intricate plot filled with twists and turns, some more predictable than others. A few push the necessary suspension of disbelief, particularly the convenient presence of blind man Smith (José Manuel Martín) as an ‘eyewitness’ to one of the significant story developments. Still, the plot strands do tie together with a neat resolution. The fine cinematography of Fernando Arribas also provides the film with a classy look, and there’s a catchy soundtrack by prolific composer Stelvio Cipriani.

The film’s major strength lies with its cast, who produce well-rounded performances that draw the audience into the drama. Wolff is as quietly charismatic as ever, and Andreu delivers too, even if his character is not particularly complex. The eye-catching Navarro brings a lot of personality to the table and is more than equal to the dramatic demands of one of her first leading roles. Her nightclub performance might raise an eyebrow or two in these more politically sensitive times, but her commitment to the physicality of the scene can’t be denied. Her subsequent appearances in Giallo included Sergio Martino’s ‘All the Colors of the Dark/Tutti i colori del buio’ (1972), and ‘So Sweet, So Dead/Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile’ (1972). ‘Death Walks at Midnight/La morte accarezza a mezzanotte’ (1972) was another assignment for director Ercoli, which was hardly surprising, considering the two married that year. They remained hitched until he died in 2015.

It’s also worth pointing out the acting chops of Gentili, who gives a wonderfully understated, dry performance as the chief representative of law and order. Although he has about a dozen other acting credits, he spent far more time on the other side of the camera, with over a quarter of a century of work in various Art Department roles on more than 50 pictures. These include credits as a Set Decorator, Costume Designer and Production Designer. His work can be seen in various cult subjects such as Italian-French science-fiction film ‘Omicron’ (1963), and Euro-Horrors ‘Castle of the Living Dead/Il castello dei morti vivi’ (1964), which starred Christopher Lee, and The Devil’s Wedding Night/Il plenilunio delle vergini’ (1973) with Rosalba Neri.

Another entertaining example of the Giallo from an experienced team on both sides of the camera. It’s no classic by any means but makes for a satisfying viewing experience.

Goliath at the Conquest of Baghdad/Golia alla conquista di Bagdad/Goliath at the Conquest of Damascus (1965)

‘Greetings from the mountain of black fire!’

A dispossessed Sultan plans to wed his daughter to a neighbouring Prince. The couple are not only in love; the prospective bridegroom also has an army that can restore his kingdom. The Sultan sends word to his old friend, Goliath, to help escort her to the wedding, but the big man arrives too late to prevent her from being kidnapped…

The fifth and final of the brief series of Peplum films casting the biblical giant as a rival to Steve Reeves’ ‘Hercules’ (1957). After being portrayed in turn by Reeves himself, Brad Harris, Gordon Scott and Alan Steel (real name Sergio Ciani), the baton passed to Rock Stevens. He was barely pausing for breath after starring in ‘Hercules Against the Tyrants of Babylon/Ercole contro i tiranni di Babilonia’ (1964).

The film begins with Princess Miriam (Anna Maria Polani) being escorted through the desert in a sedan chair by the armed guards of her father, ex-Sultan of Baghdad, Selim (Mino Doro). In the world of Peplum, this is an open invitation to be attacked, and a group of notorious bandits, led by Bhalek (Andrea Aureli), duly oblige. However, in a shocking twist, muscleman Goliath (Stevens) turns up too late to the party to save Polani and for the two to fall instantly in love. Instead, he can only despatch a few of the brigands and save the life of troop leader Fedele Gentile. Polani has been carried off, and her kidnappers have disappeared.

These fiendish machinations are the work of the devious Thor (Piero Lulli), who now occupies Doro’s throne in Baghdad. By taking Polani off the board, he has scuppered Doro’s attempt to join forces with the army of King Saud (Daniele Vargas), who isn’t that concerned with developments. After all, it’s only his son, Prince Phir (Marino Masé), who has a thing for Polani. Seeing all his careful plans threatened with ruin, Doro asks Stevens to infiltrate the bandit gang and rescue his daughter, and the big man is only too willing to oblige. Prime Minister Kaitchev (Arturo Dominici) opposes this and has no time for Stevens. He is not a spy, of course, perish the thought. Lulli and Aureli are just amazingly good at guessing what our heroes are going to do next.

By the time of this film’s production, the Italian muscleman craze was in its’ death throes. It had been seven years since Steve Reeves had burst onto international screens, and domestic producers had flooded the market with over 60 features starring various legendary heroes since. So, it’s hardly surprising that the genre was showing a lot of wear and tear, with familiar storylines leaning heavily into well-established tropes and little effort made to put a new spin on the material. So the outcome of Steven’s mission is never in doubt and all the steps along his journey and well-signposted in advance.

Showing extraordinary stealth abilities by following one of the group across the desert unseen, Stevens rocks up at bandit HQ and makes a bid for membership by beating up a few of Aureli’s goons. This subtle plan is a surefire hit with the bandit leader, and he’s immediately trusted with carrying a vital message to Lulli in far-off Baghdad. Reaching the city, he meets up with Doro’s undercover forces in the town, led by the wealthy Yssour (Mario Petri) and his woman, Fatma (Helga Liné). His loyalty to the cause is tested by a half-hearted attempt at seduction by the lady of the house, but it’s fair to say the beautiful Liné wouldn’t need to make much of an effort to snare most men on the planet. After passing that test, he returns to Aureli’s camp to break Polani and her paramour Masé out of jail. Any potential difficulties are then cleaned up by a large number of invading soldiers, appearing courtesy of another movie.

Co-writer and director Domenico Paolella probably jumped into this project directly after wrapping ‘Hercules Against the Tyrants of Babylon/Ercole contro i tiranni di Babilonia’ (1964). Both films starred not only Stevens but also Petri, Liné, Polani and Dominici. Paolella was joined again on scriptwriting duties by Luciano Martino, with the uncredited addition of Ernesto Gastaldi for this film. These collaborators became significant players later on in the Giallo sub-genre, with Gastaldi in particular authoring screenplays for some of its’ best and most famous examples. Paolella, however, slipped a little under the radar in subsequent years with his most notable following credits being unwieldy Eurospy ‘Agente S 03: Operazione Atlantide’ (1965) and a couple of the more sober entries in the short-lived nunsploitation craze, most notably ‘Story of a Cloistered Nun’ (1973).

Most will recognise Rock Stevens from more than 150 episodes of the smash-hit TV show ‘Mission: Impossible’, where he appeared under his more familiar name of Peter Lupus. Although he struggled to maintain that level of visibility, he also appeared as Nor(d)berg in the cult comedy ‘Police Squad!’ with Leslie Nielsen, being replaced in the ‘Naked Gun’ movie series by O.J. Simpson. Liné was most probably the hardest working actress in European cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. She assembled a fearsome list of credits in genre cinema, although she was often wasted in minor roles far beneath her abilities. Her prodigious work ethic was prompted by a far more critical job: being a real-life single mother.

When the film was released in America, the title switched the location of the action from Baghdad to Damascus. Although this would be an understandable decision if it were made now, given the former’s place in world events over the last few decades, it seems a curious decision for the early 1960s. Just as puzzling was why Goliath didn’t get the almost obligatory name-change to Hercules.

A weak and predictable effort from the last days of a popular craze that had run its course.

The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail/La coda dello scorpione (1971)

‘He must’ve been peeling a pear when his knife slipped.’

A faithless wife receives a million-dollar life insurance payout when her husband dies in a plane crash. Several people believe that she was somehow responsible and, when she goes to pick up the money in Athens, various mysterious characters start to close in…

After director Sergio Martino took his bow in the Giallo arena with ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh‘ (1971), it was less than eight months before he delivered his second entry. Also produced by brother Luciano, it again featured a writing team that included Eduardo Manzanos and genre leader Ernesto Gastaldi.

When a commercial airliner explodes mid-flight, the beautiful Lisa Baumer (Evelyn Stewart) isn’t too bothered when she finds out that her husband, Kurt (Fulvio Mingozzi), was on the passenger list. After all, it wasn’t that much of a marriage; he was constantly on the move because of business, leaving her alone in London to amuse herself with a string of lovers. In fact, there’s a considerable upside. A few months earlier, he’d taken out a million-dollar life insurance policy with her as the sole beneficiary.

However, newfound wealth comes with its own problems. Before leaving England, Stewart is stalked by one of her ex-playmates, who has an incriminating letter in which she wished her husband dead. Going to pay him off, she instead finds him dying in a pool of blood. Fleeing to Athens to collect the cash, she’s pursued by both insurance investigator Peter Lynch (George Hilton) and Interpol agent John Stanley (Alberto de Mendoza). If all that’s not bad enough, Mingozzi’s ex-lover Lara Florakis (Janine Reynaud) and her strongarm friend Sharif (Luis Barboo) want their share of the booty.

What follows is the tangled web of murder, mystery and misdirection typical of the sub-genre. Was the explosion on the plane an accident or sabotage? Who killed the blackmailer in London? Was Reynaud really Mingozzi’s lover? Is the businessman actually still alive? Does de Mendoza have a hidden agenda? Do Stewart and Hilton have a previous relationship, and does journalist Cléo Dupont (Anita Strindberg) have an ulterior motive in getting close to him? Question after question for Inspector Stavros (Luigi Pistilli) as the money disappears and the corpses begin piling up.

This is a quality Giallo, but with an impact slightly compromised by some structural and pacing issues. These were most probably caused by a hurried production. The original cut of the film ran short, and reshoots with Stewart took place in London. These scenes never fully integrate into the story and make for a rather extended first act. This means that Strindberg appears surprisingly late in proceedings, considering that she is a pivotal character and, at times, the drama does seem a little unfocused.

Nevertheless, the film has some definite virtues. On the technical side, we have wonderfully crisp cinematography from Emilio Foriscot, and Bruno Nicolai’s score is excellent. The director also ups the horror content with more explicit kills, even if the makeup effects leave a little to be desired on occasion. One of the murders proves to be the film’s outstanding sequence; another tour de force of editing, camerawork and direction that stands up to comparison with equivalent scenes in ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh’ (1971). It’s also pleasing to report that, despite some niggles with the story in hindsight, the writers conjure a logical and satisfying conclusion when the audience could be forgiven for thinking that such an outcome is looking unlikely.

Performances are solid, with a lot of the cast already experienced in this type of project, despite the Giallo not yet reaching its heyday. Hilton and de Mendoza return from ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh’ (1971), and the former appeared in ‘The Sweet Body of Deborah’ (1968) along with Stewart and Pistilli. Reynaud had starred in ‘Assassino senza volto/Killer Without A Face’ (1968) and ‘Run, Psycho, Run’ (1968), and Strindberg was a brief, but memorable, part of Lucio Fulci’s ‘A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin’ (1971). Almost the entire cast went on to further notable Gialli credits over the next few years.

The unwieldy structure holds the film back a little, but it’s still a highly enjoyable Giallo with memorable moments.

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion/Le foto proibite di una signora per bene (1970)

The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion/Le foto proibite di una signora per bene (1970)‘These plans could revolutionise underwater breathing’

A beautiful woman is threatened with a knife on a lonely stretch of beach. However, instead of harming her, the stranger tells her that her husband is a murderer and leaves. Later on, she learns that one of her husband’s business associates has died under mysterious circumstances and the timing seems almost too convenient…

This Italian-Spanish Giallo was the directorial debut of Luciano Ercoli, who was better known in the industry as a producer. The project was born of necessity with a quickly delivered, commercial hit required to bail out the production company owned by Ercoli and his partner, Alberto Pugliese. The duo recruited screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, who had the appropriate experience and, better still, a script already in development.

Highly-strung Minou (Dagmar Lassander) finds her world beginning to crumble after she’s approached on a nighttime beach by a mysterious motorcyclist (Simón Andreu). Despite being armed with a blade and using it to cut her dress open, he doesn’t force himself on her. Instead he accuses her husband Pierre (Pier Paolo Capponi) of murder and rides away. Later on, she discovers that one of her Capponi’s creditors has died at sea, in circumstances that could have been replicated in the new decompression chamber being developed at her husband’s company which makes diving equipment.

Andreu contacts Lassander again, of course. By now, she’s struggling to bury her doubts about Capponi, especially when Andreu plays her an alleged recording of the murder over the phone. She’s seen the handsome young blackmailer in a pornographic photograph too, apparently bought in Copenhagen by her free-spirited friend, Dominique (the charismatic Nieves Navarro, appearing under her usual pseudonym of Susan Scott). Lassander agrees to visit Andreu’s art studio to pay him off but it turns out that his demands are sexual rather than financial. The rough sex is not nearly as unpleasant as she expects, but the experience pushes her further into a reliance on pills and liquor and, when it turns out that Andreu has photographed their encounter, the strain becomes almost unbearable.

This is a Gaillo where the emphasis is firmly placed on the ‘mystery’ element of the tale, rather than presenting a procession of stylised murders committed by an unknown killer. Instead, the audience is left to consider who is manipulating Lassander and what they hope to get out of it. Unusually for this type of film, she is not independently wealthy with Capponi reliant on her financial support, so the motive doesn’t seem to be money. Perhaps the conspiracy is the result of Lassander’s own neuroses; at one point she confesses to Navarro that Capponi has been her ‘husband, lover and father’ to her, a statement that raises a few red flags. And does she really need yet another drink?

It’s a credit to everyone involved in the film that, at no time, does it betray the circumstances of its hurried production. This is a smooth, efficient thriller with a decent level of intrigue and some cleverly ambiguous exchanges of dialogue. The resolution is a little underwhelming, however, and the audience may be left waiting for one last twist that never arrives. The performances are good, with a great deal of the dramatic burden falling on Lassander’s shoulders. Victim roles can be a tightrope, characters can appear too passive and lose audience sympathy, but Lassander is never less than engaging as she struggles toward self-belief and positive action.

Technically, the most noteworthy scenes are the ones that take place in Andreu’s art studio. There are definite echoes of the work of horror maestro Mario Bava here, with lighting and gels used to create the splashes of bright colour often demonstrated in his films. This small set also features a selection of bizarre objet d’art, including statuettes, porcelain hands and wall masks, most memorably one fo the devil. These parts of the film are moody and atmosphere and the whole picture benefits from the classy cinematography of Alejandro Ulloa. His 30-year career included Eurospys like Special Mission Lady Chaplin’ (1966), Spaghetti Westerns such as ‘Pistol for a Hundred Coffins’ (1968), Lucio Fulci’s classic Giallo ‘One on Top of the Other’ (1969) and Cushing-Lee’s elegant shocker ‘Horror Express’ (1972), as well as more than a hundred other credits.

Ercoli’s previous experience in differing roles within the industry were obviously helpful in his first stint behind the megaphone. He’d briefly worked as assistant director in a quarter of pictures in the 1950s and, as a producer, he’d been responsible for comedy Giallo ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Toto?’ (1964), comic book adventure ‘Fantômas’ (1964), a couple of episodes in the adventures of Spaghetti Western hero Ringo and Eurospy ‘OSS 117: Mission for a Killer’ (1965). Within a couple of years, he and actress Navarro had married and they went onto team up again with screenwriter Gastaldi on ‘Death Walks In High Heels’ (1971), ‘Death Walks at Midnight/Cry Out In Terror’ (1972) and crime thriller ‘The Midnight Daredevil’ (1973). Ercoli retired from the business in the late 1970s after coming into a large inheritance but Navarro carried on, although career drifted more into the adult end of the exploitation market.

A brisk, efficient Giallo that is an engaging viewing experience, although it may not live too long in the memory.

So Sweet…So Perverse/Così Dolce…Così Perversa (1969)

So Sweet...So Perverse (1969)‘Don’t get yourself so upset. You see corpses everywhere…’

A philandering playboy, caught in a loveless marriage, becomes intrigued by the mysterious blonde who has taken the apartment upstairs. Before long, they are having a passionate affair, but she is still seemingly in thrall to her abusive ex-boyfriend…

In many ways, this is the archetypical late 1960s Giallo thriller. This cocktail of death and sex is served up by journeyman Italian director Umberto Lenzi, who had just come off the similarly themed ‘Orgasmo’ (1969). Why is it so typical Well, there’s a small cast of principals whose loyalties and alliances are continually suspect. There’s a low body count, no blood to speak of, and the nudity is kept mostly under wraps. There’s also a twisting plot more reminiscent of a ‘mystery of the week’ than the kind of borderline horror picture that helped to inspire the American Slasher craze of the late 1970s and 1980s.

Our less than perfect protagonist is Jean-Louis Trintignant, already experienced in this kind of picture. Here, he’s a casual businessman approaching a mid-life crisis. Why is a little hard to understand. After all, he’s hitched to the beautiful and wealthy Erika Blanc, and they live in a wonderfully gothic old building in the centre of Paris. But Trintignant is a serial player with a roving eye and other wandering parts of his anatomy, and his various infidelities have left him at loggerheads with Blanc. Enter beautiful blonde Carroll Baker, who takes the apartment upstairs. Blanc had wanted to rent it for expansion purposes (or perhaps as a retreat from Trintignant), so the couple has a key. Trintignant finds a dropped earring in the elevator, which seems to belong to Baker, and well, you can guess the rest.

So Sweet...So Perverse (1969)

‘This is the last time I let the boss drive me home from work..’

As usual, the game is to guess who’s in league with who and what they might be planning to do to someone else. The wild card is the last member of our featured quartet; violent bully Klaus (Horst Frank), who runs a photography studio. He still has some hold over Baker despite their relationship being over. Or is it?

Baker was getting quite experienced at playing out these kinds of scenarios, and she’s the stand out here. Her character turns on a dime so many times that it sends Trintignant into a complete spin, and constantly wrong-foots the audience. Is she victim, or perpetrator? Damsel in distress or cold-hearted femme fatale? Elsewhere, Blanc gets a bit of a thankless role as the cast-aside wife, but there is a nice piece of business where she walks around her flat staring up at the ceiling, following the sounds of Baker and Trintignant making love in the flat upstairs. There’s also some casual exploitation with stripper Beryl Cunningham in a ‘swinging’ party scene, and Helga Liné is completely wasted as a family friend. It may have been a nothing role, but at least it was another credit for the hardest working actress in 1960s Europe.

Probably the film’s greatest asset is that Lenzi resists a lot of the tricks and flourishes he’d employed on ‘Orgasmo’ (1969), although there is one sequence where he throws the camera around and puts coloured filters on the lens. But it’s brief, and most of the time he chooses to shoot in a way that serves the story, rather than distracts from it. The twists are better executed too, happening more organically throughout the film. This helps to keep the audience interested, even if the final resolution isn’t particularly satisfying and the end product is ultimately a little bland.

So Sweet...So Perverse (1969)

‘Thank you, but I’m not interested in a new set of vacuum cleaner brushes.’

The film’s most remarkable feature is the presence of so many people on both sides of the camera who became closely associated with the Giallo film. Behind the scenes are co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi and producer Sergio Martino, both of whom leant their talents to many similar outings.

Baker had only just finished working on ‘Orgasmo’ (1969) with Lenzi and went on to star in half-dozen or so similar projects into the 1970s. Here, she is dubbed by another actress in the English language version; presumably, her voice-track not being available after the original Italian dub. It’s not as disconcerting as similar instances involving actors such as Christopher Lee, as her voice is not as distinctive, but it’s still a little distracting.

A solid thriller. Not a bad example of the genre, but a little unmemorable.