‘You’re a good product in the wrong packaging.’
A young woman leaves home to live with a friend and becomes a prostitute. One client becomes her business manager and links her up with rich men, but they are murdered one by one…
Soft-core Giallo antics from writer-director Demofilo Fidani. Paola Senatore takes the title role with support from a few familiar faces.
Frustrated by her overbearing father, Enrico (Jack Betts, billed as Hunt Powers), Cristina (Senatore) leaves home and goes to live with window dresser Paola (Simonetta Vitelli). Advertising herself in the newspaper as a masseuse, she becomes a prostitute and goes into business with pimp Oskar (Howard Ross), who boasts of high-class connections.
After she shares an intimate evening with Professor D’Angelo (Franco Ressel), he is found with his throat cut. The investigating Police Commissioner (Ettore Manni) cannot link her to the crime, and she tries to ignore it, setting up an evening with Ressel’s friend, Santino (Carlo Gentili). When he is killed in the same way, she plans to go abroad with Ross, but they need another big payday first.
Fidani’s film is a low-budget thriller, with murder often playing second fiddle to the soft-core sex scenes. The mystery is thin at best, with the writer-director lining up his gallery of suspects by simply having them appear on the screen. There’s no effort to present clues, red herrings, complex characters or possible motivations. Sometimes it seems that the mysterious, black-gloved killer is little more than a plot device to separate one naked scene from another and pad the running time toward 90 minutes.
That’s not to say the film is entirely without merit. It’s competently made and has a decent pace. The performances are professional, with Ross scoring as the outwardly polite but short-tempered pimp. Jerry Colman is also good value as Vitelli’s creepy boyfriend, Franco. Not only does he think she should go on the game too, but he spends most of his time trying to get into Senatore’s pants without bothering to hide it. Giallo fans from the horror end of the spectrum will probably feel underwhelmed, though, as the kill scenes are brief and shot without any flair or style.
There is a good comedy sequence near the start of the film, though, when Senatore answers her first ad and finds buff bodybuilder Armando Bottin at home. Dutifully, she strips, only to discover that he’s hired her to treat his old mother’s sciatica. They end up having sex anyway, but, hey, why not? After all, the director is far more interested in that than anything else. Just thank god he didn’t cast Vitelli in the leading role; she was his real-life daughter.
There are also some snatches of a heavy rock soundtrack, which works in some places but not in others and some horses running in slow motion if you like that sort of thing. All we see of the police investigation is a couple of scenes of Manni in his office moaning about how he’s not getting anywhere, but he does set a trap for the killer and is in at the death for the unmasking. Senatore is conspicuous by her absence for this moment, though, which is an odd narrative choice.
If you’re looking for some social commentary or discussion points about women’s roles, it’s fair to suggest that you’ve probably come to the wrong place. However, it’s interesting to note that Fidani presents Senatore’s life choices in a very matter-of-fact way. She wants money, and using her body is the easiest, quickest and most profitable way. The film never invites judgement on that, and, in the end, it’s the men who are punished for their carnal desires, not the women, which is unusual. However, it isn’t likely that such considerations were the director’s primary concern.
The film was only Senatore’s second role and first lead, and her performance is difficult to evaluate. Cristina’s overriding emotional state is one of indifference. She’s not callous, just cold and practical, only showing any real emotion when her father confronts her. It’s possible that Fidani tailored the character to account for Senatore’s inexperience, as it’s hard to credit her lack of reaction to being the common link in a series of brutal murders.
Ressel is only featured briefly here, but he’ll be familiar to hardcore Giallo devotees. He had small roles in ‘Oasis of Fear/Un posto ideale per uccidere’ (1971), ‘Cross Current/Un omicidio perfetto a termine di legge’ (1971), ‘Eye In The Labyrinth/L’occhio nel labirinto’ (1972), ‘Naked Girl Murdered in the Park/Ragazza tutta nuda assassinata nel parco’ (1973) and Antonio Margheriti’s ‘Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes/La morte negli occhi del gatto’ (1973). Collecting more than 100 credits in a career lasting more than thirty years, he also appeared for Mario Bava in ‘The Girl Who Knew Too Much/La ragazza che sapeva troppo/The Evil Eye’ (1963), the film generally credited as birthing the Giallo as a cinematic phenomenon.
Senatore continued acting regularly throughout the 1970s, mostly in supporting roles, but with the occasional lead in low-budget productions. She appeared in Giuseppe Bennati’s Giallo ‘The Killer Reserved Nine Seats/L’assassino ha riservato nove poltrone’ (1974) and Tinto Brass’ controversial sexploitation feature ‘Salon Kitty’ (1976). She also featured in Umberto Lenzi’s cannibal horror ‘Eaten Alive!’ (1980) and made soft-core films for Joe D’Amato. However, she became hooked on heroin and was jailed in 1985 for possession and drug trafficking, ending her screen career.
Not a completely hopeless cause but a mediocre exercise at best.