Giallo | Varied Celluloid

Bay of Blood

Posted by JoshSamford On October - 9 - 2013

Bay of Blood (1971)
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Mario Bava, Giuseppe Zaccariello, Filippo Ottoni, Sergio Canevari, Dardano Sacchetti, and Franco Barberi
Starring: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Laura Betti, and Claudio Camaso



The Plot: Our film begins, as all great stories do, with an elderly woman being strangled with a noose by her husband. Although this may seem cliche, A Bay of Blood isn’t afraid to switch things up! So, we then watch as the deceased woman’s husband is killed by a faceless assailant immediately after he finishes the job. This new killer then drags the murdering son, Fillipo, out to the bay that their home sits upon, leaving the police to find a forged suicide note that tries to explain the elderly woman’s death. Meanwhile, Fillipo’s body is not found during the investigation. Our film then skips forward in time and we meet four young teens who are hoping to spend their weekend partying by the bay, unfortunately they are instead hunted down and murdered one by one. In a very violent sequence of events that are not foreshadowed in great detail, the movie dispatches all four of the teens as they become part of the bodycount building up around this bay. We then meet real estate agent Frank and his wife Laura who are interested in some property by the bay, and as the film unfurls, through them we will witness why all of this undue carnage has been taking place.


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Autopsy

Posted by JoshSamford On October - 31 - 2012

Autopsy (1975)
Director: Armando Crispino
Writers: Armando Crispino and Lucio Battistrada
Starring: Mimsy Farmer, Barry Primus, and Ray Lovelock.



The Plot: Autopsy follows Simona Sana (Mimsy Farmer) who is a medical student in the process of writing her thesis on differentiating between actual suicides and simulated ones. While this goes on, Italy is being ravaged by a string of suicide deaths that have been brought upon by sun spots. When Simona runs into an American girl who turns up on her autopsy table the next day, dead from an apparent suicide, she finds herself wrapped up in a very large conspiracy that will have her questioning her own sanity and even investigating her own father.


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Murder Obsession

Posted by JoshSamford On March - 16 - 2012

Murder Obsession (1981)
Director: Riccardo Freda
Writers: Antonio Cesare Corti, Antonio Cesare Corti, Riccardo Freda, Simon Mizrahi and Fabio Piccioni
Starring: Stefano Patrizi, Martine Brochard, Laura Gemser and Henri Garcin



The Plot: Our film opens on the set of a movie where we watch as a lovely young woman (played by Laura Gemser) is nearly killed by her castmate Michael (Stefano Patrizi ). The scene was supposed to call for Michael to sneak up on her and pretend to strangle the young woman, but things go awry when Michael has to be pulled off by the crew in order to rescue the girl. Michael, the son of a now-deceased maestro, then decides to head off with his girlfriend Deborah so that the two can visit his still-living mother who resides in his family’s mansion. While visiting his mother, who may have an incestuous fascination with her son, Michael intends to have a good time with all of his cast and crew who are also supposed to come and visit for this weekend. However, once everyone arrives, we start to discover a bit more about Michael’s sordid past. Apparently his father was murdered and it seems Michael may have been the one responsible. Could these past sins from Michael’s childhood come back to haunt him in a typically violent fashion? Tune in to find out!

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Killer Must Kill Again, The

Posted by JoshSamford On October - 31 - 2011

The Killer Must Kill Again (1975)
Director: Luigi Cozzi
Writers: Adriano Bolzoni, Luigi Cozzi, Daniele Del Giudice and Patrick Jamain
Starring: George Hilton, Michel Antoin, Chritina Galbo and Eduardo Fajardo



The Plot: George Hilton plays Giorgio, the playboy husband of a rich socialite. Using his wife’s money, he has established himself financially and has several key investments that are about to pay off. However, when his wife suspects him of cheating, she quickly pulls the financial aid from him and he is left out in the cold. When he leaves his wife, he heads out without anywhere to go other than his lover Frederica’s apartment. When he stops to make a phone call to his lover though, he notices something strange going on by the neighboring docks. He sees a very strange looking man pushing a car, with a woman inside of it, off the dock and into the water. Hilton approaches the crazed looking man and the two begin a conversation. Hilton wants his wife out of the picture, this man has killed before, it seems that their chance meeting was a gift. So Giorgio offers The Killer a job, and the two devise a plan to bump off Mrs. Giorgio and make it look like a kidnapping. This way Giorgio can provide a neat alibi and these two can split the ransom money. All seems to be according to plan when The Killer manages his way into the apartment and kills off Giorgio’s wife. However, when The Killer places the dead woman in his trunk and heads back into the crime scene in order to clean up any potential fingerprints, he accidentally leaves his Mercedes running with the keys inside of it and the door open. Luca and Laura are two young lovers who decide that stealing this open Mercedes would be the perfect way for them to catch a ride to the shore in order to have a romantic rendezvous. Unfortunately for them, they will be tracked throughout the following days by The Killer, who wants his car and the body of Giorgio’s wife back.

The Review
There are two very distinct and very important factors that played into me searching out The Killer Must Kill Again. The first of these factors is the most evident, the title. I have written several times, more this month than at any point in this site’s history, about the importance of a title when it comes to marketing in regards to the giallo. I have covered a number of giallo films recently and although we are all familiar with the gimmicks that play out in these movies, often with the titles barely even factoring into the story, but sometimes you simply want bragging rights in order to bring up these strange film titles in everyday conversation. Who doesn’t like namedropping The Suspected Death of a Minor or Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key? The second factor in my tracking the film down was the strange look of one of the film’s key stars, Michel Antoin. He has a very strong look to him, with chiseled facial features that seem to scream “horror movie.” His Frankenstein-like appearance on the poster art was enough to grab my attention and burn its way into my memory. With Mondo Macabro releasing the DVD, it also seemed a good bet that the movie wouldn’t be awful. Although these are purely superficial aspects that dragged me into this movie, they prove to have been a good indicator of a very solid thriller.

With this film, I found a new respect for Luigi Cozzi. Best known for his work on schlocky pieces of Italian scifi/exploitation such as Contagion and Starcrash, The Killer Must Kill Again actually shows that this director could both craft suspense and a visually alluring feature film. Wrapped up in style, this film is shot as beautifully as one would certainly expect from any popular Italian thriller of the time. Featuring excellent use of the frame, dynamic lighting and some utterly amazing set decoration, The Killer Must Kill Again is the perfect example of why this genre of film is so popular with cinema fans. Standout locations within include our main protagonist’s apartment, which is decorated in a ridiculously shiny coat of yellow in nearly every room. Gold and yellow adorn every hall in the apartment, and even the phone somehow manages to match with the color scheme. Cozzi shows an affection for this highly decorative set, because he makes it one of the central locations throughout the entire movie. Clashing with this yellow scheme are the curtains which are of an odd blue and grey design that still somehow manages to match along with the rest of the scenery. Although these films were about their suspense and violence for most fans, the style and otherworldly fashions are part of what makes them eternal. This is what takes a piece of exploitation and holds it above the murky waters of schlock, and actually leads it into a different level of artistry.

The film delves into numerous styles throughout, not just the general giallo format. During the initial part of the film’s big chase, with our Killer hunting down his grey Mercedes, we are shown a fairly amazing bit of cinematic logic. Cozzi uses a dizzying number of wild effects in order to craft an impossibly fast pace for a chase that will last for nearly the majority of the movie. This sequence includes strange fades to black as well as the use of jazz music to give the scene a beatnik feeling that seems more suitable for a student film of the era, rather than an intense cinematic thriller. Throughout this chase Cozzi implements a number of varying stylistic choices. Included amongst these are focused irises around topics that are of interest to the viewer from afar, lots more jazz music, and inevitably an incredible amount of suspense. The film certainly seems to be the type of project that was inspired by the work of Alfred Hitchcock. The principal idea behind the initial killing is a very general piece of suspense building, which seems entirely Hitchcockian to be honest, and Luigi Cozzi’s handling of the tension that it builds is exceptional.

The tension is wrought throughout the duration of the film, almost to the point that it becomes humorous. The bait and switches are so obvious and so often that the audience watches with anticipation to see what the setups will be and how the filmmakers will deliver our lead characters out of them. The trunk is used as a go-to suspense builder throughout the course of the film. We know that there is a dead body inside of it, and the way that our car thieves continually reference it throughout the movie is meant to try the patience of the audience, but instead it becomes a point of true entertainment. During a beach side scene where Luca pontificates trying to get inside of a locked building, he comes up with the brilliant idea that he should search in the trunk in order to find a tool to get the door open (a car jack is what he has on his mind, of all tools). We watch in a tracking shot as he walks in the direction of the car, but at the very last minute we are saved when Laura calls him away. The tiny things like this make the movie. How the film builds its suspense with us watching Luca do his slow jaunting walk up the beach is partly ridiculous, and yet partly brilliant in its simplicity. Most members of the audience can imagine that Luca will be distracted, but you still can’t help but appreciate how tense such a mundane action becomes.


The Conclusion
Although it honestly doesn’t seem fair to call this film a “giallo,” that is the genre that it belongs to. This is an Italian serial-killing thriller made during the 1970s, so how could it be anything else? Easily the best film that I have seen from Cozzi so far, and a very well crafted work of suspense. I give the film an overall rating of four out of five. I highly recommend readers track this one down.




Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, The

Posted by JoshSamford On October - 16 - 2011

The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (1971)
Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Eduardo Manzanos Brochero and Sauro Scavolini
Starring: George Hilton, Anita Strindberg and Ida Galli



The Plot: Young trophy wife Mrs. Lisa Baumer (Ida Galli) is at home with her lover when her husband’s plane is blown up in the middle of the sky. When it becomes known that she will be the beneficiary of a one million lira insurance policy, she has several would-be pursuers turning up. A former flame, who is now addicted to drugs, approaches her and informs her that he has a letter from one year ago that will allude to her guilt in killing her husband. She agrees to pay him off for the letter, but when she turns up at his apartment in order to purchase the evidence, it seems that someone has broke in and killed him. The young wife immediately leaves for Greece, where her husband’s insurance firm’s head office is, in order to grab her money and run. After getting her money, all of it in cash, she prepares her things in order to start a new life. Unfortunately, she is soon murdered and the money is stolen. Before her death, the insurance agency had hired Peter Lynch (George Hilton) to keep an eye on Mrs. Baumer just in case there we a possibility of insurance fraud. After he discovers her death, Peter is soon wrapped up in the murder mystery surrounding the deaths of Mrs. Baumer, her former lover and her husband as well. Who could be behind these assassinations and what will bring them to justice?

The Review
Within the community of Eurocult film fans, there is a purveying opinion that when it comes to the giallo there is really only one director worth mentioning, and that is Dario Argento. Argento perfected the craft after Mario Bava established it, this goes without question, but there are several other great Italian filmmakers who were incredibly active during this period of genre cinema. There are a few names that are likely to pop up during any serious discussion of the genre, outside of the most popular filmmakers (Bava, Argento and even Lucio Fulci). Aldo Lado (Short Night of the Glass Dolls, Night Train Murders and Who Saw Her Die) and Umberto Lenzi (Spasmo, Eyeball and So Sweet… So Perverse) both deserve some mention for their glorious contributions to the genre, but perhaps the most consistent and gifted of this group would be Sergio Martino. Well known for his diverse and genre expanding contributions within the giallo, his work has made for some of the best reviewed within the genre. Although the film that we are discussing today is not his greatest achievement (Your Vice is a Locked Room, and Only I Have the Key would be my vote for that), it certainly isn’t without its many glorious details. Not to be confused with Sergio Martino’s less popular horror film, The Scorpion With Two Tails (1982), The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail is the better known and more respected entry into this director’s gialli work. A twisted series of narrative concepts, Sergio Martino shows off his storytelling capabilities with a high level of stylistic panache.

With The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, things rarely remain surface level or elementary. Although it is a film that doesn’t require a great deal of study into subtext, it is incredibly crafty in the way that it is put together. Martino is very deliberate throughout his film, showing a more keen eye for suspense than he is normally known for. Throughout the film he builds up the mystery behind this killer and presents us with several very tense “stalker” sequences that show the vicious nature of our masked henchman. While the general plot may bare resemblance to many other giallo pictures out there, it is hardly your usual walk in the park. The similarities are that this does feature an exotic locale (Eyeball and Death Weekend) and that the film cheats more than a little in terms of hiding its killer from you (every giallo on the market!), but the intricate layers of plot and character motivation makes this one stand out from the crowd. Normally, many of these productions seem to harken back to the literary past of the genre, and the movies seem to be as slap-dash as the pulp novels that they were originally influenced by. This doesn’t seem like the case with Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, even if it really was thrown together in a quick and unceremonious fashion. The script is surprisingly tight and the twists are actually quite effective for a project such as this.

Taking a cue directly from the master of suspense, Case of the Scorpion’s Tail features an early twist that seems highly influenced by the classic bait-and-switch of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. We are introduced to what appears to be our leading protagonist, Mrs. Baumer, but Martino cleverly has this character present a multitude of questions before actually having her killed off. So, after these questions are raised we are simply left with a puzzle that appears to be unsolved. When the story seems to pick up with George Hilton in the lead, it brings a new life to the movie and immediately catches the attention of the audience. There are scenes throughout the film (such as a bit pertaining to an airline stewardess) that act as apparent non sequiturs within the confines of the actual plot. These scenes seem to have very little to do with the story, but this is only at first glance. These sequence do factor into the actual plot, but it takes quite a while. While these sequences could have been more tightly edited into the story, it seems that Martino may have wanted these sequences to play out a little hazy for his audience. If so, I give him credit in that it adds to the atmosphere of strangeness that seems to surround the entire production.

Although it is nearly expected of any Italian genre picture from the 1970s, the cinematography here remains excellent from start to finish. The use of the technicolor film stock is lush and I never grow tired of the beauty that these films seem to bring to light. There’s also an impeccable use of framing here that deserves mention. Nearly every shot features some kind of fantastic use of foreground, background, and midground. Martino allows for his cinematographer to try some very experimental techniques throughout, which seems to liven things up more than a little. There is one scene in particular that left me dazzled, where the camera is set up at a complete 90 degree vertical angle. Dizzying to the eye, the scene is punctuated by a 180 degree turn from one character to another, all while the actual camera remains tilted at its 90 degree angle. There’s a feeling of experimentation throughout, as there is in all of Martino’s gialli, and it adds to the film’s overall artistic presentation. The music is another part of this experimentation that runs throughout the picture, and as we all know music is a key element for any proper giallo. The soundtrack is a varied mix of noise as well as bizarre jazz-inspired saxophone playing. The outrageous noise helps establish the drama and tension throughout the film, as it seems to pour out terror during the most tense sequences.


The Conclusion
Although I wouldn’t say that it is my favorite of Martino’s work, this does prove to be an incredibly solid giallo. It easily ranks in the top five of his career and maybe even top three. The sun drenched beach side finale alone guarantees this ranking, because it actually manages to be one of the most memorable giallo moments I can remember. I would highly recommend searching it out if you’re a fan of the director or simply a fan of the genre. I give it a four out of five.




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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