= Highest Rating
of European cult cinema rejoice! Anchor Bay has just released
a terrific DVD box set called The Giallo Collection,
showcasing four Italian suspense films from the 1970s. If you're
reading this review you're probably already aware that "giallo"
(Italian for "yellow") is the term used for a subgenre of kinky,
often quite violent mystery thrillers popularized by directors
Mario Bava and Dario Argento. But while Bava and Argento may
have been the acknowledged masters of the giallo, they were
by no means its only practitioners — a slew of such films were
made in Italy during the '60s and '70s. With this 4-disc box
set, Anchor Bay brings to North America some relatively obscure
titles that are excellent examples of the genre. Eventually
we plan to review each of these films here in the pages of Eccentric
Cinema; The Case of the Bloody
Iris was the first to be covered. Next up: Who
Saw Her Die? (1972). The fogbound cobbles and canals
of Venice provide atmospheric locations
for this stylish giallo from Aldo Lado.
A surprisingly gaunt,
sickly-looking George Lazenby (the strapping young James Bond
of On Her Majesty's Secret Service only
a few years earlier) plays Franco, a bohemian sculptor living
Visiting him from London is his young daughter Roberta (Nicoletta
Elmi), the product of his failed marriage to a gorgeous fashion
model. Franco is quite happy to have this time with Roberta,
spending their days together strolling about the city and enjoying
each other's company —
unaware that a sinister figure in black is stalking the girl.
One day Roberta fails to come home after going out to play.
Her father searches frantically for her but to no avail. Then
the little girl's body turns up, floating face down in a canal.
She's been murdered.
The crime would seem destined for the "cold case" file. The
police have virtually nothing to go on other than the fact the
girl was not sexually molested by the perp. Franco, driven by
feelings of guilt that he failed to protect his child, begins
his own private investigation. (Amateur sleuthing being a hallmark
of the giallo.) Inquiries lead to a number of possible suspects,
all tied in some way to Mr. Serafian (Thunderball's
Adolfo Celi), a prominent Venetian art dealer whom Franco himself
has done business with on occasion. He also discovers a possible
connection to a similar child murder in France three years earlier.
But he's still flailing in the dark until Serafian's sexy secretary
and possible mistress, Ginevra (Rosemarie Lindt), asks him to
meet her clandestinely — she has something urgent to tell him.
Franco arrives at the rendezvous, a movie theater, only to find
Ginevra being strangled by a veiled woman dressed all in black.
He's too late. His informant is dead and her killer escapes.
Matters are further complicated when Franco's chief suspect,
a wealthy, well-connected lawyer and rumored pedophile, is found
stabbed to death. He continues to shadow the evasive Serafian,
hoping to turn up some new clue. Then attempts on his own life
Given its setting
and subject matter, Who Saw Her Die?
naturally draws strong comparisons to Nicholas Roeg's much better
known Don't Look Now — though one
should note the latter film was shot two years later. That Franco
is reunited with his ex-wife Elizabeth (Anita Strindberg) at
their daughter's funeral, and part of the film is devoted to
their shared grief and efforts to cope with the loss, will only
strengthen the comparisons. Seen in its own light, Who
Saw is a well-mounted giallo that emphasizes mystery
over mayhem. (The body count is low; the murders are not graphic.)
This is about "who" and "why" — not "how". Even
so, in the hands of director Lado it is the atmosphere and mood
of the piece that ultimately predominates. Here Venice is not
a city of history and romance but a dank, decaying warren of
secrets and lies. Aiding immeasurably in setting this tone is
the interesting score by Ennio Morricone, which repeatedly uses
a children's choral piece to signify the presence of the murderer
and underscore Franco's sense of loss. (Extremely effective,
its emotional power is unfortunately deadened by massive overuse
— halfway through the film it even starts to get annoying.)
The acting is generally of a better quality here than in many
gialli. Lazenby is believable as the grief-stricken Franco,
though some will initially be too shocked at his haggard appearance
to notice. Also, an American-sounding voice actor dubs over
his Australian accent.
Since the whodunit elements take center stage in this film,
viewers might be frustrated that a key piece of dialog takes
place during the middle of a brawl, rendering it difficult to
make out what's being said. That experienced giallo fans will
probably be able to guess the killer's identity from the get-go
also undercuts the dénouement of the mystery. Still, there's
style to spare, Venice is always an intriguing locale, and a
bit more emotional involvement is asked of the audience than
is customary. Devotees of the genre should enjoy it.
Saw Her Die? is sold separately, as an individual disc,
as well as part of Anchor Bay's Giallo Collection 4-DVD
box set. Audio-visual quality is about on par with Bloody
Iris; more than adequate considering the obscurity of these
films and their less than mass-market appeal. Colors seem a bit
duller with Who Saw, though this
may be a symptom of the flick's generally more muted palette.
(Blood seen in the theater murder sequence does appear distinctly
orange, however, while it's a more normal looking red in the trailer
for the film.) Extras
include the spoiler-free trailer, a text filmography of director
Aldo Lado, and an 11-minute video interview with Lado speaking
subtitled Italian. While his comments on the production are interesting,
of special note is the problem the film encountered with censors.
The last line of dialog in Who Saw Her Die?
was apparently added to mollify them for political reasons. (There's
nothing in the violence or sexual content of the film that drew
their ire.) As is usually the case with such mandated meddling,
the added dialog is completely unnecessary and even undercuts
the story somewhat.
On February 26, 2008 Blue Underground is reissuing this OOP title
in a stand-alone edition using the identical transfer and extras.