José Luis Madrid, 1971
Starring: Paul Naschy, Patricia Loran, Renzo Marignano
Pedro, an ex-circus performer crippled in an accident, is the primary suspect in a string of murders when his prostitute wife is killed. Her friends and co-workers are being viciously murdered around the city. Inspector Campbell is in charge of the case, all while juggling his feelings for a married friend and regularly visiting her at home. Her husband, Winston Christian, is an aristocratic school teacher with an unsavory interesting in his female students. He also loosely becomes a suspect when one of the girls dies on campus and when his wife later goes missing. Pedro insists he is innocent and gets one of the surviving prostitutes to help him prove his case to Inspector Campbell, but is the evidence already stacked against him?
This Italian-Spanish coproduction was partially written by star Paul Naschy and is a giallo-themed update on the story of Jack the Ripper. Also known as Jack the Mangler of London and Jack the Ripper of London, this is cheap and sleazy, but feels more like an Edgar Wallace film (such as Creature with the Blue Hand or Dead Eyes of London) than a giallo, despite the fact that the latter genre is the clear inspiration. As with the Wallace film adaptations, this has a London setting, though much of the footage is clearly shot in Spain, with some exterior stock footage added in to the mix. The German Edgar Wallace films of the ‘60s did much the same.
Despite this, there are a handful of nice shots of swinging ‘70s London and the atmosphere is effectively sleazy for a lot of the night-time shots. One of my favorite moments and one of the most effective in terms of atmosphere, is when we visit the killer’s cellar, which partly resembles a mad scientist’s laboratory. The spooky stone room is full of jars of women’s organs, indicating that the killer has struck again and again.
The script, as with many that Naschy had a hand in, is an absolute mess. The main issue is that it can’t seem to decide whether the protagonist is Pedro, Campbell, or Christian and jumps back and forth between the three. I think this is partially done to keep the audience guessing about the identity of the killer up until the last minute, but a clear protagonist would certainly help to solidify the proceedings. There are also a number of red herrings that don’t make a lot of sense. Between these and the random scenes of exposition, it doesn’t flow particularly well. Another issue is that it just isn’t as visually stunning as its Italian forebears. While plenty of Italian giallo films have nonsensical plot elements, the style distracts from this. There are a handful of atmospheric, well-shot scenes, but the effect of these is dampened by dull, expository shots of talking heads.
There’s some painful, though often very funny acting supplemented by weird shots of people looking right into the camera. Renzo Marignano (Made in Italy) costars as the ridiculously mustachioed Inspector Campbell. His costumes are matched only by the handsome Andrés Resino (Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman), an aristocratic teacher who pays far too much attention to his teenage students and spends half the running time wearing elaborate housecoats. His wife Sandy (Orchidea de Santis from The Weekend Murders) adds some style and class to an otherwise bland film and she is part of some nice set pieces.
Naschy is decent here as the misunderstood Pedro, though the film goes out of its way to make his character ridiculous at ever possible turn. As with his El Hombre Lobo series, he’s pretty tragic and downtrodden. In a silly flashback sequence, it is revealed that he was a star circus performer until an unfortunate injury that gave him a permanent limp. His partner also retired from the circus and adopted a life of prostitution to support them both.
Speaking of whores, the film has a refreshingly nonjudgmental attitude towards them. They are simply women struggling through life, trying to survive, and are victimized by a crazed killer. The scrip thankfully doesn’t pass judgment on their chosen profession and even makes one of the prostitutes Naschy’s partner in crime solving for a few scenes.
As far as I can tell, Seven Murders for Scotland Yard is only available on UK DVD, though it’s also streaming online. It really only comes recommended for Naschy completists and some of his other Spanish giallo appearances — namely A Dragonfly for Each Corpse and Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll — are far superior.