Friday, February 27, 2015


1971, Lucio Fulci
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Stanley Baker, Jean Sorel, Ely Galleani, Anita Strindberg

Carol, the daughter of a renowned politician and the wife of a well-off lawyer, has been regularly attending therapy for anxiety and insomnia. With her doctor, she discusses reoccurring nightmares that involve her debauched neighbor Julia, a beautiful, mysterious woman who throw raucous parties that frequently turn into orgies. In Carol’s dreams, Julia often seduces her. One night, she dreams that she has murdered Carol and soon after, the woman’s dead body is discovered next door. Meanwhile, Julia’s father confronts her husband, Frank, about his potential infidelity, and a mysterious caller attempts to blackmail him. Thanks to a fur coat found at the scene, Carol is the number one suspect in Julia’s murder, though someone is following her and trying to kill her.

Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – Fulci’s second thriller after One on Top of the Other and what I would call his first giallo – is one of my favorite of his works and among my favorite giallo films. What begins as a confusing story of a mentally disturbed woman’s nightmares of murder – that coincides with a real death – quickly transforms into a lurid tale of infidelity, blackmail, illicit sex, perversion, and hysteria. Carol is one of the giallo genre’s consummate unreliable narrators, and through her, Fulci leads us down a path that crosses rapidly between increasingly dangerous reality, nightmares, and anxious visions of violence – including a scene where Carol stumbles across a room full of canine vivisection that was so realistic, special effects master Carlo Rambaldi had to appear in court and swear they were only props.

Written by Fulci and his regular collaborator Roberto Gianviti, Lizard includes some typical giallo conventions, despite its early appearance in the genre. Suspicion and a dizzying pile of evidence point towards Carol, her husband, and a number of other unlikely suspects. There are the usual red herrings, false confessions, and seeming non-sequitors that change the plot on a dime, but this laundry list of twists and turns is not what makes this film stand out. Neither is Fulci’s excessive use of the zoom lens, for that matter.

What makes Lizard in a Woman’s Skin one of my favorite films, and what often endears it even to Fulci haters, are the sexual, menacing, dreamlike elements that somehow come together and tie in with the plot undercurrents. The dream sequences are masterful and they are among Fulci’s best technical film work. Her obviously repressed, lesbian desire for Julia is a dark force that moves through the film’s underbelly, gradually coloring everything. One of my only complaints with the plot is that Fulci starts off with Carol as the protagonist, but slowly move away from her. In doing so, he also creates distance from her repression, psychosis and dreams, making the film a little more mundane. I know why this happens, but I won’t give away any spoilers.

Fulci’s camera usually remains aloof from its protagonists, but here it absolutely worships Florinda Balkan (Footsteps on the Moon, Flavia the Heretic), who is wonderful as the icy, repressed Carol. Her enigmatic stare carries some of the plot deficiencies a long way and even her costumes – which usually feel like an afterthought for Fulci – are spectacular and work towards character development. Giallo regular Anita Strindberg (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale, Who Saw Her Die?, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) is breathtaking as Carol’s hated/desired neighbor, and though she isn’t in the film very long, she manages to haunt the proceedings as a symbol of lust, wanton excess, and cruelty.

Another of my favorite things – on the planet, not merely in this film – is Ennio Morricone’s creepy, foreboding score, which is one of his finest and most underrated in his truly incredible catalog. It is dark, dissonant, jazzy, and fits perfectly with the film’s themes. Death Waltz has blessedly released a double-EP of the whole thing, which comes highly recommended.

The only major problem with Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is the DVD release situation. To look at a side-by-side comparison, read the DVD Beaver explanation. The version I own is Shriek Show’s single disc, which is supposed to be a complete print that combines the US and Italian cuts, but is sadly imperfect and is missing scenes. Their double-disc, which features the US and Italian prints separately, plus a documentary, has been long out of print. There’s also a region 2 disc from Optimum, the first to be sourced from the negative. While the Optimum is currently the best version available, I’m still waiting for an ultimate, restored Blu-ray of the film.

RIP Leonard Nimoy

I am deeply, deeply saddened by the loss of one of my few heroes, and everyone's honorary grandpa.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Lucio Fulci, 1969
Starring: Jean Sorel, Marisa Mell, Elsa Martinelli, Alberto de Mendoza, John Ireland

George, a doctor, has a complicated relationship with his wife Susan, who suffers from debilitating asthma attacks. His mistress, Carol, is frustrated that he’s never going to leave Susan, but all of a sudden she drops dead, seemingly from an asthma attack. Her large life insurance policy helps George clear away sizable business debts, but also makes him the number one suspect. It soon becomes clear that Susan was accidentally poisoned with the wrong medication and did not die of an attack, but then George sees a stripper who looks exactly like her. Is Susan still alive, and trying to frame George for her murder, or is someone else trying to drive him out of his mind?

One on Top of the Other, also known as Perversion Story, is director Lucio Fulci’s first attempt at a giallo — previously his output was focused on comedies, drama, and a western, mostly mainstream fare. Though he would go on to make supernatural horror films like The Beyond, Zombie, and City of the Living Dead and earned the moniker “The Godfather of Gore,” One on Top of the Other is a swingin’ ‘60s exercise in sleaze, double-crosses galore, and murder most foul. The first of roughly five giallo films Fulci made in his career, this hints at the greatness found in 1971’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and 1972’s Don’t Torture a Duckling.

Fulci and co-screenwriter Roberto Gianviti (who also worked with him on Sette note in nero) were allegedly inspired by Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and include a dizzying array of twists and turns in their script. Instead of becoming tedious and confusing, the way some giallo plots inevitably do, there is something wickedly fun about Fulci’s use of deception, double-dealing, and backstabbing. This is also really more of a straight-out thriller and lacks the standard giallo outline of a mysterious killer bumping off victims closer and closer to the protagonist. Instead, the protagonist, George — who is basically a slimy bastard — spends the film trying to figure out if his wife was murdered and by whom, and whether or not she is alive and has a hand in the mystery.

Lead Jean Sorel was a giallo regular, particularly in that period, in films like Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, The Sweet Body of Deborah, A Quiet Place to Kill, Short Night of the Glass Dolls, and more. Though he’s a flat, unemotional actor, he’s handsome enough to pull off his role as the man at the center of the mystery. It’s difficult to like George, as he’s cheating on his sick wife, for whom he has little affection, preparing to dump his mistress, running his medical practice into the ground, and cheating his business partner, who also happens to be his brother, out of money. Yet, Sorel is charismatic enough to keep us following along, even when the plot gets a bit bogged down with dialogue and inaction. He’s not as well used as in Fulci’s next giallo, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, but his welcome, stylish appearance usually indicates an entertaining 90-minutes are ahead.

But Sorel can’t hold a candle to the film’s true star, Marisa Mell (Danger: Diabolik). She’s drop-dead gorgeous, as always, in her dual roles as the shrill, sickly wife and the uneducated, though glamorous exotic dancer who makes her entrance with a slow striptease on top of a motorcycle. It’s easy to see why George and Jane become obsessed and both pursue relationships with her during their investigation of her identity. And keep your eyes and ears peeled for supporting performances from American B-movie regulars John Ireland (Satan’s Cheerleaders) and Faith Domergue (This Island Earth), and an enjoyable soundtrack from Riz Ortolani.

Fulci’s dizzying sense of style and cinematography also emerge here, with shots of mirrors, close-ups, a (comical) face through a water cooler, and, my personal favorite of his trademarks… the unrestrained use of the zoom lens. Some of the film was shot on location in San Francisco and other cities in California, allegedly including a shot in the San Quentin State Prison gas chamber. This is far from his best work, but it’s also light years beyond his worst (Sweet House of Horrors is certainly a contender). It’s the least seen of his giallo films, but definitely deserves some attention from fans of Fulci, giallo films, and thrillers alike. And for those who find Fulci's work too sleazy, One on Top of the Other is incredibly tame by the standard set by the rest of his films, so it might be a decent introduction for newbies. Fortunately it’s available on DVD in a pleasant edition from Severin Films, which includes the excellent score on CD.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Piero Schivazappa, 1969
Starring: Philippe Leroy, Dagmar Lassander

Dr. Sayer, a wealthy, but sadistic man, kidnaps the lovely Maria, a journalist. She’s not the first woman he’s kidnapped, tortured, and killed, and he delights in murdering women when they’re at the point of orgasm. He involves her in elaborate S&M scenarios, but she soon turns the tables on him. Maria has a strange effect on Sayer and he begins to fall in love with her, as their relationship transforms from kidnapper and victim, to something more complicated. He effectively sets her free, but she does not leave — they vacation together and have an afternoon of romance. But does Maria have motives of her own?

Also known as The Laughing Woman, this outrageously stylish, if somewhat wacky film is not quite a giallo, but includes common themes like sexual mania, kidnapping, murder, and a major plot twist. It’s certainly kitschy and you are unlikely to see anything else like it — including the statue of giant legs leading to a vagina-shaped opening with teeth for a door that’s featured in the film’s opening. Director Piero Schivazappa didn’t make anything else particularly noteworthy, but he has a minor masterpiece on his hands here, particularly for films of ‘60s style — and The Frightened Woman is definitely worth seeing for its visuals alone.

Psychedelic and utterly trashy, this has more in common with the Jess Franco-Jean Rollin school of filmmaking than anything by Dario Argento. This is essentially a battle-of-the-sexes comedy taken to extremes — though it will seem pretty tame by today’s sex and violence standards. The somewhat controversial journalist, Maria, kicks things off by interviewing Sayer about male sterilization, clearly a sensitive topic for him. Sayer, the consummate misogynist, decides to invite her back to his swanky penthouse for a drink and access to some private files, but of course this is a ruse to kidnap her and then systematically break down her willpower. 

One particularly twist (this is not a spoiler) is that Sayer wants to degrade and manipulate Maria into willingly having sex with him. He refuses to rape her, though they are often nude and in sexual situations — including one where he forces her to kiss and seduce a mannequin of himself — and plans to murder her while she is orgasming. He even shows her a rogues gallery of his previous victims as evidence that he’s old hat at this game of murderous erotica. The room decorated with women’s pictures is a contrast to artwork in his office, a series of strange paintings that depict the microscopic view of a variety of diseases, including the bubonic plague, cholera, and rabies. Clearly, Sayer is into collecting, including a dagger collection and a vast array of items that are all laced with sedatives. He also plants fake weapons, so that when Maria first attempts to kill him, she is thwarted.

In light of the recent release of 50 Shades of Grey and the controversy surrounding it, it’s interesting to examine this somewhat similarly-themed film about a man who forces a woman to submit to his S&M fantasies, but winds up desiring a conventional relationship with her because he — gasp — falls in love. Both films also begin with a female journalist interviewing a wealthy male, a figure of power, mystery, and sexuality. I haven’t seen 50 Shades of Grey yet, so it’s difficult to say which film is more ridiculous, but there is a certain fascinating parallel between the time periods. The ‘60s era of free love and sexual openness was also the time of second-wave feminism, which focused on issues like reproductive and workplace rights — including the introduction of women to more professional fields than they had previously been involved in — as well as sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence.

Some of these issues, such as domestic violence and workplace harassment, have improved, at least for white women in America. But the contrasting conclusions in these two films is alarming. In The Frightened Woman, Maria is able to turn the tables on Sayer. I won’t give away the twist, though it becomes fairly predictable and imparts the director’s message that men and women are inherently the same, capable of equal levels of perversion and violence. From what I understand, 50 Shades of Grey’s conclusion (as it occurs throughout three books) follows the protagonist as she leaves her night-in-shining-latex and refuses to return until he abandons S&M for conventional romance, marriage, and children. Yiiiikes.

Even if its themes are a bit ham-fisted, The Frightened Woman is well worth checking out. This is an absolute must-see for fans of Eurotrash and exploitation fare and it’s fortunately available on DVD. While the pop-art, sexy, psychedelic visuals are the real star of the film, the two leads — Philippe Leroy (Le trou, The Night Porter) as Doctor Sayer and Dagmar Lassander (Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) as Mary — are solid and compelling, thanks to Leroy’s tendency toward histrionics and Lassander’s cool, calculating beauty.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Antonio Margheriti, 1968
Starring: Mark Damon, Eleonora Brown, Michael Rennie

A woman is strangled and drowned to death in her bathtub, and then her body is placed in a trunk and delivered, unnoticed, to St. Hilda’s School for girls. There a number of young ladies are dispatched by the same mysterious killer, whose target seems to be the pretty, but nervous Lucille. A detective tries to weed out the plentiful suspects, including a riding instructor having an affair with Lucille, a number of other professors, the gardener with Peeping Tom tendencies, and more. One of the students, the perky Jill, gets a hold of a police walkie-talkie and begins a dangerous investigation of her own.

Also known as The Young, the Evil and the Savage, this film is based on a script from Mario Bava, originally titled Cry Nightmare, and at its core, feels like a blend of his first two giallo films. It has the light tone and occasional humor of The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and some of the pacing and staging of Blood and Black Lace. For some reason, the film was abandoned by Bava and handed to the prolific Antonio Margheriti, who directed everything from sword and sorcery epics (Yor, the Hunter from the Future) to Jaws rip-offs (Killer Fish), westerns (The Stranger and the Gunfighter), peplum (The Fall of Rome), and science fiction (Battle of the Worlds), though he was primarily known for Italian Gothic horror films like Castle of Blood, The Virgin of Nuremberg, and The Long Hair of Death.

Though it isn’t particularly noteworthy and remains tame in terms of sex and violence – despite the title of Naked You Die, only two of the victims are unclothed and are shown very sparingly on screen – it’s still a fun entry in the budding genre. The dialogue (and especially the dubbing) is absolutely hilarious and there are moments when the film has a soap opera-murder mystery feel, where characters make ridiculous decisions obviously meant to further the plot and to send them right into the killer’s path. Aside from the hysterical Lucille (Eleonora Brown) or Nancy Drew-wannabe Jill (British actress Sally Smith), the girls are largely forgettable and neither Margheriti nor the script try very hard with character development.

Packed with red herrings, this reminded me a little one of my favorite giallo-esque films, bizarre Spanish wonder Pieces (1982), which is set at a university and contains an equal amount of comedy and scares, as well as suspicious campus employees. There is something sweet and innocent about Naked You Die and it is strangely out of place compared to the other early giallo works like the dreamlike, existential The Possessed, or violent, exploitative, and relentlessly strange efforts like Death Laid an Egg, A Quiet Place in the Country, The Frightened Woman, or Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – all made before the big giallo boom of the early ‘70s.

Certainly, a number of these character types would appear frequently in giallo films. The determined, ruthless inspector (played here rather robotically by The Day the Earth Stood Still’s Michael Rennie), the gardener who tries to spy on the girls while they’re showering (Luciano Pignozzi of Blood and Black Lace and Yor), a repressed, disapproving female professor, a tottering, absent-minded male professor, and more. The handsome instructor (Mark Damon of Black Sunday) in love with one of his students is a conceit that would be used far more effectively in What Have You Done to Solange?, though Naked You Die makes decent use of some clever twists and turns.

SPOILERS: The reveal here has little to do with the typical giallo conclusion – which often and has much more in common with German krimi or old-dark-house movies of the ‘30s, like The Cat and the Canary. Lucille is an orphan from a wealthy family (presumably all the girls attending the exclusive boarding school are upper class) and her guardian is determined to kill her before her 18th birthday so that he can take possession of her inheritance. I may have missed something, but this doesn’t explain some of the earlier murders – unless the killer was watching the same film I was, where all the female characters basically look and act the same. And of course they all have some fantastically ‘60s attire in matching pastels colors – school uniforms, bathrobes, bathing suits, sunglasses, accessories, and more.

Naked You Die is available on DVD, fortunately in the uncut Italian version. American International Pictures went through an ill-advised period in the ‘60s and ‘70s where they would release Italian horror, but often in cut, re-edited version with new scores. Bava suffered the most from this, though the original U.S. release of Naked You Die was cut by an entire 15 minutes. Considering how tame this movie is, I can’t help but wonder what on earth was trimmed away – possibly some of the lengthy scenes of dialogue or lounging by the pool. Despite its flaws, Naked You Die is definitely a fun film and is worth a watch for fans of more lighted hearted murder mysteries and sillier giallo films. Just brace yourself for the title song, “Nightmare,” which is stuck in my head yet again just from typing this.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Elio Petri, 1969
Starring: Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave

Leonardo, a painter, is going through a creative slump and is tormented by violent nightmares. He spies an old villa out in the country and becomes obsessed with the idea of owning it. His agent and lover, Flavia, eventually gives in and purchases the house, though it needs a lot of work and seems to intentionally drive her away. Meanwhile, Leonardo begins painting again, but is transfixed by a legend of the house’s previous owner, a beautiful and promiscuous young woman who died there in the ‘40s. She fuels his sadomasochistic fantasies, and the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur with violent results.

This Italian-French coproduction from director Elio Petri (The 10th Victim, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) is relatively unique in the annals of giallo films in that it features a major international star, as well as an Italian cult star. Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero were a couple at the time, after their meeting on the set of Camelot (1967). Though they split after a few years together, they reunited and married in 2006. During their time as a couple in the late ‘60s, they made a series of unconventional films together, including two films with Tinto Brass: Drop-Out (1970), where a housewife meets a drifter and they go on an unusual journey together, and La vacanza (1971), about a woman sent to a mental asylum when her aristocratic lover tires of her.

Though Nero appears far more than Redgrave, they are both spectacularly over the top in A Quiet Place in the Country. This unusual film has plenty of giallo elements — it certainly would not be the last to examine a descent into madness or a painter’s violent adventures in the Italian countryside — though it is not strictly a giallo film. Based on Oliver Onions’ Victorian-set novella, The Beckoning Fair One, there are plenty of elements of Gothic and psychological horror, and it includes some surprisingly effective notes of the ghost story. For much of the film it is unclear if the Countess’s ghost is haunting Leonardo or if he is just losing his mind. The house certainly seems hostile to Flavia, causing her physical harm and driving her from the building — to the apparent bemusement of Leonardo. It is also unclear if Leonardo is vandalizing his own studio and spilling paint everywhere, or if some supernatural force is responsible. There is also an excellent seance sequence towards the end of the film that serves as the tipping point to madness.

Regardless of the explanation, Leonardo’s obsession with the Countess leads to the blurring between his fantasy world and reality, resulting in some beautiful sequences. The hallucinatory elements of this film transcend the typical giallo, but can be found in the incredibly creepy (and admittedly superior) House with the Laughing Windows, or films like The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The lovely cinematography is from Argento collaborator Luigi Kuveiller — with camera work from Fulci collaborator Ubaldo Terzano — and while there is often a lot of beauty in the many urban-set giallo films, I wish the genre had more of these rural pieces that focus on the splendor, yet inherent creepiness of pastoral Italy.

The villa is incredibly beautiful and the contrast between shots of golden wheat and the rich wood of the building with snippets of Leonardo’s paintings provides a surprising amount of tension. The paintings, from American Neo-Dadaist Jim Dine, are explosively colorful, abstract works done in primary colors, far closer to the images of blood that haunt Leonardo than to the picturesque landscape. Thematically, the film also expresses this divide between a quiet, contemplative, and creative life, and the financial demands put upon a commercially popular artist. Flavia, so viciously attacked by Leonardo’s subconscious and/or the ghost of the Countess, is the signifier of the commercial world. She wants Leonardo to be charming around potential investors and, though she obviously loves him, constantly exerts the pressure to paint, to produce. Their sexual relationship — fueled by pornography and fetishism — seems to aggravate the core of Leonardo’s mania, which is further triggered by the story of the nymphomaniac Countess.

Available on DVD, A Quiet Place in the Country comes highly recommended. A near perfect blend of giallo, ghost story, and art house film, it’s one of the most beautiful works in the giallo canon. It also boasts a fantastic score from Ennio Morricone, which blends anxiety-inducing jazz with sounds of nature, such as crickets, wind, and more. It’s also pleasantly over the top, thanks to a maniacal performance from Italy’s most handsome man, Franco Nero, who delightfully contributes to the film’s final twist. Though this might not be a true giallo and certainly has its flaws, it’s a wonderful film that shouldn’t be as neglected or ignored as it is today.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Giulio Questi, 1968
Starring: Gina Lollobrigida, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ewa Aulin

Anna, the wealthy owner of a chicken farm, doesn’t realize that her husband Marco has a secret hobby: murdering prostitutes. They have to deal with local police hunting for the killer, and strife on the farm thanks to workers they have laid off since nearly the entire farm became mechanized. Anna also doesn’t realize that Marco wants to leave her for her beautiful cousin, Gabriella, and though Gabriella strings him along, she really has other plans. Meanwhile, scientists experimenting on Anna’s chickens are coming up with some disturbing results in what is surely the weirdest giallo ever made.

This Italian-French coproduction, also known as Plucked and Curious Way to Love reunites the stars from Tinto Brass’s Deadly Sweet (1967), prolific and talented French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant and lovely Swedish model Ewa Aulin. As with Deadly Sweet and A Quiet Place in the Country (1968), Death Laid an Egg is one of a few giallo films made between the first official giallo – Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1964) – and Dario Argento’s Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), the film that effectively launched a decade of imitators. It would be fair to say that all of these films are completely bizarre – as they did not conform to any of the themes and tropes that would later come to define giallo films – and are just spectacularly strange.

If you have a problem with films that don’t make any sense, the giallo genre as a whole is just not for you, but Death Laid an Egg is especially not. It has some of the standard giallo plot devices, such as romantic drama in the form of Marco having an affair with Gabriella and wanting to leave his wife, and murder, backstabbing, and secret alliances. Typically, a giallo follows the protagonist – a neutral character trying to solve a murder mystery – but Death Laid an Egg is simply full of twists and turns. SPOILERS HERE: The main intrigue is that Gabriella knows Marco is guilty of murder, but conspires to have him sent to prison – she secretly has a husband waiting in the wings – so that she will inherit Anna’s money. Another twist is that Marco is not really a serial murderer, but an avid fantasist who pays prostitutes – all of whom survive the role play.

Because it was made before the giallo boom, this unusual film is a free-wheeling attempt to create a stylish thriller with sex, violence, and… politics. It wouldn’t be making a huge stretch to say that Death Laid an Egg borrows something from directors like Bunuel, Fellini, and Pasolini in the sense that political themes – mainly a critique of modern industry, bourgeois life, and consumer culture – are as important as the murder plot. Consider that this was made in 1968, a time of unprecedented (at least during times of peace) political uproar and violence in countries like Germany, France, and Italy, as well as the U.S. and Eastern Europe, that has not been repeated since. Debates about civil rights and the nature of capitalism led to strikes, protests, and deaths. For a cursory introduction, check out the Wikipedia page.

Director Giulio Questi -- who also made the complete strange, wonderful, and cumbersomely titled spaghetti western Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! – makes a clear connection between greed and violence. He gradually weaves together the complex events: Anna’s greed, Marco’s obsession with murder, and Gabriella and her husband’s dastardly plan to steal all the wealth for themselves are entwined with the mechanization and automation of the chicken factory. All of the workers are laid off, and they angrily glare beyond the fence, while inside scientists are performing cruel experiments on the chickens. They first attempt to create boneless chickens – to cut down on work and cost – and one of the scientist breeds a horrible mutant chicken without a head or wings. The characters ultimately find themselves victims of the corrupting influence of greed and there is, delightfully, a death caused by the grain distribution machine.

While Death Laid an Egg is not recommended for giallo newbies, a certain audience will find a lot to love. There is some creative and unusual editing, a dissonant score that somehow works, and dialogue straight out of a pro-Marxist play about the evils of bourgeois society. It would make an interesting double feature with Pasolini’s Teorema, released the same year, as both examine industrial factories as a place of ultimate dehumanization, where the value of life is always less than the value of goods, and humans are infinite and interchangeable. Death Laid an Egg is fortunately available on DVD and is worth a watch for anyone adventurous enough to swallow the concept of a giallo film set in a chicken factory.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Tinto Brass, 1967
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ewa Aulin, Roberto Bisacco

Bernard spies an attractive blonde, Jane, in a nightclub, but is warned away from her because her father recently died in a car accident. He follows her through the club, only to discover her standing over the body of the club owner. She claims she is innocent of his murder, but that he was blackmailing her family over a photo of Jane’s stepmother. Determined to help Jane, she and Bernard run through London, where they are pursued by a dwarf, the police, armed men, and more. As the corpses pile up, Bernard realizes that if he doesn’t find the killer, he could be next.

Cul cuore in gola, which translates to “With heart pounding” or “His heart in his mouth,” is a rare giallo from Italian erotica and exploitation director Tinto Brass. Also known as I Am What I Am, Deadly Sweet is based on a novel by Sergio Donati, though much more emphasis is on the film’s bold style than its plot. Brass uses the unusual technique of cutting back and forth between color and black-and-white film, split-screen imagery, quick editing, random inserts of footage from the Vietnam War, and swingin’ ‘60s costumes and set design. It would make an interesting double feature with Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik, as both films share a style borrowed from Italian comic books (Diabolik is of course based on the comic of the same name), and possibly also borrowed from the previous year’s Tokyo Drifter, another bold, colorful film that occasionally switches to black-and-white. Deadly Sweet was allegedly storyboarded by one of France’s most famous adult comic artists, Guido Crepax.

The film’s dizzying pop-art sensibilities override the plot at every turn. Bernard barely works at trying to solve the film’s winding mystery and instead uses it as a guise to seduce and spend time with Jane. There is little bloodshed, but plenty of comic and surreal moments in their time dashing across London, trying to outwit the police, find Jane’s brother – who may have the key to the puzzle – and evade the murderer themselves. Brass – who wrote the script – does keep you guessing until the end and manages to distract enough from the plot holes (or dead zones) that the films stays interesting throughout.

This Italian-French co-production stars French actor Jean Trintignant, who is a welcome presence here. Trintignant made his career with art house fare ranging from And God Created Woman to A Man and a Woman, The Conformist, Confidentially Yours, Trans-Europe Express, spaghetti western The Great Silence, and Haneke’s recent Amour. He’s certainly on the short list of actors who have worked with the most number of incredible directors, including Roger Vadim, Abel Gance, Georges Franju, Costa Gavras, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, Sergio Corbucci, Bertolucci, and so on. He is the grounding force of Deadly Sweet and provides with some much needed weight and depth, as the script – which doesn’t concern itself much with character development – is airy and whimsical. It is also Bernard’s carefree nature – he doesn’t seem too concerned that Jane might be a murderer, for instance – that ultimately gets him into trouble.

His love interest is played by Swedish actress and model Ewa Aulin (Candy, Death Laid an Egg, Death Smiles on a Murderer), who is (perhaps surprisingly) excellent in the role. Vapid and cunning in turns, Aulin uses her wide-eyed loveliness to her advantage. There is one particularly hilarious scene that either references or satirizes Blow Up. Jane and Bernard find themselves in a photographer’s studio and Jane quickly succumbs to the camera, modeling for some outrageous photos. This is followed by a fake music video where Bernard plays drums and then swings through the set, a la Tarzan, before they consummate their relationship.

I would be hard-pressed to really describe Deadly Sweet as a giallo, though it is certainly in a similar territory. The plot hinges on family dysfunction, a confusing murder mystery, blackmail, and has some wonderful Eurotrash elements. I have a weakness for films that depict a ridiculous, Austin Powers-like version of London in the ‘60s and ‘70s – such as Dracula A.D. 1972 and Psychomania – and I couldn’t help but succumb to Deadly Sweet’s charms. Tinto Brass fans will definitely find a lot to love, and though this is not the director at his most licentious, he is clearly having a great time experimenting with style and visual techniques.

Surprisingly, Deadly Sweet is actually available on a region-free DVD from Cult Epics, which includes a commentary track from Tinto Brass himself. It comes recommended, though some horror aficionados will probably be disappointed by its lack of blood or violence, and its sense of vibrant color and whimsical comedy. Deadly Sweet is certainly a product of its time and remains an interesting look at what the Italian thriller was before Dario Argento bloodied its shores just three years later with Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Deadly Sweet has far more in common with the colorful if silly krimi thrillers to come out of Germany at the same time, which were all set in London, populated with masked killers, diabolical gangs, intricate subterfuge, seedy nightclubs, and scantily clad damsels in distress. These films were based on the work of British writer Edgar Wallace, who interestingly also inspired a few giallo films.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Luigi Bazzoni, Franco Rossellini, 1965
Starring: Peter Baldwin, Salvo Randone, Valentina Cortese, Pia Lindström, Piero Anchisi, Virna Lisi

Bernard, a writer, returns to a small, lakeside town hoping to rendezvous with an old lover, Tilde, a maid at the hotel he typically stays in. But Tilde is missing and the locals are reluctant to explain why. He eventually learns from the hotel owner, Enrico, that Tilde killed herself, but soon finds out that there is more to her case. He discovers contradictory information: she was pregnant before her death, but the coroner’s report declared her a virgin. She was poisoned — and her throat was slit. And something sinister seems to be going on at the hotel, but Enrico and he recently married son and unhappy daughter.

Based on a novel by Giovanni Comisso, this unsettling, proto-giallo bears some things in common with surreal Euro-thrillers like Last Year at Marienbad or The Man Who Lies, though The Possessed — literally translated as The Lady of the Lake — is more grounded in reality. It also begins the giallo practice of familiar names and faces. Director Luigi Bazzoni would go on to greater heights with The Fifth Cord and the equally unsettling Footprints on the Moon. Co-director Franco Rossellini worked more frequently as a producer on films like Pasolini’s Decameron, Medea, and Teorema, as well as Caligula. For the script, they were joined by giallo and spaghetti western director Guilio Questi (Death Laid an Egg and Django, Kill… If You Live, Shoot!) and prolific Italian composer Renzo Rossellini (Germany Year Zero, Caligula, General Della Rovere).

This chilling, moody film is not strictly a giallo, but bears enough in common with the emerging genre that it could be seen as a precursor. The protagonist, Peter, is a writer who is a stranger to the area (two common giallo tropes are the writer and the foreigner) and there is the sense that he can trust no one. This air of menace and paranoia was particularly found in the less common rural giallo films — such as House With the Laughing Windows and A Quiet Place in the Country — but is palpable here. Though there are several deaths, all violence is shown off camera and instead exchanged with a haunting sense of reverie shown through hazy flashbacks, claustrophobic hallways, and feverish fantasies.

Though Peter Baldwin (The Weekend Murders) is technically the star, this is a film without a true protagonist. Nothing is revealed about him other than the fact that he’s a writer and carries a flame for Tilde, though he once may have treated her badly. He is not an active figure, but is relegated to a passive role. Even his detection skills are limited and he relies on others to share information. It is the film’s three women — Virna Lisi (Queen Margot) as Tilde, Valentina Cortese (The Girl Who Knew Too Much) as the hotel owner’s daughter Irma, and Pia Lindstrom (daughter of Ingrid Bergman) as the wealthy new wife of the hotel owner’s son — who linger in the imagination and, whether living or dead, exist as spectral presences throughout the narrative. Like Citizen Kane or Hiroshima mon amour, The Possessed is essentially a study of identity, a somewhat failed attempt to uncover a person’s past. This sense of mystery and foreboding is certainly common in giallo films, where characters are revealed to have hidden motives, dark secrets, and traumatic pasts. 

Another element in common with giallo films is the theme of sexual perversion. Many rely on the conceit that the deranged killer murders because of some violent perversion. Here — SPOILER ALERT — it is revealed that the kindly hotel owner, Enrico (Salvo Randone of My Dear Killer), had been having an affair with Tilde, as had his adult son, Mario (Philippe Leroy of The Frightened Woman). When she became pregnant and insisted that one of them marry her, Mario is ashamed at the thought of continuing to share her with his father. This sense of contamination has spread to the other two women — Mario’s sister and his new wife — and, like the gods righting the world of pollution in a Greek tragedy, the women are sacrificed.

The disorienting sense of isolation — which I’ve seen compared loosely to the art house films of Antonioni — is countered with a claustrophobic paranoia. Eyes are everywhere and just as Bernard watches and judges the townspeople, they seem to be constantly watching him, waiting for him to uncover their collection secret. Though not everyone was in on Tilde’s murder, many conspired to make it seem like a simple suicide. There is also the constant sense that things are happening out of sight — even just off camera — that adds to the rapidly building sense of unease.

One of the best things about The Possessed is the black-and-white cinematography from Leonida Barboni (Divorce Italian Style) with some camera work from regular Fulci collaborator Sergio Salvati. Barboni’s camera softly fixates on Virna Lisi and Valentina Cortese, as well as the foreboding lake, and beautiful snow-covered cemetery. He uses some kind of filter that gives the light sources a hazy, mirage-like flavor, contrasted with deep blacks where detail — and misdeeds — fades away.

The Possessed will be of interest only to giallo fanatics, or those who like their thrillers heavy on mood and light on gore. Art house fans may also find a lot to like here, and it certainly bridges the distance between the two. As far as I can tell this has never been released on DVD, though bootlegs have been making the rounds for years. It’s certainly worth tracking down, though I am predisposed to love atmospheric, oneiric mysteries with beautiful cinematography and a dose of sleaze.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Giallo Films

"The impulse had become irresistible. There was only one answer to the fury that tortured him. And so he committed his first act of murder. He had broken the most deep-rooted taboo, and found not guilt, not anxiety or fear, but freedom. Any humiliation which stood in his way could be swept aside by the simple act of annihilation: Murder." --Tenebre (1982)

The most famous and enduring type of horror cinema to come out of Italy is undoubtedly the giallo film. Meaning “yellow” in Italian, the giallo was inspired by mass-produced pulp novels that often had yellow covers. A blend of Agatha Christie and Edgar Wallace-style mysteries, Hitchcockian psychosexual thrillers, the French fantastique, and more, giallo films began in 1963 with director Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much and developed a set of fairly rigid characteristics by his next, more fully developed giallo, Blood and Black Lace (1964). 

In addition to the central plot of a murder mystery, giallo films (or gialli, the correct plural form) are highly stylized, full of exploitative nudity, blood, memorable soundtracks, and operatic levels of violence. There is typically a killer wearing a black raincoat and black leather gloves while he murders beautiful women, often models. The detectives are sometimes police officers, but are generally ordinary citizens. These protagonists are typically foreigners visiting Italy.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, I’m going to take a look at a wide range of giallo films from their genesis in the mid ‘60s to their slow death in the late ‘80s. I’ve organized them chronologically and then by director when I think it’s appropriate to mention someone independently, as there are a number of giallo auteurs. 

Of course, the man to begin it all was Mario Bava, the maestro of the macabre. Bava helped kick off Italian horror cinema in the ‘50s (alongside his mentor, director Riccardo Freda), and though he explored numerous genres, he is primarily remembered for his horror films. I’ve already done an extensive series on them, so I won’t be reviewing any here, but he made the first Hitchcockian proto-giallo, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), the first bona fide giallo, Blood and Black Lace (1964), and some of the first films to play with and subvert the giallo formula, such as Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1969), Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970), and Bay of Blood (1971), which is considered the first slasher film.

On a final note, I’ve included both the common American title and the original Italian title, as many of these films go by multiple names and it can be quite confusing where some of the more obscure entries are concerned.

There were only a handful of giallo films that emerged in the '60s after Bava's Blood and Black Lace, and those that do exist are relatively difficult to track down (particularly if you want English subtitles). Here a few notable early entries. While some are certainly more unusual than the cookie-cutter mold that was to emerge in the mid-‘70s, they obviously helped shape the genre.
The Possessed aka La donna del lago (Luigi Bazzoni, 1965) – A visitor arrives in a small village searching for a woman, only to be told that she has committed suicide.
Deadly Sweet aka Col cuore in gola (Tinto Brass, 1967) – Italian erotic auteur Tinto Brass tried his hand at the giallo with this incredibly stylish effort about a man who falls for a woman who may have committed murder.
Death Laid an Egg aka La morte ha fatto l’uovo (Giulio Questi, 1968) – This underrated effort concerns a love triangle at a chicken farm that erupts into violence.
A Quiet Place in the Country aka Un tranquillo posto di campagna (Elio Petri, 1968) – Spouses Franco Nero and Vanessa Redgrave star in this rare rural example about art and madness.
Naked You Die aka Nude… si muore (Antonio Margheriti, 1968) – Veteran horror director Margheriti made this early giallo with a script from Mario Bava about a killer in a girls’ school.
The Frightened Woman aka Femino ridens (Piero Schivazappa, 1969) – This unusual film concerns the developing relationship between a wealthy sadist and the woman he kidnaps.

Lucio Fulci:
The Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci, is primarily known for supernatural flesh-rippers like Zombi and City of the Living Dead, though he did also direct a few excellent giallo film, as well as some later twists on the genre.
One on Top of the Other aka Una sull’altra (Lucio Fulci, 1969) – A doctor’s wife is murdered and he’s the main suspect, until clues begin to suggest that she isn’t dead after all.
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin aka Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (Lucio Fulci, 1971) – A woman has a dream about her promiscuous neighbor’s death, but when the woman turns up murdered, her life takes a strange turn.
Don’t Torture a Duckling aka Non si sevizia un paperino (Lucio Fulci, 1972) – When boys are found dead in a rural village, a reporter and a young woman try to find the killer.
The Psychic aka Sette note in nero (Lucio Fulci, 1977) – A woman has a strange vision about another woman’s murder. The police are reluctant to believe her, until a body is found walled up in her own home.
The New York Ripper aka Lo squartatore di New York (Lucio Fulci, 1982) – In one of the most brutal, misogynistic envisions of the giallo, vicious killings begin in New York, but the only evidence is a that the murderer quacks like a duck.

Umberto Lenzi:
One of the giallo genre’s most prolific directors, Lenzi dabbled in many horror and exploitation genres, and made some of the most underrated gialli. While most giallo films are set in urban environments, many of Lenzi’s take place in the Italian countryside.
Paranoia aka Orgasmo (Umberto Lenzi, 1969) – This giallo is one of the first of several to star Carroll Baker and concerns a wealthy American widow who befriends some young Italians that may be up to no good. 
So Sweet... So Perverse aka Cosi dolce… cosi perversa (Umberto Lenzi, 1969) -- Carroll Baker returns here in this tale of a love triangle between a woman, her husband, and his mistress, gone wrong.
A Quiet Place to Kill aka Paranoia (Umberto Lenzi, 1970) – Carroll Baker is back again for the story of a woman who is invited to her ex-husband’s country estate by his new wife, who has murder on her mind.
An Ideal Place to Kill aka Un posto ideale per uccidere (Umberto Lenzi, 1971) – A young couple stranded in the Italian countryside find their way to the home of a wealthy officer’s wife, but things aren’t quite as they seem.
Knife of Ice aka Il coltello di ghiaccio (Umberto Lenzi, 1972) – A woman struck mute as a teenager when she witnessed the deaths of her parents is traumatized again when a serial killer stalks the countryside.
Seven Bloodstained Orchids aka Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso (Umberto Lenzi, 1972) – Probably Lenzi’s most famous giallo, this concerns the “Half Moon Killer,” a murderer targeting women with a mysterious connection.
Spasmo (Umberto Lenzi, 1974) – A couple walking on the beach find the body of woman, though she turns out to be alive and introduces some strange events to their lives.
Eyeball aka Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro (Umberto Lenzi, 1975) – Lenzi’s last giallo concerns a red-caped killer gouging out the eyes of tourists on a bus.

Dario Argento:
Indisputably the most famous Italian horror director, Argento built upon Bava’s formula and made some of the most popular giallo classics, as well as two supernatural riffs on the giallo – Suspiria and Inferno – that I’m including here even though they aren’t strictly giallo films.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage aka L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (Dario Argento, 1970) – A writer visiting Italy witnesses a woman’s attempted murder at an art gallery and is then stalked by her would-be killer.
The Cat o’ Nine Tails aka Il gato a nove code (Dario Argento, 1971) – A blind journalist and newspaper reporter team up to try to solve a series of murders.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet aka 4 mosche di velluto grigio (Dario Argento, 1971) – A musician is tormented by an unseen killer possibly getting revenge for an accidental death. 
Deep Red aka Profondo rosso (Argento, 1975) – A musician witnesses the murder of a psychic and is drawn into catching the killer with the help of a journalist.
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) – An American dancer arrives at a German school for ballet only to find murder and witchcraft.
Inferno (Dario Argento, 1980) – In the sequel to Suspiria, a brother and sister continue to investigate a coven of witches.
Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1982) – An American murder mystery novelist visiting Rome finds that a killer is copying scenes from his book on real-life victims.
Phenomena (Dario Argento, 1985) – A young girl who can communicate telepathically with insects arrives at a girls school that also happens to be home to a murderer.
Opera (Dario Argento, 1987) – After an understudy is called to play the lead in Verdi’s Macbeth, a psychopathic fan ties her up and makes her watch him kill.

Riccardo Freda:
This underrated director was a mentor to Mario Bava and made the very first Italian horror film, I, Vampiri (1957), which spawned a whole genre of Gothic horror movies. His scant giallo output deserves a mention here:
The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire aka L'iguana dalla lingua di fuoco (Riccardo Freda, 1971) -- In Dublin, a young woman's body is found in the trunk of a local ambassador, sparking a difficult police investigation as the bodies pile up.
Murder Obsession aka Follia omicida (Riccardo Freda, 1981) -- An actor returns to his family mansion in the country to shoot a movie with some of his friends, but they begin to drop dead and he admits that as a child, he abruptly killed his father.

These early years in the ‘70s were the most prolific and rewarding period for the giallo film. I’ve kept this section to around 25 films, but there are far, far more.
In the Folds of the Flesh aka Nelle pieghe della carne (Sergio Bergonzelli, 1970) – The guests of an estate are killed off one by one, possibly connected to some horror from the past.
Weekend Murders aka Concerto per pistola solista (Michele Lupo, 1970) – When a wealthy man dies, his relatives are horrified to learn they aren’t inheriting any of his money – except one young woman – and violence is brewing.
Death Occurred Last Night aka La morte risale a ieri sera (Duccio Tessari, 1970) – A disabled young woman is killed, setting in motion a hunt for her murderer.
Forbidden Photos of a Lady above Suspicion aka Le foto proibite di una signora per bene (Luciano Ercoli, 1970) -- A bored young housewife is stalked by a blackmailer who tells her that her husband is a killer.
The Bloodstained Butterfly aka Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate (Duccio Tessari, 1971) – A man is convicted for killing a girl in a park, but the murders continue.
The Fifth Cord aka Giornata nera per l’ariete (Luigi Bazzoni, 1971) – Franco Nero stars in this film about a troubled journalist forced to hunt down a killer when he is made a suspect.
The Red Headed Corpse aka La rossa dalla pelle che scotta (Renzo Russo, 1971) – Farley Granger stars in this surreal effort about a troubled artist who accidentally brings one of his creations to life.
The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave aka La notte che Evelyn usci dalla tomba (Emilio Miraglia, 1971) – After the death of his beautiful wife, a neurotic aristocrat loses his mind and begins to torture and kill women who resemble her.
Black Belly of the Tarantula aka La tarantola dal ventre nero (Paolo Cavara, 1971) – Giancarlo Giannini stars as an inspector who must catch a horrifying murderer killing women by paralyzing them and ripping their stomachs open.
Slaughter Hotel aka La bestia uccide a sangue freddo (Fernando Di Leo, 1971) – Klaus Kinski stars in this film where a masked killer begins slaughtering people in a hospital for disturbed wealthy women.
Cold Eyes of Fear aka Gli occhi freddi della paura (Enzo G. Castellari, 1971) – A lawyer and the prostitute he brought home for the evening are surprised by a gunman in this blend of giallo and home invasion thriller.
Short Night of the Glass Dolls aka La corta notte delle bambole di vetro (Aldo Lado, 1971) – An American journalist visiting Italy searches for his girlfriend after her sudden disappearance.
Death Walks on High Heels aka La morte cammina con i tacchi alti (Luciano Ercoli, 1971) – After a jewel thief is murdered, his daughter becomes the killer’s new target.
Death Walks At Midnight aka La morte accarezza a mezzanotte (Luciano Ercoli, 1972) – Ercoli’s follow up concerns a model who has a vision of a woman’s death while on an experimental drug, and soon the killer begins stalking her.
A White Dress for Marialé aka Un bianco vestito per Marialé (Romano Scavolini, 1972) – This underrated giallo follows a disturbed woman who invites her friends for a costume party at the family castle with disastrous results.
Who Saw Her Die? aka Chi l’ha vista morire (Aldo Lado, 1972) – A young girl is murdered and her estranged parents team up in Venice to find her killer.
The Killer is on the Phone aka L’assassino… è al telefono (Alberto de Martino, 1972) – Telly Savalas stars in this film about a woman stalked by her husband’s killer.
Naked Girl Killed in the Park aka Ragazza tutta nuda assassinata nel parco (Alfonso Brescia, 1972) – This luridly titled film is concerned with a family inheritance and the murder and mayhem that follows.
Red Queen Kills Seven Times aka La dama rossa uccide sette volte (Emilio Miraglia, 1972) – After two sisters inherit a castle, a mysterious woman in a red cloak begins murdering their friends.
What Have You Done to Solange? aka Cosa avete fatto a Solange? (Massimo Dallamano, 1972) – A teacher having an affair with one of his students at an all-girls school witnesses a murder and becomes the chief suspect when other girls are killed.
My Dear Killer aka Mio caro assassino (Tonini Valerii, 1972) – Giallo staple George Hilton stars as an inspector drawn into a case of murder and kidnapping.
French Sex Murders aka Casa d’appuntamento (Ferdinando Merighi, 1972) – After prostitute is murdered, her killer is determined to wipe out any witnesses.
The Case of the Bloody Iris aka Perche quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer (Giuliano Carnimeo, 1972) – A model moves into a swanky apartment where the previous tenant was murdered and soon finds herself stalked by the killer.
Delirium aka Delirio caldo (Renato Polselli, 1972) – A doctor becomes the main suspect in a string of murders in this completely insane film.
So Sweet, So Dead aka Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile (Roberto Bianchi Montero, 1972) – A murderer begins dispatching unfaithful wives in this film starring Farley Granger.
Amuck aka Alla ricerca del piacere (Silvio Amadio 1972) -- A possibly unstable writer's new secretary is trying to find her missing friend.
Death Smiles on a Murderer aka La morte ha sorriso all’assassino (Joe D’Amato, 1973) – Klaus Kinski stars in this D’Amato film about a murderer who uses an ancient Incan magical formula to kill.
Seven Dead in the Cat's Eye aka La morte negli occhi del gatto (Antonio Margheriti, 1973) – The residents of a Scottish castle are allegedly cursed by a killer cat and they are the first to be suspected when bodies turn up around the countryside.

Perhaps lesser known than Fulci, Argento, or Bava, director Sergio Martino made a number of Italian action, horror, and exploitation films, including some excellent giallo films with the most knockout titles.
The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh aka Blade of the Ripper aka Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh (Sergio Martino, 1971) – An ambassador’s wife is targeted by a killer and she thinks her complicated love life may be to blame.
The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail aka La coda dello scorpione (Sergio Martino, 1971) – When a millionaire unexpectedly dies, an investigator is hired to trail the man’s wife and explore the possibility that he was murdered.
Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key aka Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave (Sergio Martino, 1972) – In this elaborate, Gothic-fueled giallo, a depraved writing living in a country estate considers killing his wife. 
All the Colors of the Dark aka Tutti i colori del buio (Sergio Martino, 1972) – An increasingly paranoid woman stumbles into the arms of a satanic cult.
Torso aka I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale (Sergio Martino, 1973) – College students are being killed, so a group of friends decide to spend a quiet weekend away from it all in the country. Unfortunately, the murderer decides to follow them…

This mid-period includes some of the most unusual, oneiric entries in the genre, many of which are underrated must-sees.
Puzzle aka L’uomo senza memoria (Duccio Tessari, 1974) – Penned by giallo master Ernesto Gastaldi, this film follows a man with amnesia plunged into a life of crime and mystery.
The Perfume of the Lady in Black aka Il profump della signora in nero (Francesco Barilli, 1974) – In this haunting film, a woman begins to have troubling hallucinations connected to her mother’s suicide.
What Have They Done to Your Daughters? aka La polizia chiede aiuto (Massimo Dallamano, 1974) – After a young girl’s suicide, the police uncover a prostitution ring involving underage girls.
Footprints on the Moon aka Le orme (Luigi Bazzoni, 1975) – A woman has odd dreams about an astronaunt and arrives at a small town where the residents seem to know her.
Autopsy aka Macchie solare (Armando Crispino, 1975) – A pathology student tries to get to the bottom of a string of suicides, which may have a sinister connection.
Strip Nude for Your Killer aka Nude per l’assassino (Andrea Bianchi, 1975) – After a botched abortion, a model dies and someone begins murdering everyone involved.
The Killer Must Kill Again aka L'assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora (Luigi Cozzi, 1975) — A man has wife murdered, but the car gets stolen along with the body.
House With the Laughing Windows aka La casa dalle finestre che ridono (Pupi Avati, 1976) — An art restorer is called to a small, rural village haunted by the memory of a deranged painter.

Giallo film production was beginning to die down during this period, but there are still a few interesting efforts.
Pensione Paura (Francesco Barilli, 1977) — After a hotel owner dies, her daughter is left to the mercy of the perverse guests, until a mysterious killer intervenes.
Pyjama Girl Case aka La ragazza dal pigiama giallo (Flavio Mogherini, 1977) — Ray Milland stars in this giallo about a waitress who may be involved in a murder plot.
Bloodstained Shadow aka Solamente nero (Antonio Bido, 1978) — Murders in a small town resume when a man returns to his childhood home.
Sister Of Ursula aka La sorella di Ursula (Enzo Milioni, 1978) — Two sisters arrive at a seaside hotel just as a murderer begins targeting local women.
Rings of Fear aka Enigma rosso (Alberto Negrin, 1978) — Three teenage girls may be culpable in the murder of some of their friends.
Giallo a Venezia (Mario Landi, 1979) — After a couple is founded murdered near a Venice canal during tourist season, an inspector learns that they played a series of perverse sex games that may have led to their deaths,

Giallo films all but died out in the ‘80s, during the last gasp of Italian horror. Some of these films, such as Demons, don’t qualify in the giallo genre, but there are a few interesting ‘80s mentions.
Macabre aka Macabro (Lamberto Bava, 1980) — After the death of her lover, a traumatized woman becomes completely insane.
A Blade in the Dark aka La casa con la scala nel buio (Lamberto Bava, 1983) — A composer writing the score to a horror film is stalked by a killer.
Delirium aka Le foto di Gioia (Lamberto Bava, 1987) — A former prostitute running a men’s magazine has some of her models murdered by an obsessive admirer.
Stage Fright: Aquarius aka Deliria (Michele Soavi, 1987) — An acting troupe rehearsing for a musical about a serial killer finds themselves the target of said killer when he escapes from a mental hospital.

Sharpen your straight razor, slip on a pair of black leather gloves, decorate your house with unbearable primary-colored lights, and -- most of all -- open up that bottle of J&B whisky and watch along with me.