Tonino Valerii, 1972
Starring: George Hilton, Marilu Tolo, William Berger, Patty Shepard
Inspector Luca Peretti is called in after an insurance investigator is mysteriously decapitated by construction vehicle. But by the time he locates the truck driver, the man is found hanging in an apparent suicide. Peretti believes there is more to the story, but the more he investigates, the bodies begin to pile up. He finds his way to a cold case, a double murder involving the starvation of a kidnapped young girl and the death of her father, who was attempting to rescue her. The girl seems to be the crux of the mystery and he works effortlessly to find out who kidnapped her before another murder occurs.
My Dear Killer is a notable entry in the flood of giallo films released in 1971 and 1972, thanks in part to a stunning opening where a man is painstakingly decapitated by the jaws of a truck send to dig up a quarry. There is some pretty adventurous violence throughout, including a memorable murder where a woman is subjected to power tools and a marble statue. Unlike the typical giallo, this film frankly races through suspects and the killer manages to beat Peretti to many of them, increasing his sense of frustration and the film’s feeling of paranoia and conspiracy.
The film’s main weakness is that it essentially alternates between moments of stylized violence – and of course the killer wears black leather gloves – and some talk-heavy investigative scenes. There is a lot about this that feels like a police procedural and the inexplicable ending has Peretti gather up the suspects — a la Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or The Thin Man films — to reveal who is the killer by analytically going over the clues. Peretti is fortunately far from the useless, doltish cop found in most giallo films and is charming and at times funny, though Valerii regrettably spends a bit too much time on his complicated love life (which is in no way connected with the murders). This is one of Uruguayan star and giallo regular George Hilton’s earliest giallo roles, and one of the few giallo films he starred in not directed by Sergio Martino. He’s fantastic here, as always.
Like Who Saw Her Die?, Deep Red, and Don’t Torture a Duckling, My Dear Killer is one of the few giallo films focused on child murder. In this case, it’s a particularly horrifying story of a little girl from a wealthy family who was kidnapped and then left to starve to death. As in the somewhat later Deep Red, a child’s drawings wind up being a central clue. The film is full of a number of unsavory characters, including one or two men who are suggested to be pedophiles. The entire family is pretty unlikable and, in true giallo fashion, there’s plenty of sleaze to go around.
My Dear Killer is enjoyable, but far from perfect. Despite all the action, murders, and disreputable characters, the film suffers from some lagging pacing. All the dialogue-heavy scenes of investigation weigh things down and it was obviously difficult for Valerii to compare with the great and completely unexpected opening, though he keeps the identity of the secret a mystery for as long as possible, thanks in no small part to the many characters who seem inherently guilty. And if you’re expecting all the plot points to be resolved by the end of the film, you’re absolutely going to be disappointed.
This is maybe not the best place to start for giallo newbies, but it’s pleasantly entertaining and will be particularly enjoyable for fans of Italian poliziotteschi — police procedurals that are sort of action-packed precursors to modern crime dramas like Law & Order. Keep an ear out for an anxiety-inducing score from the always excellent Ennio Morricone, who churned out a dizzying number of giallo film scores during the early ‘70s. My Dear Killer is available on DVD and is a must-see for anyone who loves George Hilton as much as I do.