Starring: Robert Hoffmann, Pilar Velázquez, Irina Demick, Adolfo Celi
A businessman is found dead in a House of Horrors ride in an amusement park in Madrid. Unsure if it is an accident or murder, insurance investigator Chris Buyer is put on the case – and his first move is to seduce the man’s adult daughter, Catherine. She is soon targeted by a man in the black leather coat and receives threatening phone calls. Deciding to lay low for a while, she takes Chris to her family’s rural mansion, where he meets her disturbed mother and licentious sister, Barbara. He has an affair with Barbara, who is found dead in the park in the following morning
Unlike some really out there giallo titles, like Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key or others that simply don’t make any sense, such as Cat o’ Nine Tails and The Killer is on the Phone, Naked Girl Killed in the Park is pretty direct about what the film has to offer. Director Alfonso Brescia churned out Italian B-movies across a wide variety of genres, but this was his first giallo. It utterly lacks the suspense, scares, gore, or atmosphere found in the genre’s classes, but it undeniably has a bit of charm. The opening sequence, where Catherine’s father dies in the amusement park, is lifted right out of John Boulting’s British noir, Brighton Rock, but the scene is still effective and has some fittingly creepy moments.
Naked Girl Killed in the Park’s real claim to fame is how thoroughly sleazy it is. The beautiful and often nude female cast essentially embodies a group of insane, horny, and vindictive women all trying to stab each other in the back. Giallo films often have unlikable characters, but Catherine and her family really milk this for all it’s worth, particularly her mother, who spends the first half of the film deliriously imagining that her husband is still alive. Like Paul Naschy film The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (made two years later in 1974), this Italian-Spanish coproduction forces the women to compete for the sexual attentions of an unlikable protagonist. Catherine’s sister is happy to seduce Chris at the earliest opportunity, luring him outside for a midnight tryst with the premise that she knows who killed her father. I’m not going to give away her mother’s behavior, but it’s certainly a sight to be seen and rivals the antics of Martha’s bereaved mother in Fassbinder’s Martha.
As Chris, Robert Hoffman is stuck playing a thoroughly unlikable protagonist – I’m not even sure I can call him that – and he fails to rise above some truly bland writing. He’s also a total asshole, delighted to find himself in the midst of so many crazy women. Though this begins as a more straightforward giallo with a central murder, a protagonist menaced by the killer, and plenty of suspects and red herrings, it becomes a strange family drama in the vein of The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll. This may not appeal those expecting a giallo film, but there is a bitter, cynical twist at the ending that I thought was a nice final touch.
I can’t really recommend Naked Girl Killed in the Park. There are some enjoyable moments, namely the licentiousness that goes on at the family estate and the opening death sequence in the carnival, which is the film’s finest. It also might be worth watching for a performance from Thunderball’s Adolfo Celi as a constantly bumbling inspector who pretty much never gets anything right and provides plenty of unintentional laughs. Afonsio Brescia doesn’t do anything breathtaking in the director’s chair and there are some truly awkward, clumsy scenes are awkward and clumsy. It’s not one of my favorite giallo films, but if you’d like to see it, it’s available on DVD in a real bargain basement edition from Desert Island Films.