Monday, June 22, 2015

GIALLO A VENEZIA

Mario Landi, 1979
Starring: Leonora Fani, Gianni Dei, Jeff Blynn, Michele Renzullo

A murdered married couple — Fabio and Flavia — are discovered on the banks of a canal in Venice and Inspector Angelo De Paul is ordered to find the killer, and fast, because it’s smack in the middle of tourist season. He soon learns from a close female friend, Marzia, and Flavia’s old boyfriend that the couple were into cocaine, as well as some shocking sexual practices. It seems that Fabio forced his wife to submit to his perversions — everything from orgies and anal sex to whippings, rape, prostitution, cuckolding, and exhibitionism — and someone in their circle clearly wanted revenge. But Marzia reveals that a jealous former boyfriend is stalking her, widening the circle of perverse suspects.

Director Mario Landi’s (Patrick Still Lives) only giallo film, Giallo a Venezia, may be difficult to track down, but boy is it worth the search. It’s so delightfully sleazy, ranking somewhere beneath New York Ripper but above What Have You Done to Solange? (and Dallamano’s schoolgirls in peril trilogy in general). Let me summarize the entire film with one sentence: Lengthy soft porn flashback sequences (and by lengthy, I mean this takes up literally half the film) contrasted with shots of a a ridiculously coiffed and mustachioed but knowing detective who constantly eats hardboiled eggs… oh, and jarring moments of extreme violence.

The violence here is about on par with New York Ripper, in the sense that not just one, but two people are stabbed viciously and repeatedly in the crotch, and a man is shot and then set on fire. And if you thought Maria Angela Giordano had it rough in Burial Ground and Patrick Still Lives, here she has one of her legs sawn off. Her body is found crammed in her own refrigerator (the half-size so popular in ‘70s apartments) in a scene that directly rips off Short Night of the Glass Dolls, albeit less effectively. The ridiculous level of violence is contrasted with almost constant nudity — both male and female — and a wider variety of sex acts than arguably any giallo film. Most of them are carried out by the sweet and innocent-looking Leonara Fani (Pensione paura) and Gianni Dei (Patrick Still Lives), who are on screen for much of the film’s running time, despite the fact that it’s a mystery to solve their murder.

Giallo a Venezia really has the flimsiest excuse for a plot — the script constantly comes to a halt for relentlessly sex scenes — though I think it would have worked if it had been more cleverly written, like The Pyjama Girl Case, which is similarly tragic and sex-obsessed. The mystery essentially hinges on two elements. First, the Inspector can’t figure out why Flavia was drowned in the canal, but then pulled from the water and left on the banks. It is this unanswered question that propels the case forward, because them being murdered is apparently not enough. Later, what leads the detective to the truth is a pretty stupid plot reveal — an intrusive neighbor knew the location of two key witnesses all along.

Compared to a number of other giallo films set in Venice — such as Who Saw Her Die?, Don’t Look Now, and The Bloodstained Shadow — this is the seediest Venice has probably every looked. And I don’t mean just because of the sexual content. This is sort of drab and ugly as far as giallo films go and it lacks the hyper stylized elements of early classics like Blood and Black Lace, or the later era atmospheric, oneiric works like Footprints on the Moon or House with Laughing Windows. With that said, there are some likable performances, namely from the two leading ladies and Jeff Blynn (Cliffhanger), who looks like a strange combination of Hall and Oates. The Inspector’s second in command, Eolo Capritti of Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle’s Revenge and Dr. Jekyll Likes Them Hot, is sort of a poor man’s Italian Kojak. Though he’s really likable in Giallo a Venezia, I have a bizarre passion for Telly Savalas, who does appear in a number of giallo and Italian horror films (Death Smiles on a Murderer, Lisa and the Devil). In the beginning of the film, when Capritti is visible from the side only, I though for a second that Savalas was costarring and was nearly crushed when it turned out not to be him.

Giallo a Venezia is either going to be your new favorite movie or you will be completely horrified. It’s not available on DVD, but you can find it online with some digging or through this bootleg site. Really, the best I can do is compare it to New York Ripper, that paragon of filth and misanthropic violence. And unlike unlike basically any other giallo, sexy saxophone music incredulously plays for basically the entire film. If that doesn’t sell it, I don’t know what will.

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