Sunday, June 14, 2015

THE KILLER MUST KILL AGAIN aka L’ASSASSINO È COSTRETTO AD UCCIDERE ANCORA

Luigi Cozzi, 1975
Starring: George Hilton, Antoine Saint-John, Femi Benussi, Cristina Galbó, Eduardo Fajardo

Giorgio and his wife Nora don’t get along — Giorgio is more interested in his mistress — but he is panicked by her threats of divorce because he’s reliant on her fortune. When he’s out late one night, he happens upon a murderer disposing of a body and makes a deal with the man that he will keep his mouth shut… if he disposes of Giorgio’s wife while Giorgio is out establishing an airtight alibi. Everything goes as planned until a joyriding teenage couple steal the killer’s car when their own runs out of gas. He is forced to chase them to the countryside, hoping to reclaim and hide the body before anyone notices.

For my money, The Killer Must Kill Again is director Luigi Cozzi’s best film, though his roots spread throughout Italian horror. He directed Starcrash (1978) and Contamination (1980), as well as episodes of Dario Argento’s short-lived TV show, Door into Darkness, and the documentary Dario Argento: Master of Horror (1991). He wrote or co-wrote Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971) and The Five Days of Milan (1973), as well as several of his own films and Lamberto Bava’s Devil Fish (1984). While many of these are schlocky cult efforts, particularly the films directed by Cozzi, The Killer Must Kill Again has some excellent suspense sequences and falls somewhere between giallo, exploitation, and crime film.

The early scenes where Nora is killed are quite effective, even if it is completely implausible that Giorgio would just happen to stumble across a murderer dumping a body and then decide to blackmail the killer into taking care of his own “problem.” Blackmail, spousal murder, and double-crosses are a dime a dozen in giallo films, but The Killer Must Kill Again takes things in something of a new direction when the body, hidden in the trunk of a car, wanders off with some teenagers who have casually stolen it. Laura, a teenage virgin, is going joyriding with her boyfriend to the beach, where it is implied that she’s agreed to have sex with him for the first time. The seaside setting is attractive and gloomy, though the characters are either all unlikable or under-developed.

Laura — played by lovely Spanish horror and giallo regular Cristina Galbo (La residencia, What Have You Done to Solange?) — comes close to being a genuine protagonist, but the plot lags and she is never fully developed. It’s easy to feel sorry for her, as her boyfriend (Alessio Orano of Lisa and the Devil) leaves her alone in an abandoned beach house to get some snacks and picks up a stray blonde along the way. The two soon pull over to have sex, leaving Laura to the eerie-looking, skull-faced killer (Michel Antoine of The Beyond), who graphically rapes her in a nauseating, oddly intimate scene, which is contrasted uncomfortably with her boyfriend and the blonde having sex in a car. 

Several of the later period giallo films dispense with the standard “amateur detective tries to solve a mystery and a find a killer leaving behind a string of bodies” plot, and this is part of what makes The Killer Must Kill Again so successful. It is obvious that the titular killer must catch up with the teens at some point and the film inexorable draws towards that point. The effectiveness of the film’s opening and concluding scenes is almost enough to make up for the dull mid-section. The whole thing is essentially saved by Michel Antoine, who gives a stoic, menacing, and charismatic performance as the killer and I found myself rooting for him. Handsome, charming giallo star George Hilton (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale) is sadly underused, though he’s great in his few scenes and — to no one’s surprise — gets his just desserts at the end of the film. 

Available on DVD from the great Mondo Macabro, The Killer Must Kill Again comes highly recommended. The blend of exploitation elements, sexual violence, and some blatant misogyny may be off-putting to some viewers, but — aside from the rape scene — it’s not really much worse than your average giallo film. It’s worth watching for Michel Antoine’s performance alone. His character is one of giallo’s more underrated villains, sort of a sleazy, despicable evolution of the deadpan, nihilistic assassin in film noir classic This Gun for Hire. And it has some incredible dialogue that must be heard to be believed, like "Aren't you bored of being a virgin?"

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