Sunday, 14 November 2010

Murder En "Sweet"

So Sweet So Dead 1972 Italy
Directed by
Roberto Bianchi Montero
Camera Obscura
DVD Region 2

Warning! Parting the words has such sweet, sweet spoilers.

The sounds of passion as a camera pans slowly around a well lit room, drinking in every detail of the set as an actor and actress make spectacular love off shot. You know pretty soon they’ll be on shot and in your face and a big bosomed young lady will surely be screaming her wild surrender enthusiastically into the camera as she is expertly handled by some curly haired Italian... but for a few seconds you are invited to take in the small details of the room which will lend you insight into the lives of the characters... and then the camera lingers lovingly on a bottle of J & B whisky and you realise... you must be watching a giallo!

It was with great pleasure but great tiredness that I sat down to watch Austrian DVD Company Camera Obscura’s release of “Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile” aka So Sweet, So Dead. It’s a fairly rare release (until the next label along gets the bright idea to release it) in that it’s a limited edition of only 2000 copies and is quite pricey - £28 at Camden Film Fair, which is about £20 more than I like to pay for new DVDs but the particular stall holder I got it from is something of a knowledgable chap when it comes to Italian Giallo (and Italian Crime movies and Mexican, Spanish and Brazilian exploitation) so for once I let myself be persuaded by his eloquent sales pitch and was so glad I did now.

The film stars Farley Granger (Rope, Strangers On A Train) as a policeman assigned to the case of tracking down a serial killer... and it really is the epitome of the standard giallo serial killer - trench coat, mask, trilby, black gloves and a sharp, pointy knife... who describes himself as a “moral avenger” and is gorily killing women who are “cheating” on their husbands. For me, though, the more interesting cast presence (and part of the factor that cemented my decision to make the purchase) is that of the two remarkable ladies Sylvia Koscina (Hercules, Lisa and the Devil/House of Exorcism) and Susan Scott (aka Nieves Navarro - The Big Gundown, Death Walks In High Heels, Death Walks At Midnight, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion etc) who are thrown into the mix.

Asides from some nice cardboardy packaging, the first thing that strikes you about the DVD is the slowly shifting psychedelic menus which are great shots of various naked women (depending on which menu you are looking at) in highly posterised colours which slowly melt and shift in the colour range and which I would be quite happy watching all night, much as I would if I could keep my tranquil meditation in a room with a large lava lamp. Seriously, these menus look like they’re straight out of The Porpoise Song from The Monkee’s Head and so I was already happy with this product before I’d even started the film.

And then, when I did finally get to the film after fixing it to watch it in Italian with English subtitles, I could tell right away I was in typical giallo territory as the camera lingers over the corpse of a naked woman who has been bloodily sliced in an aesthetically conscious manner. We then get on to the title sequence with a typical giallo score composed by someone who might make Argento fans’ ears prick up in listening appreciation... Giorgio Gaslini. Shrewd eared listeners may also realise that large chunks of the score feature Morricone’s favoured singer Edda Del ‘ Orso doing her usual, very beautiful wordless vocals in seductive accompaniment to Gaslini’s light, euro-jazz explorations.

And of course, being as we’re stuck in a giallo, every shot and camera movement and edit is carefully planned and conceived to give the audience the absolutely most astonishing and poetic visuals that they are able to give. One murder, for instance, takes place on a train and it’s entirely lit in blue. Another has a room lit with one colour with the couches jumping out in a bright red contrast as the female victim temporarily escapes the killer. As she is initially stabbed once she tries to get away from the killer by running away along a moonlit beach in a gorgeous slow motion shot which calls to mind the similarly engaging shot of Zhora being shot and breaking through the windows in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Seriously people, if you’ve never watched gialli before and you’re into aesthetically pleasing camera set ups, you should really think about checking some of these movies out (just don’t expect great performances from the actors).

The transfer by Camera Obscure, aside from two restored sequences which weren’t available on the negative and so are in a very slight state of deterioration, is absolutely clear and crisp and sharp and vibrant and everything you’d want your giallo experience to be like. Actually, in some ways, perhaps it’s a little too crisp and sharp because, frankly, the detail revealed gives the game away a bit. It’s rare that a giallo doesn’t take me by surprise because they always have so many red herring characters who could easily turn out to be the murderer. I had two suspects with one guy being the favourite, until I realised that although the murder scenes were deliberately darkly lit, the brilliance of the transfer meant that you could actually work out from the face under the stocking mask who the killer actually is from about a third of the way in... he was my second choice so I was kinda pleased in some ways. I did have a third suspect for a few seconds before realising in these things that if a dead corpse blinks it's probably not an indication of murderous guilt... just unfortunate circumstance from a young woman who didn't know she was still in the shot.

Of course you know in a giallo that, if the main protagonist trying to solve the crimes either has a girlfriend or is married (as he is in this case) then she is going to be in danger from the killer at some point in the film. Since the killer here is only murdering wives who are having affairs, it therefore stands to reason that the good Inspector Capuana’ wife is cheating on him. This he finds out near the end and after he rushes to save her you realise he is generally hurt by her betrayal of him... and this is where the film get really interesting in its final few minutes. Instead of rescuing his wife from the killer, the detective watches from outside while the killer “stabs-up-his-wife-good”... then the Inspector shoots the killer dead... end of story.

All I can say about this one is “Wow! Great giallo! Definitely in my top 25 giallo list” somewhere. If you’re a fan of gialli and you can find any copies left of this one, you would be well advised to pick this one up. A beautiful film for beautifully deranged people. Miss it at your peril.

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