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Giallo January



Movie posters for Giallo films

After burning myself out on 31 Days of Halloween viewings last October, I took a more relaxed approach to January Giallo, managing 11 films in total (although I did watch a few non-Gialli as well). Most were first-time watches, bringing my running tally of Giallo watches (as per my Letterboxd list) to 42 all up, with plenty more to discover.

 

Here are my thoughts on this year’s watches:

 

Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key

I kicked off with this twisted little number from director Sergio Martino who had an excellent run of Giallo in the early ‘70s, often starring the Queen of the genre, Edwige Fenech. This film doesn’t quite live up the amazing title, or Martino’s other Giallo for me but it’s still a twisting, disturbing watch. 4/5

 

The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh

Sergio Martino (again) directs Edwige Fenech (again) as Julie Wardh, who is being stalked and harassed by a man who may also be killing women around town and could be her Ex, Jean, a leering violent d-bag who likes to fuck on broken glass. Julie’s husband is a diplomat & hardly around so naturally she has an affair with the tanned lothario George Hilton who seems like a good dude but then again, who knows - men in these films are always extremely dodgy. Ward has a twisting plot, lots of kills, sleaze, badly dubbed actors, excellent score - all psych jazz & woozy soundscapes, sleaze, delirious dreams, blood & sleaze. 4.5/5

 

The Girl in Room 2A

A slightly lesser Giallo here, with a dormitory where young women seem to go missing. It does veer into some fun and creepy cult territory and is characteristically stylish but not an all-timer by any means. 2.5/5

 

No One Heard the Scream

This Spanish film is only tangentially a Giallo, but is still a fun ride. A woman sees her neighbour disposing of the body of his wife and is drawn into a strange relationship with the murderer. The Spanish giallo often adds a melodramatic flair to the mysteries and this is a good watch if you’re tired of the same old same old. 3/5

 

Too Beautiful to Die

The mid 1980s saw a new wave of Giallo that were preoccupied with very ‘80s concerns, namely fashion, with a slew of films centred around the fashion industry. This one was marketed as a sequel to Nothing Underneath, but they aren’t really related at all. A killer is offing models who all attended an ill-fated party. This is swimming in sleazy slasher vibes and is shot like an glitzy ‘80s music video. A ton of fun. 4/5

 

Arabella: Black Angel

More softcore porn than traditional Giallo (think Red Shoe Diaries) but it still has a couple of good twists. 3/5

 

The Perfume of the Lady in Black

I should probably give this a rewatch at some point as I was a bit tired when I watched this and given that it’s a slow-moving non-traditional giallo, struggled to hold my attention. But there is an interesting story here and Mimsy Farmer is great in the lead. 3/5

 

A Blade in the Dark

This ‘80s giallo from Lamberto Bava (Mario’s son) is loved by many, but I found it to be overlong and featured one of the worst / dullest lead characters in a while. A composer rents a house to work on his film score and is targeted by a killer who seems more interested in offing the various parade of women who show up at the house in endless succession. It has its moments but at 1 hour 48 minutes is far too long and repetitive to work for me. 3/5

 

Tenebre

The maestro Dario Argento came back from the supernatural two punch of Suspiria & Inferno with this sharp slice of 80’s giallo featuring an expat author in Rome caught up in a murder mystery (just like Bird With A Crystal Plumage), black-gloved hands wielding knives (& an axe) & of course, beautiful women being sliced up & smashing their heads through glass windows (a classic Argento fetish). The plot is a typically convoluted Giallo mystery with repressed violent memories, red herrings & a few twisted surprises in store & sits up there as one of Argento’s best.

5/5

 

Trauma

This was my first 90’s era Argento film and despite being overlong and slightly repetitive, I really dug it. I would argue it may be his most emotionally affecting film, given that it follows a young woman named Aura (Asia Argento) who suffers from anorexia and was based on her own sister Anna. The familial trauma Aura faces at the hands of her parents, particularly her mother (played by an unhinged Piper Laurie, adding another crazed mother role to her repertoire) is keenly felt and helps patch over the rather plodding murder mystery. Plus Brad Dourif shows up for about 5 minutes - just long enough to get spectacularly decapitated. 3.5/5

 

So Sweet, So Dead

Another plodding Gialli, albeit a very sleazy one. Here we follow a rather useless detective (Farley Granger) as he does very little to stop the black-gloved killer from offing the wives and mistresses of prominent figures. Most of the runtime is filled with said women in various states of undress before being offed by the killer. 3/5

 

My Dear Killer

This one was a high point to finish the month on. My Dear Killer approaches the giallo from the POV of the cop investigating the murders, here played by an intense George Hilton, refreshingly giving the lothario roles a rest for a minute. And he is a pretty damn good detective too, noticing clues that no one else does, such as that a presumed suicide by hanging was actually a murder made to look as such. The film also has a couple of all-time murder scenes, especially the opening of the film, whereby a man is decapitated (after being picked up and swung) by an excavator. Bravo! 4/5

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