*. The first thing you notice, or maybe the first thing you’re screamingly aware of (you’ll probably take note of the cheap but effective title credits), is that the killer isn’t wearing black gloves!
*. Gloves are a signature bit of wardrobe for a giallo killer, as they conceal gender. But here we see the killer’s hands and they’re obviously a man’s hands, and if we’re at all familiar with the genre then we wonder why this is being given away. And then we may wonder at the remarkable link belt the killer is wearing. Wait a second . . . is that a man? What man ever wore a belt like that?
*. But this is no ordinary man, and no ordinary giallo. The identity of the killer is revealed right away, and indeed we even get to hear the Italian Psycho’s voiceover telling us how insane he is.
*. That immediate revelation of the identity of the killer will be used again, by the way, at the beginning of A Bay of Blood. Except there the joke is that the killer himself is about to be killed.
*. Our killer, John Harrington, is an odd duck, being both a kept man (his wife has all the money) and a designer of bridal fashions. Played by Stephen Forsyth, he’s not gay but effeminate and given to crossdressing in his own creations. As well as wearing that ridiculous belt (as an accessory with various outfits), and a dazzling pair of pyjamas to eat his breakfast in. My eyes!
*. I call Harrington an Italian Psycho even though I think the movie is meant to be set in Paris and was mostly shot in Barcelona. But we never feel far outside Bava’s anchorage in Rome.
*. It’s interesting that they were going to change John Harrington’s first name to Oliver because it was felt that John was too pedestrian for such a figure. But his wife (Laura Betti) was stuck with Mildred?
*. That’s really not a very big hatchet, is it? For a splatter movie I expect to see a hand axe that can chop its way through a door.
*. But then this isn’t a particularly bloody film. It has a weird plot that’s heavily indebted to Poe, an author who is not the usual source for a giallo thriller. The script (or “screemplay,” as it’s referenced in the credits) is a clumsy affair. The whole character of Mildred, which much of the story revolves around, was a late addition because Betti approached Bava saying she wanted to be in one of his movies (she would reappear in A Bay of Blood). The idea that John has to kill in order to recover his memory of being a killer is nonsense, and will be easily figured out by the dullest members of the audience long before the reveal. There are none of the usual giallo red herrings. In fact, given what we already know about John, there seems little point in presenting this as a mystery at all.
*. If there’s much here that is different, there is also much that is old, and showing its age. I didn’t think the camerawork was effective at all, with the trademark Bava zooms in particular seeming tired and unnecessary. And what was with all the reverse zooms taking us back out of a close-up? These just made me wonder why he bothered zooming in in the first place.
*. I wonder if Bava’s thing for mannequins in films like this one and Blood and Black Lace was behind Frank Zito’s bizarre collection of the same in Maniac. I don’t remember Bava being mentioned in the DVD commentaries to that film, but I may have forgotten now.
*. While it has some points of interest, I wouldn’t call this inspired or essential Bava. Perhaps he just wanted to take a Spanish holiday. And from top to bottom I have to say that this is some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen in a Bava movie, which is no insignificant achievement. There are no sequences that stand out as being memorable, and the story is just a makeshift laundry line with nothing much to hang from it.