Sunday, January 30, 2011

GIALLO SUNDAY: The Killer Must Kill Again

Pop quiz.

Question 1: you’re a businessman with a cashflow problem, a rich wife who’s pissed off at you because of your philanderings and a business deal that’s about to go south. Do you:

(a) start seriously making it up to your wife in the hope that she’ll bail you out;

(b) file for bankruptcy and get realistic about the fact that divorcing proceedings are on the horizon;

(c) commit suicide and rid the world of your loathsome presence because you’re basically an incredibly shitty human being; or

(d) have a blazing row with your wife, storm out, and drive to a pay phone near the docks so that you can ring your mistress?

Question 2: while at the docks, you witness a psychotic-looking individual pushing a car containing a dead woman into the water. Do you:

(a) hide;

(b) sprint for your car and get the fuck out of there at top speed;

(c) redial and this time ask to be put through to the police;

(d) approach the gentleman in question and offer your silence re: his corpse-disposal activities in return for killing your wife?

If you answered (d) to either of these questions, you have just demonstrated a mindset akin to that of Giorgio Mainardi (George Hamilton), the cold bastard who sets the events of Luigi Cozzi’s ‘The Killer Must Kill Again’ in motion, and you might want to consider logging off and contacting a mental health professional.

The anonymous killer (Michel Antoine) – a gaunt, gimlet-eyed and utterly emotionless psychopath who could probably kill with his thousand-yard stare , never mind his recourse to strangulation and stabbing – goes along with Maindardi’s request, mainly owing to (a) Mainardi nicking his monogrammed (and therefore identifiable) lighter and (b) Mainardi offering twenty thousand on top of the lighter’s return. The plan goes swimmingly until the killer’s Mercedes – a car as distinctive as his lighter – is nicked by stud muffin Luca (Alessio Orano) in an attempt to impress his hoity-toity girlfriend Laura (Cristina Galbo).

Luca laughs off the fact that he’s just committed grand theft auto, something he wouldn’t be laughing about if he was aware that Mrs Mainardi’s lifeless body was in the trunk. In order to facilitate the removal of said cadaver – as well as to teach these wise-ass kids a lesson (although a murderer getting on his moral high horse about having his car stolen strikes me as a tad hypocritical) – our skull-faced killer goes off in hot pursuit. Something he achieves by stealing a car himself. Hmmm, definite tendencies to hypocrisy here.

Meanwhile, the police turn up at Mainardi’s hideously decorated apartment, led by a tenacious inspector (Eduardo Fajardo) who smells a rat from the off.

All this within the first twenty-five minutes. Excellent, I was thinking, rubbing my hands, the stage is set for a tense game of cat-and-mouse as the killer tracks down Luca and Laura, while Mainardi and the detective dance a verbal pas de deux as the investigation uncovers more inconsistencies and the questions get thornier .Good old-fashioned Italian exploitation shot through with Hitchcockian tension. Yeah, baby!

And there’s no doubt that Cozzi takes his pointers from Hitch. The business with the lighter recalls ‘Strangers on a Train’, as does the almost homoerotic undercurrent between Mainardi and the killer. Luca and Laura’s journey to the coast in the stolen car – specifically in the attention they invite from a suspicious cop – recalls Marion Crane’s flight with the purloined money in ‘Psycho’. The abandoned beachside property Luca is heading for, and at which much of the nasty final act takes place, is a stand in for the Bates Motel, the windmill in ‘Foreign Correspondent’ or the remote farmhouse in ‘Torn Curtain’.

Unfortunately, Cozzi doesn’t pull off his set-pieces with the same brilliance as Sir Alfred (how many directors could?) and a long middle section with the killer following Luca and Laura drains of tension the longer it goes on. The cuts back to Mainardi vs the inspector become increasingly less frequent and the mechanics of the web of deceit Mainardi tries to weave to satisfy his interrogator’s questions is quickly dispensed with.

That Luca and Laura are a fairly unlikeable couple who spend most of their time bickering adds to the tedium, while the genuine bits of suspense or flashes of violence are misogynistic to the hilt. Perhaps more so than the norm even for such a notoriously phallocentric subgenre as the giallo. Cozzi’s harshest directorial decision is to intercut a sleazily eroticized rape scene with a graphic (consensual) sex scene, scoring the whole grubby sequence to an ‘Elvira Madigan’-style tinkling piano theme.

Overall, women are treated like shit in this film, starting with the anonymous murder victim whose broken body is tossed in the back of a car which in turn is unceremoniously consigned to the deep. Mainardi’s contempt for his wife extends to her continued existence on the planet. Luca compels Laura to expose her breasts to distract an attendant during a gas station robbery. The ditzy blonde (Femi Benussi) whom Luca picks up after an argument with Laura is written in purely to up the sex and violence quota.

If you can get over that – and the draggy middle section – ‘The Killer Must Kill’ again is a decent thriller with good turns from Hilton and, particularly, Antoine. His skeletal visage and unblinking intensity are unforgettable, as much an avatar of the cold and unmerciful workings of fate as Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in ‘No Country for Old Men’.


A.D. said...

Nice! I haven't seen this in a long time but it left a pretty lasting impression on me. I sought this one out simply because it stars Cristina Galbo (LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?, etc.), so I went into it with zero expectations and was pretty impressed with the overall style. I understand your minor gripes with it, though. Great review as always!

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks, Aaron. You're right about the style: Cozzi makes the film look good and he makes the most of the isolated house at the coast. The shots of the killer implacably following the kids in the stolen Merc, unblinking as he stares through the windscreen into the night, are very effective.