Widely acknowledged as one of the sleaziest and nastiest films of its type, producer Gabriele Crisanti and director Mario Landi's Giallo a Venezia / Thrilling in Venice lives up to its billing, conjuring up visions of the city as a place of decaying buildings and stinking canals rather than as the home of romantic idylls.
The police, led by the perpetually boiled-egg eating Inspector De Pol (Jeff Blynn, who looks like a Miami Vice prototype and now seems to run a restaurant in Italy) are called in when the bodies of a couple are found and the higher-ups become concerned that it might not be good for the city's image.
The cadavers soon prove the least of the tourist board's worries, however, as De Pol's convoluted investigations reveal a case involving drug addiction; sexual humiliation; blackmail and obsession and – worse - precipitate a chain of gruesome murders as the killer attempts to cover their tracks and tie up any loose ends.
A prostitute is repeatedly stabbed in the groin with a pair of scissors, while one acquaintance of the deceased couple is burned alive and another (Mariangela Giordano) has her leg sawn off.
Curiously, there is perhaps an affinity with the structure of the film and the similarly genre referencing La Ragazza dal pigiama giallo / The Pjyama Girl Case in this regard - even if Flavio Mogherini's film is an an entirely different level of dramatic accomplishment.
For while Landi manages the occasional nice visual touch, like reflecting the action in the killers' mirrored subglasses at one point, his handling is uninspired for the most part, the emphasis squarely on delivering as much softcore sex and hardcore violence as could be gotten away with – although with the sex scenes having potential for inserts, in both senses of that term, one would not be surprised if there was an alternate cut that inverted this emphasis out there somewhere.
Unfortunately the effectiveness of the pice as both porn and splatter is also compromised by the overall attractiveness of the participants and less than convincing splatter effects, especially when compared with the more (in)famous likes of Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper.
On the plus side Berto Pisano's score, which sounds as though it has been appropriated for another production, is enjoyably inappropriate even as the syrupy romantic and breezy big band lounge themes contribute still more to the “need a shower now" ambience of the whole.
The same can perhaps be said of the grainy, scratchy, pan and scan version I watched, which adds to the illicit aura in a way that a remastered, restored DVD would not. Nevertheless, if any enterprising DVD companies are listening, one would nevertheless be nice, so long as it is not at the expense of the dozens of more worthy titles out there - there is something wrong with the marketing and licensing situation when it is easier to get good quality discs of “Crisanti trash" like Zombie: Nights of Terror and Patrick viva ancora than most of Riccardo Freda's output.