Saturday, 31 March 2007

L' Assassino ha riservato nove poltrone / The Killer Reserved Nine Seats

It is Patrick Davenant’s birthday and he is having an impromptu party for his family, friends and hangers-on. In an old abandoned theatre that he owns. Where, as we will soon learn, a hundred years ago this very night, a not dissimilar group mysteriously met their deaths…

On arriving at the place there is a guy in a black Nehru jacket – repeatedly referred to and making an interesting change from the usual black Macintosh, I suppose – surprisingly present, who presents himself as master of ceremonies. (“The actors are present and now the play may start…”)

No one will admit to recognising him. But nor do they think much of his presence until Patrick (Chris Avram) is almost hit by a falling beam. He immediately suspects everyone else.

For any permutation amongst his ex-wife and her lover (Howard Ross); his daughter Lynn (Paola Senatore) and her boyfriend Duncan (Gaetano Russo); his sister Rebecca (Eva Czemerys) and her lesbian lover Doris (Lucretia Love); his fiancee Kim (Janet Agren), or his doctor (Andrea Scotti) would benefit from his demise.

Always assuming, that is, that Patrick is not himself a dangerous paranoid…

It soon becomes clear that there is indeed at least one killer in their midst as Kim drops out of the running with a dagger in her back, following a surprisingly convincing enactment of Juliet’s suicide scene from Romeo and Juliet that did not warrant such cutting criticism…

Doris thinks she glimpses a cloaked and masked figure fleeing backstage and sets off to investigate – any bets on who will be next to die, in that classic idiot-plot way - while the others make for the exit. They discover the door to be locked, the key missing and the phone dead…

A nice moment that can be read as either a sign of the supernatural or just a coup de theatre, as Patrick walks in front of the stranger who disappeared while his back is turned

Yes, this is yet another giallo film take on Ten Little Indians that endeavors to spice up the old-fashioned Agatha Christie elements – i.e. plenty of suspects with motive and opportunity in an isolated no-exit setting – with a more contemporary / exploitative approach to the sex and violence and, just in case this were still not enough, a vague supernatural horror subplot.

It is too talky and – at least on the admittedly limited evidence of the Greek subtitled pan and scan version I watched – unimaginatively directed to be up there with Five Dolls for an August Moon as giallo take on Christie. Nor can it be ranked with the later – and perhaps itself imitative – Stagefright as theatrical horror, lacking as it does the sense of self-conscious irony that pervades Bava and Soavi’s films.

But neither is The Killer Reserved Nine Seats a complete waste of time thanks to its atmospheric and claustrophobic locations; ensemble cast of reliable genre names; groovy library-style score courtesy of the redoubtable Carlo Savina, and the film-makers unpretentious give-them-what-we-think-they-want approach.

I mean how – rhetorical question time – can you not like a film where a young, pre-hardcore Paula Senatore finds the time to break off from being terrified to undress, don a skimpy dressing gown and perform an impromptu dance / strip in front of the mirror?


Brian said...

Thanks for the plot. I watched this one in Italian (which I do not speak) but figured it was something along those lines.

I enjoyed it. The setting was atmospheric and creepy. Not the best, but worth checking out.

Richard of DM said...

I really liked this 9 Seats. And I just realized that Patrick's wife was played by Rosanna Schiaffino from La Strega in Amore. And you're right, I can't hate a film with Paola Senatore not only doing a strip tease in front of a mirror but also trying to seduce her father. That's entertainment!