We open with the murder of a prostitute, Giselle. Nothing particularly unusual about that for a giallo, although the presentation makes it clear that things aren't as straightforward as they seem in that we see both the face of her last client and of the voyeur hidden in the ungrowth.
As such, barring a double-bluff on the part of the filmmakers – and given that the writer-director is Rino Di Silvestro of Naked Werewolf Woman infamy we aren't dealing with an obvious candidate for anything that clever – we can be fairly certain that the guilty party is to be found elsewhere.
The face of the killer?
The face of the killer?
Not that the police can engage in such meta-gaming strategies. All they have to go on is that Giselle is dead, with leads proving difficult to come by on account of her status as scab sex-worker labour whom the other working girls resented. Yet this also helps them determine that Giselle was different from the norm, being a student from a respectable background.
A visit to Giselle's apartment uncovers an expensive gift – complete with what ultimately proves to be the classic classic musical leitmotif to the crime – and a coincidental/convenient appearance by her fidanzato (Elio Zamuto), an obvious suspect but for his own respectable occupation working for Mrs North's (Magda Konopka's) boutique, apparent surprise/shock at news of her death and solid alibi.
Though those who have seen the later Rings of Fear or who are aware of the long history of fashionable glamour in the giallo from Blood and Black Lace onwards may have cause for pause here, however.
To say this isn't really to give anything away because De Silvestro continues to depart from giallo formula in preferring to first introduce the crime and its perpetrators and then have the investigators discover what we already know.
Moreover as the narrative advances to its inevitable conclusion the digressions and subplots, one involving a blackmailing photographer (Luciano Rossi), another a middle aged prostitute who slowly realises that her lover is more interested in her daughter, become increasingly prominent.
Classic signor Rossi
The result is an giallo/mondo/melodrama mix that veers uncomfortably between the comic – the obligatory transvestite – and the tragic – the gang rape of one of the prostitutes (Orchidea De Santis) after she insists that her client wear a condom because she always gets pregnant otherwise and has been advised by her doctor that she can't have any more abortions on account of her anaemia.
Forbidden photos of a Citizen Above Suspicion...
... and a Respectable Lady Above Suspicion
If Red Light Girls thereby fails as serious drama or documentary – though incredibly De Silvestro reportedly received letters from real-life prostitutes praising him for the authenticity of his film – it succeeds, intentionally or not, as trashy entertainment. Again, however, those seeking wall-to-wall sleaze might be better advised to look elsewhere, with the film's aspirational qualities also limiting the extent to which you can expect to see the likes of Konopka and Krista Nell really getting down and dirty.
I watched the film through the evidently cut BBFC X certificated version which runs only 70 minutes. There is also a 85 minute Swedish subtitled edit as Street Angels.
If anyone has any more information on the difference between these versions let me know – especially if there are missing scenes with Konopka, Nell and company...