Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Lo Strano ricatto di una ragazza per bene / Blackmail

A raid on a nightclub catches Babel Stone (Brigitte Skay) in possession of a substantial quantity of dope, leaving it up to her straight, respectability obsessed father (Umberto Raho) to bail her out of trouble yet again.

Babel, you see, resents her father for his lifestyle and remarriage, following her mother's death, to a younger woman, Stella (Rosalba Neri).

“What did it cost you for this fiasco, huh papa?”

At the beach with her cohorts Claudio (Benjamin Lev), Rick and Eva, Babel then hits upon an idea by which she can both gain revenge on her father and secure their group a much needed measure of financial independence: staging her kidnapping.

The curse of panning and scanning strikes again

Suggesting that they can hide out at his sister's house as she and her husband are on holiday, Claudio and the rest of the gang decide to go along with the ill-thought out scheme. They make a tape of Babel pleading to her father, indicating that he should not involve the police or his daughter will be killed and, in one of their few shows of intelligence, have Claudio go to make the call from a phone booth. Telingly, however, Claudio also leaves the tape, which had been recorded after / over some music, playing as he stops for petrol en route, leading to a frenzied move for the stop button as the message starts.

Mr Stone receives the call and indicates that he will pay the money while pleading that the kidnappers do not harm his daughter.

It looks as though everything is going to plan. But then Claudio's sister and her husband return and everything threatens to quickly come undone for Babel and company...

Like writer-director Paolo Solvay / Luigi Batzella's bizarro horror films The Devil's Wedding Night and Nude for Satan, Blackmail is one of those films which psychoanalytically inclined commentators would probably have a field day with, given the dynamics of the relationship between Babel – a symbolically suggestive name in its own right, implying the failure of communication – her father and stepmother, along with the eventual resolution to the drama.

“Fracaro won the derby”

The scene in which the police captain addresses Babel's father is also worth noting in more sociological. If the captain's suggestion that smoking dope is a gateway to heroin is dubious, it also reflects the older generation's beliefs and their failure to accord with the experiences of Babel and her friends. Further nuance is provided by the captain's suggestion that Babel's father might want to try to get to know his daughter a bit better, coupled with Mr Stone's own indication that he has given Babel everything she might want, understanding this strictly in material terms: he cannot see that times have changed and that his daughter and her generation might have different values and desires from his own.

Two films which thus come to mind as intertexts are Rabid Dogs / Kidnapped and The Killer Must Kill Again, insofar as both occupy similar generic territory, as crime thrillers that aren't conventional gialli or poliziotteschi, and which also emphasise the amateur / professional distinction in crime – the former with the youthful joyriders and with the assassin who's already been caught in flagrante delicto once, the latter with the younger robbers with their lack of composure and self-control – and through this the whole generation gap idea.

Skay, here doing a bit more than her 'tits and a scream' role in Five Dolls for an August Moon

If Batzella's film cannot stand up to comparison with Bava and Cozzi's films otherwise, not least in terms of its highly unsatisfactory conclusion, it nevertheless moves along at a fair pace, only being stalled by some sexy and musical interludes of the sort it's hard to dislike; features decent characterisation and performances, with Skay's self-deprecating performance as the none-too-bright Babel particularly enjoyable; and keeps us engaged by throwing in new plot twists at regular intervals.

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