This French-Spanish-Italian is one of those crossover films that can’t seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be a poliziotto or a giallo, featuring as it does blackmail; a sex killer; fistfights, shoot outs, assassination and car chases. Unfortunately despite – or perhaps because of this mixture of crime thriller ingredients – it fails to find a coherent identity and ends up amounting to less than the sum of its parts.
As a giallo, the most obvious point of comparison given its co-production nature; the presence of Alberto De Martino and Simon Andreu amongst the cast; the importance of blackmail and other photographs, is probably Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion.
But, with a male protagonist, the equivalent ‘lady’ here, as incarnated by Femi Benussi, is reduced to a supporting role and is very much a suspect, being a less-than-respectable type – a stripper – who has managed to win her place in Rome society through dubious methods.
We open with a memorably shocking scene, recalling none less than House on the Edge of the Park, as Simone Mattei is strangled by her lover, who climaxes at the point of her death.
The killer, whoever he is, drops a photograph at the scene, which is discovered by Simone’s estranged husband Sandro along with her body. Having an iron-clad alibi by virtue of being with his photographer friend Tiffany at the time, Sandro calls the police. They prove characteristically ineffectual anyway, encouraging Sandro to put his Private Investigator skills to work. Tiffany blows up the photo for him, revealing Benussi’s character, Laura Damiani, to leading them to her and all into danger...
Though featuring a committed performance from Frederick Stafford as Sandro, suitably slimy and attractive support from De Martino and Andreu and Benussi and Claude Jade respectively, and an effective score from Enrico Simonetti (father of Goblin’s Claudio), Germán Lorente’s direction tends towards the perfunctory – look, I can shoot a car chase or a fist-fight in an wrecking yard, but don’t have the imagination or ability to make it different from anyone else’s – and the unpleasant.
While some unpleasantness is often a good thing in this kind of film, what we have here, such as the random shooting of a citizen who tries to intervene; the rape-murder antagonist; the swiping of a cop against a wall during a car chase, and a pervasive atmosphere of cynicism, makes for guilty rather than guilty pleasure viewing and something more often than not in bad taste than good bad taste.