Despite its Argento-like Italian title, which translates as The Fox with the Grey Velvet Tail, this 1971 Italian-Spanish co-production is another one of those gialli that is in fact more closely related to the kind of filone entries Umberto Lenzi in particular was putting out a couple of years earlier.
The set-up is straightforward: Despite his pleas that they might be reconciled, Ruth (Analia Gade) is going to divorce Michel (Tony Kendall) and marry the charming Paul (Jean Sorel), whom she met some two months earlier.
Ruth: “Darling, I'm scared”
Paul: “Oh, what of?”
Ruth: “This happiness”
Crucially, Ruth is the one with the money.
Ruth almost crashes her car, with its brake fluid then found to have been drained, then almost drowns when diving as her oxygen tank runs out, with its gauge proving to be faulty.
That Paul had both been driving the car and using the diving gear moments earlier exonerates him from Ruth’s suspicions, which falls upon Michel.
But is all as it seems?
I won't spell it out, N-O, but I'm sure you, dear (intended / implied) reader, can guess...
And what do Paul’s ex-army friend Roland (Maurizio Bonuglia) and the mysterious woman (Rosanna Yanni), who keeps on showing up, have to do with things?
Due to the amount of time spent establishing the dynamics of the relationships between Ruth, Michel and Paul this is a somewhat slow moving giallo initially.
For fully half of the running time we are wondering if there is genuinely a conspiracy and what its nature is.
Then, suddenly, dramatically, the conspiracy is revealed – “Okay, she ought to be asleep by now. Let's go – it's getting late” and everything kicks into high gear.
Things thus become much more tense and interesting, with unpredictable twists and turns along the way to a pleasingly ironic denouement.
José María Forqué's direction is variable, with a non-signifying overuse of the zoom to be counterweighed against some nice compositions – often ones which obscure or problematise the nudity that otherwise presents one of the film's major attractions – symbolic use of the colour yellow and the general beauty of the sun-kissed locales, all nicely captured by cinematographers Alejandro Ulloa and Giovanni Bergamini.
The beauty is enhanced by Piero Umiliani's apt score – thought I must here confess to being somewhat biased when it comes to his work – and the art deco inspired credits, which later also prove to have a diegetic significance in relation to Ruth's art and world, one in which a swan is also significant.
Sorel and Yanni do what is required, being charming and beautiful/bitchy as required, with the latter also the victim of a crass English dub.
Not the best, but not the worst of its (sub-)type.