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?

The Girl in Room 2A / La Casa della paura

[Note that this review contains spoilers]

Written, produced and directed by William Rose, The Girl in Room 2A certainly starts off intriguingly, with the abduction, torture and murder of a young woman, only to then settle down into decidedly meandering and ineffectual mystery enlived only by the eye-candy provided by Daniela Giordano and – in smaller roles – Rosalba Neri and Karin Schubert.

Keep in mind this is supposed to look like a suicide

Giordano plays Margaret, just released from the woman's prison (“look, it wasn't a prison; it was the women's jail”) where she spent some time for being found in possession of drugs, although she continues to protest that they were not hers. Neri is the social worker, Mrs Songbird, responsible for Margaret's rehabilitation. She has found Margaret a place to stay in the halfway house run by Mrs Grant.

Margaret tries to settles in and tries to rest, but finds this difficult when the floor of the room has an inexplicable blood stain half-hidden under a rug, someone is pacing around outside and the shutters will not stay closed. She decides to go out for a walk, but is intercepted by Mrs Grant, who asks if she would like a cup of tea and a sedative to go with it. (“I use them myself. My doctor gives them to me. Just a nerve calmer. Try one!”)

That night Margaret is visited by a red masked figure. For a few minutes the film-makers try to make us unsure whether it is for real or in her mind, only for the next sequence to introduce a group of cultists led by the selfsame figure and including amongst their number Mrs Grant's son and Mr Dreese, whom we had earlier glimpsed watching Margaret with an unhealthy interest when she was in town. They kill off an ex-member, Johnstone, and dump his body off the same cliff as seen at the start of the film.

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times?

By now – one third of the way into the proceeding – one is wondering exactly what the point of it all is, insofar as about the only questions remaining are the identity of the cult leader and whether Margaret will realise the danger she is in. Unfortunately a visit to the suspiciously too-kind Mrs Songbird and the introduction of the dead girl's brother, who refuses to believe that she killed herself as per the official inquiry, pretty much prove to answer to both...

Any excuse for a picture of Rosalba Neri...

Lacking the trash value or Italian style required to overcome its flatly direction and poorly writing – how were the stab wounds on the dead girl and Johnstone not noticed? why does the red masked figure look nothing like Neri? – Girl in Room 2A can be summarised as one of those borderline gialli that can only be recommended to completists.

An interesting Daniela Giordano interview:

Wednesday 28 March 2007

The Strange Case of Dr Mabuse

I am not really sure what to say about this book by David Kalat except for that it is a must-buy / must-read for anyone with an interest in European cult cinema, charting as it does one of the earliest and most enduring characters within the field from his origins in the early 1920s as German Fantomas with Norbert Jacques' serialised novel and the first of Fritz Lang's three films featuring him - or at least the idea of Mabuse; the distinction is at once important and meaningless - through to his seeming demise - read irrelevance - with the end of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall mere months after Claude Chabrol's finished shooting his affectionate Lang hommage / pastiche Club Extinction in 1989.

Not only are the Mabuse meets the krimis of the post-Lang CCC productions in there, but also Jess Franco's characteristically idiosyncratic take on the character - praised, for all its faults by Kalat for at least getting our from under the shadow of Lang - and Ulrike Ottinger's avant-garde queer retelling in The Image of Dorian Gray in the Yellow Press.

Truly a labour of love, persuasively written, a pleasure to read and full of details that you never knew.

The Phantom of Soho

This 1964 krimi presented me with something of a dilemma. It was a film I eagerly wanted to see on account of a Tenebrae connection made by Tim Lucas in The Video Watchdog Book, but which I was wary of approaching through Alpha Video's DVD

And, now, turning to write about the film, I face another version of this dilemma. It is a film I want to recommend, but on a DVD which I cannot – its quality is shockingly poor, the sort of thing for which there is really no excuse and for which Alpha do not deserve your hard-earned money for the simple reason that they do not seem to have done any work themselves.

Bryan Edgar Wallace; note how the image is also slightly cropped

The film itself was one of those produced by Artur Brauner's CCC from a story by Bryan Edgar Wallace, who appears in the credits sequence. Nevertheless, despite a few concessions to contemporary tastes, most notably some exposed breasts in a night-club routine, the setting is otherwise that comfortably familiar krimi neverwhen, the 1920s and the 1960s colliding in a German studio set evocation of an imaginary London populated by outmoded stock types.

Is that a Suspiria-like Bird with a Crystal Plumage?

Whatever the case, that is certainly Werner Peters

A voyeuristic / exhibitionistic ecdysiast performance

The case begins when Archibald Bissell, a prominent businessman, is dispatched by a silver-gloved, knife-wielding assassin. The motive was not robbery. Indeed, rather than taking the £100 Bissell had on him – a tidy sum whether the year is 1924 or 1964 – the killer left a distinctive African fetish doll.

It is the latter feature that causes Sir Phillip to assign the case to Inspector Patten (Dieter Borsche; that and the fact Patten was also Bissell's batman when they were in the colonial service in Africa together and so may also have a personal interest in the case.

His investigations soon uncover a mess of blackmail, white slavery and insurance fraud, all centred on the Soho night club Sansibar. Quite how this all relates to the Phantom – as Sir Phillip's crime writer friend Clorinda Smith (Barbara Rutting) dubs the killer, who soon strikes twice more, first assassinating an Italian posing as a Bedouin knife-thrower(!) and then an MP, to futher add to the confusion over motivation – seems almost another matter entirely.

Some of Franz Josef Gottlieb's striking compositions, ably photographed by Richard Angst and all but destroyed by Alpha's non-presentation

Without wishing to give too much away – but let us face it, if approaching the film with Tenebrae as primary reference point there is a strong sense of deja vu to dialogue like “You must admit: mystery writers have it easy compared to us [...] But the fact is you know from the very first who the culprit is, we criminologists rarely know up to the very end.” – the resolution to the whole mystery revolves around the crime author, allowed to participate in the investigation in the hope that she might provide the Scotland Yard men with a fresh perspective, that of the amateur who has hitherto dealt solely with fiction.

This said, what is different about the films, as another reminder of The Phantom of Soho's krimi status, is the downplaying of the psychosexual element to the killer's crimes. He – or she – is motivated neither by a desire to wipe out “human perversion” nor the legacy of traumatic sexual experience, as with Tenebre's multiple maniacs; unless, that is, we decide to extend the sexual to the point of being all-encompassing and thereby, I would content, fundamentally useless as explicatory tool.

Franz Josef Gottlieb's approach as director can basically be summed up as never to use a straightforward shot if he can find a more imaginative and visually striking one, including mounting the camera on the rotating wheel of the knife-thrower's assistant. It is a strategy that certainly sustains interest should the plot convolutions get too much and helps to create the desired atmosphere most of the time, albeit with the odd moment that is perhaps too self-indulgent or mannered for the good of the film as a whole.

The Phantom about to strike...

... and to be unmasked; note that at least in the version I saw we do not see the Phantom's mask until this point

Thus, if the old-fashioned black and white cinema-photography and Martin Bottcher's excellent crime jazz score further distance The Phantom of Soho from the impossibly modern feel of Argento's film, this same attitude also leads one to suspect that Gottlieb would happily have incorporated “unmotivated” Louma crane shots or machine-driven synthetic rhythms had the technology been available.

To sum up: a very good and interesting self-referential krimi, marred by an abysmal presentation.

Sunday 25 March 2007

An old film poster

I happened upon this poster for Guiseppe De Santis's Riso amaro / Bitter Rice while looking for an image from the torture scene in Rome Open City (I was thinking of it in relation to Fulci's The Beyond) and it struck me in terms of what it is saying about the film and, more specifically, its selling points - i.e. Silvana Mangano and sex.

While you could never say Bitter Rice is a giallo, its this focus on the illicit attraction and its transposition of an American-style crime story to an Italian setting that make it as much a genre film - i.e. thriller - as an art one - i.e. neo-realist - as per the Marxist critics who famously complained that the sight of Mangano in her tight, revealing outfits, labouring in the rice fields, could contribute nothing to an understanding of class relations. And there, I guess, is the problem the other way as well...

Murderock - uccide a passo di danza / Murder Rock

Meet the staff and students of New York's Arts for Living Centre, a dance school. Like its counterpart in Argento's Suspiria, it is a place characterised by petty rivalries and jealousies, where almost everyone has something to hide and the competition for recognition is fierce.

People are dying to go there

Now, following the announcement that there are only three places with a prestigious dance company available, it has turned deadly, as the naked body of the best of the students, Susan, is found in the showers with a chloroform impregnated cloth by her side and a long pin through her breast, penetrating her heart.

1, 2

3, 4

5, 6

7, 8

Could it be the school's director Dick Gibson (Claudio Casinelli), who watches all his charges through cameras connected to a bank of monitors – i.e. the Centre as technological version of the magical “living” witch-houses of Suspiria and Inferno – and is known for his penchant for taking advantage of the more ambitious / desperate female pupils. Perhaps Susan rebuffed his advances?

Or maybe her boyfriend Willy Stark (Christian Borromeo) who is also a dancer, and thereby a potential rival.

Or Bob, perhaps twisted by the disability that prevents him from dancing like the others and relegates him to the role of overworked, under-appreciated technician. (At the risk of reading too much in, might we consider him as a stand-in for director Lucio Fulci?)

Or teacher and choreographer Margie (Geretta Geretta; you will know her face even if her multiple AKAs are confusing), who resents having been subordinated to her more famous colleague Candice Norman (Olga Karlatos), whose own promising career as a dancer was cut tragically short by an accident some years back.

Or mystery man (Ray Lovelock), whom Candice first sees in one of those dream visions that are so familiar to Fulci's female giallo protagonists, from Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes and The New York Ripper, where he menaces her with a pin, and then on a billboard.

Or - well, you get the idea...

Neo-classic giallo imagery

Whoever the killer is, it is soon clear that it is not Janice as, following a suggestive dance routine in a strip club (i.e. more Flashdance than New York Ripper, for good or ill) and a visit from Willy, who again suspiciously disappears, this time with a potentially incriminating photograph, is tormented and dispatched by the unseen, inevitably black gloved killer.

More of Fulci's whited out crime scene photography, as also seen in Lizard in a Woman's Skin and Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes

This time, however, the police, in the shape of Lieutenant Borges – one wonders if the name is intended to suggest something of the labyrinthine quality of the typically giallo plot – have a clue. The killer also pinned Janice's pet canary. He and his erstwhile colleague Professor Davis – the Fulci scholar will note that The New York Ripper had the somewhat suspect Dr Davis – decide to keep this detail quiet, in the hope that the killer will betray themselves before the body count has risen too far...

Meanwhile, Candice embarks on her own private investigation into her mystery man...

Time has not been kind to this 1984 giallo, also known as Giallo a disco and, most tellingly and wince- if not lawsuit-inducingly, Slashdance. Yet, if one can get beyond the music and the lyrics; the credits sequence breakdancers and the extended leg-warmer, leotard and pelvic thrusting routine that follows it, into the first atmospheric stalk-and-kill routine – already some of you are probably thinking this sounds like a somewhat tall order – it is actually is not quite as bad as its near rock bottom reputation would have it.

Much of the problem, I think, is that its time-capsule of New York as “Kids from Fame get slain” is inherently not as interesting to the Euro-trash cultist as The New York Ripper's of pre-AIDS, pre-clean up Times Square as existential hell, even if, on closer inspection, one sees that typical Fulci cynicism and world-weariness showing through in spades.

In this respect, it certainly also helps to have seen a lot of the directors' other films and those of others working in the same generic terrain - you would not want Murderock to be someone's first Fulci, giallo or Italian horror – and have the capacity to make the intertextual connections, like those outlined above or the every-voice-has-its-own-distinctive-signature-idea from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage as explained by an oscilloscope operating policeman played by none other than Al Cliver.

Olga Karlatos about to get a wooden splinter in eye? No, but a definite Fulci moment

Signs of life?

Before Sliver, there was Murderock?

Or, as Roland Barthes once argued, that every voice had its own distinctive “grain”. And the voice which comes through here, providing what “pleasures” there are to be found in “the text,” is that of Fulci. Indeed, watching the extras on the second disc of Shriek Show's pretty impressive DVD package (from which the screen captures are culled) one gets a real sense of screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti's point, that Fulci was an accomplished technician but had the misfortune to never quite have the resources he really needed to bring his vision to full clarity.

The sad thing is, however, that whereas the gap between the idea and the realisation was minimal at the time of his near-masterpieces of the late 1960s / early 1970s and late 1970s / early 1980s, by the time of Murder Rock he would seem to have been into a losing battle with the industry, the world and his own health; a Beyond from which there would be no return...

Further links / reviews / opinions:

Saturday 24 March 2007

Death Laid an Egg

Tonight I had a very interesting experience: I screened Death Laid an Egg for some of my film society friends, none of whom had ever heard of, let alone seen the film before. Everybody in the admittedly small sample seemed to enjoy it, in its bizarre way, but what was also interesting, I felt, were the different 'pleasures of the text' that came through, with an appreciatiation - for instance - for the whole 60s design and costumes, the kind of retro / camp aspect that Gary Needham talks about in his introduction to the form. Indeed, one of my friends said she was inspired to go away and look at old dressmaking patterns and make something like one of Gina Lollobrigida's costumes.

Thursday 22 March 2007

Grand guignol / fumetti neri / Inferno

Today I was at a conference on film audiences. One of the presentations included some images from Theatre du Grand Guignol that I thought were interesting in relation to its Italian variant and the iconography of Kriminal and, though it, Argento's Inferno, of the skull mask, the come sweet death, one last caress etc.:

Monday 19 March 2007

Italian Cinema: Gender and Genre

“Maggie Gunsberg examines popular genre cinema in Italy during the 1950s and 1960s, focussing on melodrama, commedia all'italiana, peplum, horror and the spaghetti western. These genres are explored from a gender standpoint which takes into account the historical and socio-economic context of cinematic production and consumption. An interdisciplinary feminist approach informed by current film theory and other perspectives (psychoanalytic, materialist, deconstructive), leads to the analysis of genre-specific representations of femininity and masculinity as constructed by the formal properties of film.”

As the synopsis suggests, this is a heavy-duty academic study of Italian filone film and does not address the giallo specifically, pretty much ending just as it was taking over at the box office. Nevertheless, any book which has a cover image from Freda's Lo Spettro and discusses Duccio Tessari's rules for the peplum gets my recommendation.

Sunday 18 March 2007

Some telling dialogue from Tenebrae

Gianni: “I was on my way back to the house. I know there's a piece of the puzzle there if I can only remember it, see it.”

Or, the expectation that a Bird with the Crystal Plumage / Deep Red dynamic is about to develop, as Gianni revisits the scene of the crime, the haunted house.

Peter Neale: “I'm sorry Gianni, I'm really sorry that you had to get caught up in all of this.”

Or, Neale's admissions of guilt and another signal that Argento is playing by a different set of rules to his more celebrated earlier gialli, that the (young) man who just about knows too much is about to die; the dynamic being more akin to Four Flies on Grey Velvet, where Arrosio is allowed the pleasure of knowing that he was right and had solved the mystery, albeit “only at the moment of dying”

Who says Argento cannot write effective, multi-layered dialogue?


In Lenzi's A Quiet Place to Kill and Argento's Cat o' Nine Tails there are sequences where a woman – Helen / Anna Terzi – drives her sports car fast, scaring her male passenger – Maurice Sauvage / Carlo Giordani – in the front seat, “the death seat” as it is termed in the former film.

What both sequences depict is a kind of role reversal, with the woman in control of the situation, confident in her abilities and the man in a position of helplessness. They also suggest a different relationship to technology, specifically the car, as the woman experiences the vehicle as an extension of her body, knows what she / it can do as an assemblage and revelling in its power. The man, meanwhile, is for a change alienated from the technology which entraps and encases him but remains distinct from his being.

Beyond this, the two sequences also seem to embody the confidence of their respective directors, their control over their material and technique. (Say what you like about Lenzi, but he knows how to shoot a chase sequence.)

Paranoia / A Quiet Place to Kill

Following a racing car accident that leaves her out of cash and short on options, Helen (Caroll Baker) is surprised to receive an invitation from her ex-husband Maurice (Jean Sorel) to pay him a visit at his luxury villa on the Mallorca coast.

Caroll Baker, but not as we normally know her, in the negative image titles that warrant close scrutiny.

Arriving, she is even more surprised to learn that Maurice married again, shortly after divorcing her three years previous, and that is was in fact his wife, Constance (Anna Proclemer), who penned the invite.

Up-tight American women meet “typical European male, selfish, amoral and corrupt”

But finds him irresistible nonetheless; blocks of red recur throughout Lenzi's compositions, with colour being used in an expressive manner.

Offering Helen money to pay for her smashed car, hospital bills and to generally get back on her feet, Constance soon reveals her reasons for asking Helen here: she is concerned that Maurice is “only waiting for a richer woman,” and will surely abandon her, as he did Helen, once she has outlived her usefulness.

Helen is wary of both getting involved, however, on account of her own ambivalent feelings towards Maurice – it was his presence, real or imagined, at the racetrack that immediately precipitated her accident – in that can't live with him / can't live without him repulsion / attraction dynamic.

Indeed, that night Helen thinks back to happier times with Maurice, before being interrupted by Constance: Maurice suffers an attack of some kind – a suspicious coincidence given the emerging conspiracy, especially when Constance accidentally-on-purpose drops the only hypodermic of adrenalin before it can be administered to Maurice.

Unfortunately for her, he does not need it, recovering of his own accord or through Helen's ministrations; the filmmakers decision to elide exactly what happened a wise one.

Mirrors and double-images also recur throughout

The next day, Constance makes Helen a new offer: $100,000 to help her dispose of Maurice. She gives Helen a day to think about it while she is out of town sorting out the latest problems with her daughter Susan, the product of her previous marriage to the oil-tycoon from whom she inherited her fortune.

Helen does and decides to get away from the villa. Her car will not start, however, and thus she is forced to stay there, with Maurice. Though Helen soon discovers that Maurice removed a part from her car, she finds it impossible to be angry with him – the addiction Constance spoke of is growing; the drug not Helen as the Spanish title (Una Droga llamada Helen) has it, but Maurice – and avenges herself by indulging in some hair-raising driving stunts (something of an Umberto Lenzi signature if one thinks of his poliziotto work) en route to the disco.

The obligatory Psycho allusion

There the director goes into zoom, whip pan and dutch angle overload, while Maurice tells Helen that he still loves her: “I've done everything wrong, but I want to make it up to you.” They kiss and a red curtain wipes across the scene, before we cut to a new location, a coastal tower (again the Lenzi fan might note similarities with the lighthouse in Spasmo) and the bedrooom, where Helen and Maurice have just made love for the first time since their divorce. “I couldn't help myself. I had to make love with you one more time.”

Again, however, that the scene is established via a mirror shot and sees Maurice make his more controlled declaration of love whilst looking in it – vanity, thy name is also man – is suggestive that something is not quite right.

Sure enough, Maurice then makes Helen a proposal of his own, that they should get back together. The only fly in the ointment is that neither has any money. Maurice suggests, however, that Constance would quite possibly countenance a menage a trois, so confident is he of his effect on her.

But Helen is appalled at the suggestion and, with Constance returning, announces that she has now reached her decision: to get rid of Maurice. “The most important thing is that it must look like an accident.” “And that I be there to witness it.”

“Hey, will you stop it with that spying machine of yours”

Accordingly, the women convince Maurice to take them out on his boat on a fishing trip. As he is about to go SCUBA diving Helen points the spear gun at him, but finds she cannot shoot him. There is a struggle, in which Maurice fatally stabs Constance with his knife. Thinking fast – their friends Harry (Alberto Dalbés) and Hymie are approaching in their boat and want to pull up alongside – the conspirators tie Constance's body to the anchor and capsize the craft.

Harry is not entirely convinced that it was an accident, however – how did an experienced sailor sink his vessel doing a routine manouevre on a calm sea, and accordingly decide to investigate the accident. He thus resolves to find Constance's body.

Worse still, Susan (Marina Coffa) arrives unexpectedly and, on learning of her mother's death and noticing the hints of intimacy between her stepfather and Helen, begins to voice her suspicions. “I've thought of a plot for a murder story. A man and a woman meet again and fall in love. But he's married again and so they decide to murder the second wife and make it look like an accident...”

Like its predecessor Orgasmo – which confusingly also has Paranoia as one of its AKA's – this is one of those gialli that functions primarily as a sexed up variant on the classic thriller, part Hitchcock, part noir and part Les Diaboliques. As such, it serves to indicate the inadequacies of Linda Williams's summary dismissal of the form, read through the usual reductive lens of Argento and Bava, as fundamentally irrelevant to the emergence of the contemporary “erotic thriller”.

Classic giallo imagery - the bloody knife, the J&B bottle and a yellow telephone

Much more importantly as far as the casual viewer is concerned, it is also a damn good example of its type that pretty much pushes all the right buttons, showcasing yet another group of glamourous jet-setters doing unpleasant things to one another in pleasant, sun-drenched, not-a-care-in-the-world locations; very much A Beautiful Place to Kill.

Some may find Lenzi's direction, like that of many giallo directors, to be somewhat zoom happy but this is counterbalanced by the general quality of his compositions and the range of techniques he deploys to generally good effect. You get the sense that he was making an effort here, trying things out, looking for interesting ways of telling the story visually, instead of just seeking the fastest and most economical route to the finished product. While his strategies, such as a repeated emphasis on mirrored compositions, expressive use of colour (particularly red), shifts in focus and a general self-conscious aesthetic, are perhaps not the most innovative – we need some new clichés – they work well enough that in the end one does not really mind too much.

Despite four different writers being credited, the narrative is near water tight and keeps one engaged and guessing throughout, throwing in as many twists and turns as the coastal roads carved out of the cliffs of the landscape whilst avoiding anything too contrived. Again, you can tell that things are there for a reason.

The performances are likewise impressive, the various conspirators and co-conspirators playing their roles to a T, such that one understands why Helen continues to feel something for Maurice despite herself and what she knows about him, making her “addiction” and subsequent predicament credible.

The whole thing is rounded off to (near) perfection by attractive lensing – Aristide Massaccessi was camera operator, Gugliemo Mancori cinematographer – production design and scoring, with Gregorio Garcia Segura's lounge jazz score betraying the influence of credited group director Piero Umiliani in the best possible way; given that some of the compositions are reminiscent of those in Five Dolls for an August Moon and sound like they also have Umiliani at the Hammond, one also wonders how extensive the two men's contributions were and whether Segura's credit was more for co-production or other contractual reasons.