Sunday, September 2, 2018

Giallo In Venice (1979) review


Leonora Fani (Flavia), Jeff Blynn (Angelo De Pol), Gianni Dei (Fabio), Mariangela Giordano (Marzia), Michele Renzullo (Andrea Caron)

Directed by Mario Landi

The Short Version: This mediocre murder thriller sustains itself on non-stop sex and nasty gore (far more of the former than the latter) about an inspector with a more than passing resemblance to Maurizio Merli (whose diet consists of nothing but hard-boiled eggs!) investigating a double murder that intertwines with a string of vicious killings. Playing out as borderline porn, it fails horribly as a Giallo with none of the twists and turns of more popular genre entries. The beauty of the Venice canals is the sole respectable quality. The only titillation found is in the film's deserved notoriety as a low point in celluloid tastelessness. For Giallo connoisseurs only.

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity and violence***

The corpses of a mutilated man and a drowned woman are found near the Giudecca Canal in Venice. Inspector De Pol finds the condition of the bodies peculiar and learns more about the dead couple when his investigation leads him to Marzia, a close friend of one of the deceased. Meanwhile, a crazed killer viciously murders several people who have some sort of connection to the supposed double murder.

For all the negative stigma Lucio Fulci received about misogyny in his films, Mario Landi makes him look like a saint in comparison. If you're familiar with 1980s PATRICK STILL LIVES (Landi's bizarre sequel to PATRICK, Richard Franklin's Australian SciFi-thriller from 1978) you will already know what you're in for with GIALLO IN VENICE. Both films are trash, but the unauthorized PATRICK sequel (Landi's last movie) is at least engaging trash.

GIALLO IN VENICE is a repulsive exercise in lethargy that doesn't care about suspense; nor is it interested in building tension via the usual genre conventions of tossing red herrings at the audience to keep them guessing as to the identity of the killer. Landi's movie instead doesn't hide the killer at all--opting to just show you who it is early on. Surely the writers would make some attempt at a surprise reveal? Well, yes and no. The revelation surrounding the opening double murder during the last few minutes isn't really a shocker when you expect it to have been the surprise all along considering what transpires during the previous 90 tedious minutes. Some may find it revelatory; this reviewer found it predictable, and a dull execution to an unremarkable, if sadistic movie. 

Much of the flick is told in flashback, surrounding the sordid marital relationship of the deceased Fabio and Flavia--a kinky couple who have sex every few minutes no matter the location. Flavia, despite stating she loves her Sadean husband, doesn't seem to enjoy being a 24 hour sperm bank; and especially when Fabio can't "deliver" unless the sexual act is devoid of any romanticism whatsoever; seemingly only attaining arousal after putting Flavia through various tortures--like beating her with a whip; sodomizing her; and, on one occasion, even paying two men to rape her!

The film's other narrative thread involves Italian cinema Scream Queen, Mariangela Giordano,; she being the zombie killing, fighting female of Andrea Bianchi's viscera-strewn classick, BURIAL GROUND (1981). As Marzia, she's not only a close friend of the late Flavia, but Marzia herself has been receiving threatening phone calls from a spurned lover who doesn't approve of her orgiastic proclivities.

A familiar face to Italian horror fans, Giordano appeared in some 50 movies of various genres. The horror and erotic entries are the ones that draw the most attention; although her roles in movies like Carlo Campogalliani's URSUS (1961) and Sergio Garrone's NO ROOM TO DIE (1969) starring Anthony Steffen and William Berger are worth mentioning.

Much like Italian actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice (John Morghen; read our interview HERE and his autobiography review HERE), Giordano has bit the cinematic dust in some of the most sadistic ways imaginable. Without contest, her breast being bitten off (then consumed) by her zombified son after offering him to suckle from it in the notorious BURIAL GROUND (aka THE NIGHTS OF TERROR) is one of the most hilariously jaw-dropping death scenes ever committed to the screen. Not to disqualify the scene where a prostitute is graphically killed by being stabbed repeatedly in the crotch with scissors, Giordano's exit in GIALLO IN VENICE is this film's most infamous sequence--and largely responsible for the long-standing interest in Landi's movie. Her bow-out in Landi's PATRICK STILL LIVES is equally savage--showing the director or writer had a bizarre, maybe even disturbing fascination with genital destruction.

The filmmakers do manage to generate some minor tension during one sequence when the killer is watching Giordano having sex. His head tilting, nose bending against a window whilst ogling as she rides her brutish lover. The killer himself, wearing sunglasses throughout, has as creepy a countenance as you could ask for--staring wildly with a pale pallor. The reflection of violence in his sunglasses is as stylish as Landi manages here. 

In more capable hands, GIALLO IN VENICE could've been a polished production even if you retained the tasteless elements. As it is, the script is sloppy; one example being the introduction of an old man character who claims he saw nothing, but towards the end he's suddenly seen everything. Why even include him at all? The pacing is sluggish, the editing so haphazard, Landi and company succeed in making sex look boring. At nearly 99 minutes, a good 15 of that could've been shaved off and you'd of lost nothing of consequence.

Music is a vital component in these movies and Landi's picture fails in that area as well. Relying on cues from INTERRABANG (1969) and stock music that can be heard in BURIAL GROUND (1981), only the latter fits with the onscreen action. The jazzy sounds of the former are jarring by their inclusion.

American actor Jeff Blynn is the frizzy-haired cop on the case. For much of the film he's wracking his brain in trying to figure out the connection between a drowned lady, a male with his manhood mutilated within close proximity; and a string of savage murders. In virtually every scene he's in, Blynn is eating a hard-boiled egg. We never see him with a gun, but we do see him with lots of eggs. It's apparently an attempt at humor to off-set the oppressively sleazy atmosphere the film wallows in from start to finish.

Blynn appeared in several other Italian productions, one of the most important being the action-packed WEAPONS OF DEATH (1977) with Leonard Mann and Henry Silva. Something of a sequel to Umberto Lenzi's magnificent VIOLENT NAPLES (1976), Blynn has a striking resemblance to Italian macho icon Maurizio Merli. Leonard Mann, however, is the main cop on the case, playing Commissioner Belli to Merli's Commissioner Betti from Lenzi's movie.

Available for years on the bootleg market, Scorpion Releasing has done their own HD scan--putting far more effort into the film than it deserves. Artist Devon Whitehead delivers a fantastic cover artwork that will no doubt help move some blu-ray units. He's a phenomenal talent who, if this cover is anything to go by, knows how to help sell a product. Meanwhile, the useless commentary track (a Ric Meyers style reading of IMDb credits and Wikipedia notes minus excessive made-up information) is in the Rifftrax mold; so if a relentless attempt at humor by way of a predilection for porn is your cup of tea, then you may derive some enjoyment from the commentary that the film is unable to offer.

If you're a devoted Giallo fan, or fan of Italian horror, you've likely already seen GIALLO IN VENICE; so the question of a purchase is already answered. For those with a passing interest in the genre, there's far better examples of the form whether from Giallo master Dario Argento; or lesser, but equally classy and violent entries like Giuseppe Bennati's THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS (1974). GIALLO IN VENICE is more of a dank curio that isn't as good as you'd hope it'd be, but as visually nasty and unsettling as its reputation suggests.

Specs and Extras: Brand new 2018 HD Scan with extensive color correction done in the USA; Italian with English subtitles; trailers for THE PSYCHIC, MURDER ROCK, ENIGMA ROSSO, OPERA; Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth; New artwork and poster of artwork by Devon Whitehead; Reversible cover with original poster art; Running time: 01:38:48
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