John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) runs an affluent fashion house that he inherited from his family, but which is funded by his wife’s money. He want’s nothing more than to divorce his wife Mildred (Laura Betti), but she won’t give him one. That’s not the real problem though. The real problem is that John is a crazed serial killer, killing women in bridal gowns one after another to try to discover some buried memory from his past involving something that happened with his mother that’s been haunting him since he was a kid. A constant suspect of the police, they can never seem to get enough evidence against him. When he finally kills his wife however and is subsequently haunted by her ghost, things start to unravel. John eventually discovers his repressed memory, but thanks to the efforts of a brave girl who had been working undercover as a model, John’s quest is brought to an abrupt end. Unfortunately, he still has the ghost of his wife to deal with.
I had three Mario Bava films to review this month. This was the second film chronologically. I thought Bava’s Black Sunday was great. Unfortunatelly, he went on to create a new genre called Giallo, which in my opinion, was far less successful. Giallo films are highly stylized horror films with crime and sexual elements to them. I’m not a particular fan of this genre, as I find that the attempt at being artistic in both story and visually, often leads to confusion and boredom rather than an entertaining film experience. Unfortunately, this film falls into that category.
The film itself is shot well visually, but at times becomes burdened by its attempts at being overly artistic. Essentially what that means is, there are parts of the film that are visually rather boring and pretentious. Fortunately, these types of shots are the exception rather than the norm, but I personally find that when attempts at being artistic hinder the story in any way, then they should be left on the cutting room floor.
That said, there are other scenes that are really beautifully shot. For example, the scene where John has killed his wife and she’s laying dead on the stairwell while he’s talking to the police down at the bottom. She’s bleeding and it starts to drip, and the way the scene is shot, with the angles and everything, it just really beautiful, and artistic in its own way. This is a good example of a scene that’s artistic without being pretentious, and one that really adds to the tension and excitement of the film.
One of the biggest problems with this film is the story. It’s really just not all that interesting. It has it’s moments to be sure, like when his wife’s ghost comes back to haunt him, but in general, it’s all just pretty straight forward and obvious. It suffers from pacing issues now and then as well.
At no time during this film did I genuinely feel engaged with any of the characters. They all felt so shallow and made-up at that it was hard to connect with them at all. I…, just realized that I really don’t have anything overly good to say about this film other than that it had moments where it was visually pretty nice. Like I said, I’m not really a fan of the genre, and this film is a perfect example of why. Does that mean I don’t like any Giallo style films? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I don’t go out of my way to see them. There could be some out there that I would enjoy, so I can’t really knock the whole genre out of hand, but I know there are better examples of it out there.
Is it worth seeing? Honestly, given the choice, I’d recommend seeing Bava’s other two films I reviewed in this issue, Black Sunday or Lisa and the Devil. Both films are far superior to this one. If you’re interested in viewing a wide variety of Bava’s work, then it wouldn’t hurt to add this one to the list, but it’s not one I’d purposely seek out otherwise.
This film was released on Kino Lorber’s Redemption label. It was mastered from the original 35mm negative, and visually, it looks very good. For special features, it includes audio commentary by Tim Lucas, the original theatrical trailer and trailers for some of Mario Bava’s other films as well.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.