Friday, 11 December 2015
Who Saw Her Die? (1972)
I'm a big fan of the social commentary lurking behind Aldo Lado's 1975 rape revenge flick, Night Train Murders (L'ultimo treno della notte) and his 1971 gialli Short Night of Glass Dolls (La corta notte delle bambole di vetro), and I'm hoping that Who Saw Her Die? will similarly deliver the goods.
Made a year before Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Lado's Who Saw Her Die? shares similar themes of grief and guilt. Even the famous sex scene is here, admittedly in an abbreviated form but it still shows the outpouring of grief through sex.
In France, a young girl is viciously murdered whilst sledding by a mysterious black clothed killer. We are immediately asked the question "Who Saw Her Die?" in thick red lettering seen through the killer's black veil. It is simultaneously an open invitation for the viewer to solve the crime and also an indictment of our passivity as bystanders. Is it our fault that she died? Easily the best and most intriguing title sequence I've seen in a gialli.
The action then shifts to Venice and sculptor Franco (played by George Lazenby, who only two films earlier was on top of the world playing James Bond) and his young daughter Roberta. The wife/mother is absent and we learn that the couple have drifted apart. Instead of rushing headlong into the killings, Lado takes his time and introduces us to the film's characters. We lean about them, their backgrounds, motivations, relationships. We start to care about them.
From this point on the suspects and red herrings are laid on thick and fast. Is the killer the man who was scarred in a fencing accident, the friend who takes a little too much interest in the young Roberta? The decadent art dealer? Someone else entirely? The tension is then really cranked up with multiple failed attempts to kill Roberta until finally the inevitable happens. The killer strikes again.
From here on we follow Franco on a frantic hunt through labyrinthine alleys as Venice shifts from being beautiful and filled with laughter to a dark place that is twisted, confusing and frustrating. Meanwhile the killer shifts their attention from children to anyone who may have seen Roberta die.
The last 20 minutes of the film will have you on the edge of your seat as suspect after suspect is dealt with, until the final shocking reveal.
There is great cinematography from Franco Di Giacomo (Il Postino) and Ennio Morricone's soundtrack of children singing is evocative and fits both the film and its themes well. Lazenby is terrific as the grieving father and his performance far surpasses that of his 007. Nicoletta Elmi, who plays his daughter, is a little star who obviously had great chemistry with Lazenby and later appeared in both Dario Argento's Deep Red and Lamberto Bava's Demons.
As for the social commentary: it does seem that Lado, yet again, has it in for the bourgeoisie. It may not be as overt as in Night Train Murders but it's there nonetheless. The victims are daughters of upper middle class families (the first has a nanny, the second's father is a sculptor). Venice itself being an affluent and bohemian location. Conversations about art, money, travel are heard throughout the film. Even something as simple as the white clothes that the father and his friends wear display social position - no poor person could afford to wear something that could get dirty so easily. Also many of the main characters are portrayed as morally bankrupt and corrupt; of course there's one thing more corrupt to a socialist than the bourgeoisie but I don't want to give the game away. Finally there's also a strong hint of the type of conspiracy found in Lado's Short Night of Glass Dolls.
Who Saw Her Die is, like Short Night of Glass Dolls, not too bloody but what blood there is is of that bright red Italian stuff that looks like Humbrol enamel paint, and either you love it or hate it. I love it.
The quality of the Shameless DVD was very good with a sharp and colourful print (apart from what seems to be the occasional splicing fuckup), and a soundtrack that doesn't overpower the clear dialogue. In fact the dialogue is far better than the usual badly translated dubbing we get with Italian films.
I may be biased due to my Lado love but I really enjoyed this film and think it has a lot to offer. A top notch gialli!