I’ll be honest. Other than Demons, which I attribute more to Argento than the director himself, I’ve never been a big fan of the films of Lamberto Bava. However, I’ve been wanting to give him another shot and this week’s Jack the Ripper theme allowed me to watch another of his films. After all, I did enjoy his first movie and initial giallo, Macabre.
Lamberto has always stated that he’s uneasy making giallo, saying “I find doing scenes where women get stabbed to death repugnant. Dario Argento does it so well, but I feel sick as soon as I see the knife in the murderer’s hand.” That doesn’t stop him from going all in with the gore in the very first scene!
Otherwise known as You Will Die At Midnight, this is very much an Argento style giallo. That’s not a bad thing. There’s plenty of stalking suspense, including a great chase through a museum that feels very much like Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
Nicola is a policeman who learns that his wife is having an affair. They have a brutal fight where he leaves her bruised after trying to drown her in the kitchen sink. Sick at what he’s done, he runs from their home. As soon as he’s gone, a killer brutally stabs her in the shower.
Nicola is now the prime suspect in a series of murders, but his colleague and ex-girlfriend Anna (Valeria D’Obici, Moon Grey from Escape from the Bronx) thinks that this is the work of the Midnight Ripper, a serial killer that everyone believes has been dead for years.
Lamberto Bava is not afraid to present homages — or outright steal — from the greats. There’s a shower scene ala Psycho. A character sits and reads from a giallo novel with art referencing Argento’s Tenebre (it’s actually the Italian poster art for the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple, but it steals a face from the Argento film!).
Even major plot points and the final chase have liberal elements lifted directly from The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Torso. At least Lamberto shows sense of style here as he stitches together this quilt of giallo influences.
There’s also plenty of sexualized elements to the Midnight Ripper’s murders. Whomever it is — notice me being cagey about gender? — forces women to wear outfits before they murder them and uses handmixers on their dead bodies. Yeah — giallo really isn’t concerned with being politically correct, I guess. There are also a lot of bad 80’s outfits — or great ones, there’s such a fine line — in this movie.
Lara Wendel from Tenebre and Ghosthouse shows up, as does Paolo Marco, who played the therapist in The New York Ripper, Bob’s dad in The House by the Cemetery and the vice-president in Escape from the Bronx. Plus, with Claudio Simonetti providing the soundtrack, you know this is going to be a movie that sounds great.
I’ve gone on and on about the look of Italian cinema in my many reviews, about how the color is just perfect. Midnight Ripper is another film that fits in well with my love of bright hues and dark edges. I wouldn’t recommend this as the first giallo anyone watches, but if you’re well-versed in the genre, this has nice moments that will remind you of other films while keeping you interested throughout.
Have I reevaluated my feelings on Lamberto Bava? Somewhat, yes. Perhaps the downturn in his films neatly mirror the sad fate of the Italian horror industry in the 1980’s and 90’s, when even his mentor Argento’s work began to suffer.