Known in Italy as La Casa con la Scala nel Buio (The House with the Dark Staircase), Lamberto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark was originally intended to be a four-part TV mini-series, with each segment ending with a murder. However, it was too gory for regular audiences, so it was released as a film. It was written by the husband and wife team of Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti, whose script was often at odds with what Bava wanted to put in his film.
Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti, The New York Ripper) is a composer hired to create the soundtrack for a horror movie. He’s been having trouble concentrating on the job, so he rents a house to sequester himself. He meets two women who used to know his rented villa’s former tenant, but when they disappear, he’s forced to watch the movie he’s scoring closer, as there’s a clue to the razor-wielding killer’s identity hidden within.
Bava worked as Dario Argento’s assistant for the movie Tenebre two years before this movie was made, so that has a big influence on this work. This is a movie unafraid to wallow in gore, feeling closer to the American slasher than the giallo. Then again, Lamberto was an assistant on the movie that predates the slasher, his father’s A Bay of Blood.
For the killer, he had difficulty finding someone who could convincingly appear to be a man and a woman. He turned to his assistant, Michele Soavi, who went on to direct plenty of great horror on his own.
For those that care about these matters like me — Giovanni Frezza, forever Bob from The House by the Cemetery — shows up in the movie within a movie that Bruno is writing the music to. He’s taunted by voices that chant “You are a female! You are a female!”
Also, in the true spirit of giallo and what the word means, every victim — and then the killer him or herself — is called out by the color yellow.
You can watch this movie on Amazon Prime.