The Killer Is On the Phone (1972)

Man, two Alberto De Martino giallo movies in one week? You know it.

I’ll be honest right off the bat. I’d watch a movie where Telly Savalas just sat there and read a menu for two hours, so I’m not going to be objective about this movie at all.

Telly plays Ranko Drasovic, a silent knife-wielding assassin dispatched to kill a UN ambassador trying to stop the oil crisis, which is pretty forward thinking way back in 1972. He also is trying to fulfill another assignment, because one of the few people who has ever seen his face is actress Eleonor Loraine (Anne Heywood, The Fox), as Ranko had killed her lover five years before.

Now, she’s a mess, her head filled with flashbacks which might not be true and lovers she may have never slept with. All she sees is the face of Ranko, a man constantly in the shadows, always one step away from taking her life.

I actually liked this movie more than most critics, as unlike many giallo, it ends with the female lead taking agency over her fragmented life, destroying her many enemies and reclaiming her sanity. It’s a rare positive ending for a giallo heroine, you know?

That said, the direction is just good where it could be great, but any time women appear on screen, the camera seems to perk up and the shots end up getting more inventive. That’s because Aristide Massaccesi is the cinematographer, the man who would one day be Joe D’Amato. And David Hills. And Michael Wotruba. And Raf Donato. And Robert Yip. And…

The alternate title, Scenes from a Murder, isn’t as evocative, but makes plenty more sense. Ranko never calls anyone. He does spend plenty of time buying tin soldiers, which also makes no sense.

Hey — giallo aren’t supposed to make sense. Remember that, love every scene Telly is in and you’ll be fine. Who loves you baby?

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