American giallo? Why, it seems like a few years ago, we did an entire week of those movies. Well, we missed this one, directed by Ken Stein (who only directed one other movie, Mad Dog Coll) and written by Ray Cunneff (who wrote a movie called A State of Emergency about nuclear testing and visions of the Blessed Mother, so looks like I’ll be tracking that one down).
Welcome to a Los Angeles where it’s always raining, neon is everywhere, all you can hear and sax solos and Michael Chiklis wears a different baseball hat in every scene. Ray Sharkey (Du-beat-e-o in Du-beat-e-o and, of course, Wiseguy) is the burned out cop, David Beecroft (Creepshow 2) is the FBI agent and a scene where Sharkey and his police chief share a bottle of Wild Turkey in a bathroom stall.
In the midst of all this darkness and swearing and rampant sex — my favorite IMDB review of this basically takes a puritanical take on all this filth, which made me want to watch it over again — is a great looking film thanks to cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. What did the man who shot Schindler’s List have to do with this grubby movie? Well, he got his start shooting stuff like The Terror Within II, Grim Prarie Tales and even Cool As Ice — let that set in, two years before he won an Oscar, Kamiński was filming Vanilla Ice — before Steven Spielberg started using him.
Maria Ford plays an exotic dancer who gets killed. You’ll recognize her as she’s been in a ton of things — everything from Slumber Party Massacre III and Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans to the remake of The Wasp Woman, Night Calls: The Movie, Part 2 and kid movies like Beethoven’s Big Break and Casper Meets Wendy.
This really starts like a giallo, as The Rain Killer — named for his m.o. of killing women in the pouring rain — knifes three women in under five minutes while wearing a black overcoat, leather gloves and a hat. Sadly, this is an American film, so there are times where it decides to tell a story that somewhat makes sense. It turns out that all of the victims are members of a support group called The Sewing Circle and the FBI agent just so happens to be divorcing one of its members, his wife Adele (Tania Coleridge, who was in George Michael’s “Father Figure” video and played the drill model in Van Halen’s video for “Poundcake”). So you know — Sharkey hooks up with her because, well, that’s how movies work.
For a movie that is so influenced by giallo, isn’t it odd that Argento’s Trauma uses the same m.o.* — killer who murders in the rain — three years later?
*Shout out to Mondo Digital for pointing this out.