Cinematic Void January Giallo 2023: Tightrope (1984)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cinematic Void will be playing this movie on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 7:00 PM at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, IL in 35mm with CV’s Jim Branscome in person (tickets here). For more information, visit Cinematic Void.

Directed and written by Richard Tuggle (who also wrote Escape from Alcatraz), this film is described by Wikipedia as a “neo-noir psychological mystery slasher crime thriller film,” but come one.

This is a giallo.

New Orleans police detective Wes Block (Eastwood) is the kind of guy who will take in stray dogs and raise his daughters instead of his estranged wife but also has a drinking problem, skips taking his daughters to a Saints game because he’s obsessed with work and has no problem being seduced by a sex worker while investigating his next case in which ladies of the night are being killed by someone that leaves behind a ton of forensic evidence and also wears Kabuki-like masks.

Actually, Block has no problem sleeping with a lot of these women as he interviews them and of course, one of the women he does have sex with ends up dead in a hot tub. He’s also getting close to a rape counselor played by Beryl Thibodeaux (Geneviève Bujold, Coma).

Want more giallo evidence? The killer sends notes to Block via dolls which direct him to a dungeon where a dominatrix tells him that an unknown man has hired her to be whipped by him and then he’s to go to a gay bar and have sex with a man. Yeah, Clint went into some dark territory so unlike himself here.

Block also left behind a necktie, which is left at a crime scene, and even when he tries to take Beryl on a nice date with his family, the killer is hiding close by. The crime — and the alcoholism and the trauma and who knows what else — leave our hero unable to rise to the occasion and make love to his new girlfriend later that night. He soon has a dream where he’s dressed as the killer and murdering her.

That killer isn’t waiting to be caught. He breaks into Block’s home, kills his nanny and several dogs, then attempts to kidnap his daughter Amanda (Alison Eastwood). He also nearly kills the detective, who is saved at the last minute by one of his dogs. And he’s not done yet.

With a great performance by Dan Hedaya as Det. Joe Molinari and Eastwood pretty much taking over the film to direct it when Tuggle was too slow for him. He also had already gotten angry at the director for not wearing underwear in the muggy New Orleans heat and was angry when Tuggle’s tackle was sticking out of his shorts one day.

So yeah. It’s a giallo. The main character is conflicted by the world that he finds himself in, a hero who may not be one, in a red-tinted world filled with easy sex and even simpler death. Variety said that this movie “trades extensively on the theme of guilt transference from killer to presumed hero which for so long was the special domain of Sir Alfred Hitchcock,” or you know, Argento. Or Martino. Or Lenzi.

If you want any more evidence, the Italian poster for this movie is yellow.

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