Col cuore in gola (1967)

The original title of this movie translates as With Heart in Mouth, but it was also released under several alternative titles, including I Am What I AmDeadly SweetEn cinquième vitesse (In Fifth Gear), Dead stop – Le coeur aux lèvres (Dead Stop – The Heart to the Lips), Con el corazón en la garganta (With My Heart in My Throat), Heart Beat and Ich bin wie ich bin – Das Mädchen aus der Carnaby Street (I Am What I Am – The Girl from Carnaby Street.

Bernard (Jean-Louis Trintignant) discovers Janes (Ewa Aulin, Candy) standing over a dead body in a London nightclub and instantly believes that she has to be innocent. Her father has recently been killed in a car accident, but Jane thinks that he was killed because of a blackmail scam gone wrong. And that body? The blackmailer.

He protects her from a series of shadowy men — including a dwarf — and the police that are following them both as they go deeper and deeper into the darkness that is her life. So does the control that he thinks he has over her life, but Jane is the kind of hurricane that has seemingly destroyed many a man before.

Man, this movie is something else. Tinto Brass directed it and it looks part comic book, part documentary, shot with hidden camera and wild zooms. It’s as 1967 as it gets and I mean that in the best of ways, with loud fuzzed-out music, pop art sensibility, switches from black and white to color and moments where Aulin’s beauty threatens to shatter whatever reality exists on film. Guido Crepax, whose comic Valentina was the basis of Baba Yaga, drew the storyboards and his art appears throughout the movie.

Brass’ only giallo, this feels more Antonioni than Bava. And yeah, it may go on a bit too long, but when it’s on, it’s on.

Now, to be up front, Aulin was all of sixteen when she made this and she has some semi-nude scenes. If that offends you, you can choose not to watch this.

Midnight Lace (1960)

HOLLYWOOD GIALLO (+ ITS OTHERS), the awesome IMDB list by Schwenkstar, described this nascent giallo as “Stalker disguises his voice in a creepy manner to hide his identity, a multitude of red herrings keep you guessing, and a shock reveal.”

What it did not tell me was that Midnight Lace starts Doris Day — of all people — as American heiress Kit Preston, a young girl who is one day threatened by an unseen voice inside the fog that threatens to kill her, keeps gaslighting her and makes her think that she’s going insane.

Day vowed to never make another thriller after this movie, as she said it so emotionally drained her. She stayed true to her word. Perhaps the reason why she was so mentally destroyed by this picture was that in order to be properly inspired to be afraid, she called upon a memory of her first husband dragging her out of bed and throwing her into a wall.

Midnight Lace is pretty much like a cover version of a Hitchcock thriller. Beyond having so many of his stars — Day was in The Man Who Knew Too Much, John Williams was a cop in Dial M for Murder* and To Catch a Thief, as well as John Gavin being in Psycho, this feels like, well, Dial M as a telephone is how the killer goes after our heroine who has a husband named Tony.

That said, the ending, which finds Day trying to escape through the scaffolding of her house after the reveal of who the villain really is — well, that’s the whole reason to watch this.

*Anthony Dawson and Herbert Marshall were also Dial M and this movie.

GIALLOPALOOZA PRIMER: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally covered this giallo cornerstone back on March 26, 2019 and then expanded on it when Arrow Video has released a UHD edition of this film. This is playing on the second night of the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Giallopalooza on September 17 and 18. You really can’t get into giallo without seeing this film, so I’m excited to share these thoughts with any first-timers who will be checking out L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo at the Riverside!

Other than the films of Mario Bava (Blood and Black LaceThe Girl Who Knew Too Much), there’s no other film that has no influenced the giallo. In fact, the most well-known version of the form starts right here with Dario Argento’s 1970 directorial debut. Until this movie, he’d been a journalist and had helped write Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American writer suffering from an inability to write. He’s gone to Rome to recover, along with his British model girlfriend (yes, everyone in giallo can score a gorgeous girl like Suzy Kendall). Just as he decides to return home, he witnesses a black-gloved man attacking a girl inside an art gallery. Desperate to save her, he can only watch, helpless and trapped between two mechanical doors as she wordlessly begs for help.

The woman is Monica Ranier and she’s gallery owner’s wife. She survives the attack, but the police think Sam may have had something to do with the crime, so they keep his passport so he can’t leave the country. What they’re not letting on is that a serial killer has been wiping out young women for weeks and that Sam is the only witness. That said — he’s haunted by what he’s survived and his memory isn’t working well, meaning that he’s missing a vital clue that could solve the crime.

As you can see, the foreign stranger who must become a detective, the missing pieces of memory, the black-clad killer — it’s everything that every post-1970 giallo would pay tribute to (perhaps rip off is the better term).

Another Argento trope shows up here for the first time. It’s the idea that art itself can cause violence. In this film, it’s a painting that shows a raincoat-clad man murdering a woman.

Soon, Sam is getting menacing calls from the killer and Julia is attacked by the black-clad maniac. The police isolate a sound in the background of the killer’s conversations, the call of a rare Siberian “bird with the crystal plumage.” There’s only one in Rome, which gets the police closer to the identity of who is wearing those black gloves (in truth, it’s Argento’s hands). It’s worth noting that the species of bird the film refers to as “Hornitus Nevalis” doesn’t really exist. The bird in the film is actually a Grey Crowned Crane.

Alberto, Monica’s art gallery husband, tries to kill her, finally revealing that he has been behind the attacks. Ah — but this is a giallo. Mistaken identity is the main trick of its trade. And even though this film was made nearly fifty years ago, I’d rather you get the opportunity to learn for yourself who the killer really is.

I may have mentioned before that my parents saw this movie before I was born and hated it to a degree that any time a movie didn’t make any sense, they would always bring up “that weird movie with the bird that makes the noises.” Who knew I would grow up to love Argento so much? It’s one of those cruel ironies that would show up in his movies. I really wonder if my obsession with giallo and movies that are difficult to understand is really me just rebelling.

An uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi, this film was thought of as career suicide by actress Eva Renzi. And the producer of the film wanted to remove Argento as the director. However, when Argento’s father Salvatore Argento went to speak to the man, he noticed that the executive’s secretary was all shaken up. He asked her what was wrong and she mentioned that she was still terrified from watching the film. Salvatore asked her to tell her boss why she was so upset and that’s what convinced the man to keep Dario on board.

The results of all this toil and worry? A movie that played for three and a half years in one Milan theater and led to copycats (and lizards and spiders and flies and ducklings and butterflies and so on) for decades. Argento would go on to film the rest of his so-called Animal Trilogy with The Cat O’Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, then Deep Red before moving into more supernatural films like Suspiria and Inferno.

Drive-In Super Monster-Rama is presenting “Giallopalooza”, two big nights of classic, fully restored giallo thrillers from such maestros as Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino!

On Friday, September 17, the line-up will be What Have You Done to Solange?, Torso, A Lizard In a Woman’s Skin and The Cat O’Nine Tails. Saturday, September 18 they will present Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Blood and Black Lace and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.

Admission is $10 per person each night (children 12 and under FREE with adult guardian). Camping on the premises is available each night for an additional $10 a person, and that includes breakfast.

Advance tickets are available online at the Riverside Drive In’s webpage.

GIALLOPALOOZA PRIMER: Blood and Black Lace (1964)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Probably my favorite giallo is the one that’s considered amongst the first in the form. Mario Bava’s 6 donne per l’assassino AKA Blood and Black Lace was originally written about on our site on March 24, 2019. I’m super excited to see it at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama Giallopalooza on September 17 and 18. Let’s raise a glass of J&B and get into it.

There’s no way to calculate the influence of Blood and Black Lace. It takes the giallo from where Bava started with The Girl Who Knew Too Much and adds what was missing: high fashion, shocking gore and plenty of sex. The results are dizzying; it’s as if Bava’s move from black and white to color has pushed his camera lens to the brink of insanity.

Isabella is an untouchably gorgeous model, pure perfection on human legs. But that doesn’t save her as she walks through the grounds of the fashion house and is brutally murdered by a killer in a white mask.

Police Inspector Sylvester takes the case and interviews Max Morlan (Cameron Mitchell!), who co-manages the salon with his recently widowed lover, the Countess Christina Como. Soon, our police hero discovers that the fashion house is a den of sin, what with all the corruption, sex, blackmail, drugs and abortions going on under its roof. Isabella was murdered because she had kept a diary of all the infractions against God that happened inside these four walls.

Nicole finds the diary and tells the police she will deliver it, but it’s stolen by Peggy. As she arrives at the antique store her boyfriend Frank owns, the killer appears and kills her with a spiked glove to the face. The killing is shocking. Brutal. And definitely the forerunner to the slasher genre.

Even after the cops arrest everyone in the fashion house, the murders keep on piling up. Peggy claims that she burned the diary, so the killer burns her face until she dies. Greta is smothered to death. And Tilde is killed in the bathtub, then her wrists are slit open, spraying red into the water and marking her as a suicide.

So who is it? Come on. You’re going to have to watch it for yourself.

The success of Black Sunday and Black Sabbath had given Bava the opportunity to do anything he wanted. His producers thought that this movie would be a krimi film along the lines of an Edgar Wallace adaption. Instead, Bava gave more importance to the killings than the detective work, emphasizing sex, violence and horror more than any film in this form had quite before.

Blood and Black Lace was a failure in Italy and only a minor success in West Germany, the home of Edgar Wallace. And in America, AIP passed on the film due to its combination of sex and brutality. Instead, it was released by the Woolner Brothers with a new animated opening.

Today, Blood and Black Lace is seen as a forerunner of body count murder movies and the excesses of later giallo films. To me, it’s a classic film, filled with Bava’s camera wizardry and love of color. It is everything perfect about movies.

Drive-In Super Monster-Rama is presenting “Giallopalooza”, two big nights of classic, fully restored giallo thrillers from such maestros as Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino!

On Friday, September 17, the line-up will be What Have You Done to Solange?, Torso, A Lizard In a Woman’s Skin and The Cat O’Nine Tails. Saturday, September 18 they will present Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Blood and Black Lace and Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key.

Admission is $10 per person each night (children 12 and under FREE with adult guardian). Camping on the premises is available each night for an additional $10 a person, and that includes breakfast.

Advance tickets are available online at the Riverside Drive In’s webpage.

When a Stranger Calls Back (1993)

Fourteen years after When a Stranger Calls, this TV movie brings back Cheryl Wilson, Carol Kane and Charles Durning as Mrs. Schifrin, Jill Johnson and John Clifford, as well as director Fred Walton.

The opening of this movie is great. Julia Jenz (Jill Schoelen, an unsung scream queen) is babysitting when she hears a knock on the door. Smart enough to not let anyone in, she tells the man on the other side of the door that she can call a tow truck for him but won’t let him in. When she does try to call, the lines are cut and as she begins lying to the mysterious voice, she realizes that someone is coming in and out of the house. It’s too late — the children she was watching have been abducted.

Five years later and Julia is still traumatized, with whoever stole the children continuing to break into her apartment. She’s helped by counselor Jill Johnson, but the constant abuse causes her to try and kill herself with a self-inflicted head wound. Julia and John Clifford decide to figure out who the stalker is, a man who can throw his voice and has special makeup and clothing that allows him to blend into the walls of Julia’s apartment.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Phobia (1980)

Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Ross (Paul Michael Glaser ) is using radical techniques — maybe even abusive — techniques on his patients to cure them of their fears. But then, they start getting killed off one after the other.

The script for this film comes from a story by Dead and Buried team Ronald Shusett* and Gary Sherman that was scripted by Peter Bellwood, Lew Lehman and Hammer veteran Jimmy Sangster.

It also has John Huston, a director of some pedigree, making it. But this feels less like the John Huston who directed The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle, The African Queen, The Misfits and Prizzi’s Honor and more like the John Huston who acted in Myra BreckinridgeThe Bermuda Triangle and The Visitor.

But hey — Susan Hogan from The Brood and Lisa Langlois (Class of 1999Happy Birthday to MeDeady Eyes) are in this.

If this sounds like Schizo without Kinski, well…you’re not wrong.

The best thing about this movie is that Marian Waldman, Mrs. Mac from Black Christmas, plays Glaser’s housekeeper.

Seriously, John Huston directed this. And it’s dull. So dull. Nobody seems to care and the premise of making criminals atone for their crimes by taking part in an experimental video therapy and being killed is a good one. This movie does not succeed in telling that story.

*According to Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett was the first to option the script from the original screenwriter. Shusett was in talks to sell the rights further, provided he could fix it, which meant that he restructured it with O’Bannon.

Rings of Fear (1978)

This is the third entry in a loosely linked series of films that are known by the pretty much pervy title of the Schoolgirls in Peril trilogy. All of these movies have young girls shockingly be interested in sex and being murdered for it.

The series starts with Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange?, one of the best films in the giallo form, which he followed with What Have They Done to Your Daughters? Sadly, Dallamano would die before this movie was made, but he is credited for writing the screenplay.

When the body of a teenage girl is discovered wrapped in plastic twelve years before Laura Palmer, Inspector Gianni DiSalvo (Fabio Testi) finds himself investigating a clique of young women called The Inseparables” who attend a prestigious all-girls’ school and were friends with the victim.

One of their number is Fausta Avelli, who was also in Don’t Torture A DucklingThe Psychic and Phenomena. And Helga Line, who was in everything from So Sweet…Perverse and Nightmare Castle to The Vampires Night OrgyHorror Rises from the Tomb and Black Candles, is in this.

Most of this movie recycles the past two films, but man, the ending where the first killer casually kills himself and then there’s the reveal of the real person behind everything? That makes watching this all worthwhile.

Giallo Napoletano (1979)

Look, when one of the titles for your movie is Atrocious Tales of Love and Death, I get a little excited. But as soon as I saw Marcello Mastroianni, I realized that I was going to hate this movie. He plays a mandolin player, which is totally not the giallo I want, but I can be a small man and tell you that seeing Ornella Muti’s name in the credits kept me watching. I think watching her in Flash Gordon repeatedly on HBO kickstarted me into puberty much sooner than I was ready for.

French model and actress Capucine is in this as well, which makes me happy, as she also did Jaguar Lives! in 1979 before taking a three-year break and showing up in American TV like Murder, She Wrote and Hart to Hart. Luckily for junk film lovers like me, she also found the time to be in Lamberto Bava’s Delirium: Portrait of Gloria, a movie that is surely beneath her.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this is a Sergio Corbucci film. I mean, the man who made Django? Oddly, I can totally accept him making fun movies with Terrence Hill like Super Fuzz but not this.

Maybe I expect too much. I mean, this is certainly a fine film for people that want a comedy. Me, I wanted the kind of kick I only get from black gloves and the flash of the blade. Oh well!

23 Paces to Baker Street (1956)

In IMDB user Schwenkstar’s Hollywood Giallo (+ Its Others) list, they state that this film pulls “the same trick Argento uses frequently in his films: a character sees/hears something but misinterprets it, misleading the character as well as the audience.”

Based on the Philip MacDonald book Warrant for X, this film also takes cues from Rear Window, placing a differently-abled person against criminals that came after them in the dark. This time, the hero is Philip Hannon (Van Johnson), a blind playwright who believes that the partial conversation he’s heard is related to a possible kidnapping that hasn’t even happened yet.

With the police disbelieving him, he is thrust into the role of the giallo hero: a stranger in a strange land and one even stranger because he only knows the steps from building to building and will never see this new skyline, a place that he’s escaped to in avoidance of his depression over his loss of sight. Those simmering feelings of a bleak future have led him to leave Jean (Vera Miles, who would soon appear in another essential giallo inspiring film, Psycho) behind in America, but she’s come to England which puts him even more off his hermetic path.

Director Henry Hathaway is probably best known for True Grit and The Sons of Katie Elder, but he put together a fun mystery here, a film that exists before the krimini and giallo yet has many of the things we’d later see in much more lurid tales.

The Card Player (2004)

Look, I’ll come clean. I’ve outright written off Argento’s post-Opera work without putting the work in, but that’s because the films I have seen have upset me so greatly — and in no way a good way — that it felt like putting in the work to watch another one after Sleepless felt like, well, work.

This was originally going to be a sequel to The Stendhal Syndrome and titled In the Dark, but everything changed when Asia Argento declined to be involved.

The biggest issue is that the story is intriguing but as you wait for the visuals, nothing much happens. If this were any other director, I’d be fine with this movie. But with Argento, perhaps unfairly, I want more. I want bullets tearing through keyholes and eyeballs, bodies crashing through windows, menacing forests and colors that burn their way into my ventral occipital lobe. Instead, this looks no better than a TV procedural.

The Card Player is a masked and black gloved killer who kidnaps women in Rome, then challenges the police to play internet poker with him for their lives. If the police lose, they get to watch someone get tortured and killed Red Room-style online.

There’s a great close with a train bearing down on the killer and a victim who play poker right up to the end. Sure, the effect that follows is poor, but getting there isn’t horrible.

What is bad is that this entire movie is based around watching people play video poker. While we can argue whether or not Argento was inventing Twitch, the fact is that 1972 Dario would shoot a poker game like cards were flying at us filled with mystery and menace. Instead, we simply watch cards slowly get dealt out.

Man, Dario. I really want to see you do something great. And I get it. You already did. Maybe I should take it easier on you. But we always want more from the ones we love.