Friday, July 18, 2014

Giallo July: A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (León Klimovsky, 1974)

As giallo aficionados will well know, Italy wasn't the only country to produce films that can be seen as belonging to the sub-genre.... and without getting into the can of worms that whole area presents (though we may return to it before the month is through), I'll simply say for now that after the Italians, the Spaniards were among the most prolific in terms of producing gialli. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy ended up appearing in a few in his time... and out of the three I've seen, the film we're looking at today is perhaps not the best... but if pressed, I'd say it's probably my current favourite.

The movie's title should tell you all you need to know regarding the set-up but still, a few words regarding the plot... basically, someone (sporting some amazing red pants) is going around killing off assorted local miscreants... drug addicts, strippers (moonlighting as prostitutes), you get the idea. And unlike the straight razor wielding killers typical of many gialli, this maniac likes to mix it up a bit, using both a sword and a spiked umbrella. Also atypically for the genre, the central character we follow through the case is a police inspector this time, as opposed to another of the amateur detectives we normally see in these films...

The cop in question, Paolo Scaporella (played with gusto by Naschy), is having a tough time it seems, having been demoted to dealing with flashers and the like. With a mean looking moustache and a cigar permanently protruding from his lips, you can tell the Inspector means business... even when he's dealing with the cases no-one else wants. But when the aforementioned psycho starts their killing spree, things start looking up for Paolo as a friend higher up in the force wants him for the job.

This is a somewhat routine but highly enjoyable giallo, with the usual abundance of red herrings, colourful characters and stylish set-pieces. It's arguably lifted to being an above par entry by some uniformly excellent performances... and especially those of Naschy and co-star Erika Blanc (of other gialli such as So Sweet... So Perverse and The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave), who plays the Inspector's wife, Silvana. The two share some great chemistry and their scenes have a real feeling of loving warmth and humour to them. I also like that she essentially plays the Watson to Naschy's Holmes, helping him with the case and often pointing out things he doesn't consider... or picking up his cigar when he carelessly puts it down on a photo pertaining to the case. Another character worth mentioning, and one who also helps with the investigation, is Silvana's gay fashion designer friend (whose name currently escapes me)... mainly as his performance seems relatively restrained and sensitively portrayed for the period and the genre.

I wouldn't say anything really leaped out at me as far as León Klimovsky's direction goes but to be fair the print I saw was far from ideal, so I can't really pass judgement on that properly... but nevertheless I'd say it's competently put together and there are some nice touches to appreciate scattered throughout... for example,  I thought the blood splashing onto a drawing of a naked lady during an early murder set-piece was a novel way of staging the scene.

One final thing I wanted to mention is the music... which is apparently taken from the CAM music library. Some of the cues are unfamiliar to me but there are a few taken from two seminal Mario Bava directed gialli that I most definitely recognise. During a delightful domestic scene, where Erika Blanc comes home and sees Naschy in the kitchen cooking, while sporting a hilariously incongruous apron and cigar ensemble, we get the ending music from A Bay of Blood... and at several other points in the movie, we also get cues from Blood and Black Lace. Now admittedly this does take me out of the film every so slightly but only in the sense that it reminds me of those Bava films and makes me think of them... but as it stands I quite like how these bits of music are reused here.

So in summary, I'd say if you've already been bitten by the giallo bug or are a Naschy fan, you can't go wrong here... and come to think of it, even those unfamiliar with either might well have a good time with this.... I mean, there's a scene where a cross dressing suspect tries to evade the police by getting on a roller coaster for crying out loud, so what more persuasion do you need?   

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