Friday, 15 April 2011

And Now The Screening Starts...

Strip Nude For Your Killer. 1975 dir.Andrea Bianchi. starring: Edwige Fenech, Femi Benussi,Nino Castelnuovo

If the past, as L.P.Hartley continues to point out (from the past, where he now has his passport stamped), is a foreign country, then the past in a foreign country is a very strange place to be indeed. And so it is. As I sit and watch "Strip nude for your killer" I am aware of how utterly without map and compass I am in 1970's Italy. This film begins with a botched abortion and ends, and I don't think I'm giving too much away here, with an anal-sex gag. Amazingly the two are not unrelated!

There is a lengthy sequence in which a very fat man drives a woman at high speed around Rome. Once he gets her into his flat he offers her money for sex. She declines so he has a go at raping her and, when this fails, he becomes weepy and maudlin. At this point she relents, undressing neatly and, when he can't get it up, she comforts him and refuses the money that he offers again. After she leaves he retrieves a blow-up doll from the bedroom but it is he who is punctured by a leather-clad murderer!

Much of this is presented as if it is humorous and perhaps the portly rapist is a stock comic character in Italy. But trying to get a handle on these peculiar cultural conventions is, for me at least, much of the charm of the giallo (much of the rest is Edwige Fenech, of course). All of the usual giallo tropes are obediently in place: the leather gloves, the bottle of J&B (official liquor of throat-ripping Italian men since 1957)the brilliant score are all here. But trying to fathom the motivations of the film makers as bizarre scene lurches into bizarrer scene is harder to map out.

Femi Benussi's lengthy trot past a swimming pool and up into a bar dressed in a bikini too small to hide her luxuriant seventies pubes, plays like a classic Scorcese tracking shot grafted onto an Italian sex comedy. An elderly homosexual is killed and the next time we see his corpse his bum is out! Why?

This is a relatively late giallo and all the memorable murders have been done so to say that the killer's motivations seem a little tacked on is something of an understatement. The entire raison d'etre is tossed off between Edwige Fenech's tits and the afore-mentioned bum-sex gag. Surely its spiritual home!

There's the usual creeping around in the dark, all manner of nonsense in a photographic dark-room. The central conceit; that the murderer only murders the naked, isn't strictly adhered to and, at one point, after stealing a sword from a suit of armour (!) the murderer cuts off and keeps a man's penis. For no reason. The man has just been revealed as the main suspect - though we're now pretty certain it isn't him - that's a pretty impressive alibi! Impressive alibis are surplus to requirements though given that the police in this film are among the most inept in cinematic history. At one point they are unable to catch a man fleeing the scene of a double murder with a drunken woman in his arms. They escape by hiding in the garden! The drunken woman is the always wonderful Edwige; Audrey Hepburn pressed against glass but with boobs till Tuesday. In fact she's in the film far too little, most of the action featuring the elementally unattractive leading man. He is in turn leering, sexist, violent, untrustworthy, smug and the owner of the nastiest pair of swimming trunks of all time. Throughout the film you're thinking well, surely he must die.

You may be disappointed.

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