Ah, Gialli. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Too long without one, you feel like "Wait! I need to watch a Giallo!" then, a few minutes after popping one in, you (often) feel like "WHY did I want to watch this?" This one, with that amazing title, had been on my list for a while, when suddenly I promoted it to the number one spot. But soon after I started it I had that old Ho-Hum feeling. I began suspecting it was going to be a dud. Luckily, this movie starts to get better in its second half, then gets even more crazy, and finally goes plumb insane during its final moments.
The Netflix sleeve says that this is supposed to take place in "swinging 70s London," but I saw absolutely no evidence of that, and not one thing about it seems British. Come on guys, throw in a shot of Big Ben or something. London Bridge? Anything? We open with a fellow, whom we will soon come to recognize as our hero, Lord Alan Victor Cunningham, trying to escape from a mental institution. He almost makes it, but is caught. Then: title! Next we join Victor later, as he drives a prostitute out to his remote country estate. He suddenly yanks on her hair to see if it's a wig. Then he gets out of the car and swiftly changes the license plates. They arrive at his place, which is a giant ruin (that looks 100% Italian and 0% British), but has a finished mod apartment inside, which the prostitute, who thought the ruin was icky, thinks is pretty groovy. She's one of those Italian movie women that just babble every minuscule thought that passes through her head. Alan has her try on these thigh-high black boots, then gets out his whip, which she thinks is pretty kinky, until he starts whipping her with relish. Then he ties her up and is about to brand her with a hot iron, as she says "No! No! No! No! No! No! No! (etc.)" but suddenly he hears his name called by Evelyn, his dead wife, and she says "De parco" which is translated as "The garden," and suddenly he sees slow-motion footage of a nude woman frolicking in a park, while we suddenly switch to soft, lyrical music, and suddenly that refreshing Giallo feeling rushes over you. Still, Alan snaps out of it and kills the woman with a knife. Guess all that saying no didn't help, eh? Womp womp.
So there are a bunch of supporting characters, including Albert, Evelyn's brother, who lurks about the grounds, witnessing everything and every so often demanding money, Farley, the concerned doctor, Aunt Agatha, who is confined to a wheelchair, and George, who is the family lawyer or something. They decide to have a seance to try to contact Evelyn and get her to lay off Alan, or at least to make him forget her. Doesn't work. What else is Alan to do but pick up another floozy, tug her hair again, make her wear the boots, whip her, etc.? This one has a long period in which she tries to escape, saying "No! No! No! No! No! No! No!" which at first I estimated to be like twenty times, but later had to revise to thirty. You know, sweetie, the definition of insanity is continuing the same tactic after it has repeatedly been shown not to work. This killer does not seem to be responding to your repeated requests, does he? Maybe try offering a sandwich? He might be hungry. Perhaps he could be bought off with promise of a valuable savings coupon? Or something? Banana smoothie? But the "No!" tactic is not showing a lot of results. Again Alan remembers Evelyn, but still offs the stripper.
SPOILERS > > >
Then Alan attends a swingin' garden party with a hot 70s band that is pointedly NOT playing or singing the music we are hearing. There George points out Gladys, hot blonde who is said to be a killer in the sack, and who might let Alan sample her wares if he plays his cards just right. In here we find out that Evelyn was having an affair, and the footage of her in the park was actually the moment Alan caught her with another man. She was desperate to have a child, but Alan's dough wouldn't rise in her oven, and she was carrying the other man's baby, determined to have it, when Alan killed her. In here we also learn that Aunt Agatha is having an affair with Albert.
So up til now this movie has been pretty ho-hum, and I was watching it on autopilot, but now is about the time it starts getting good. And I realized, to my chagrin, that a LOT of crucial information was being front-loaded into the first part that I was not paying as much attention to. So if you watch it, don't write off the first half, and also, I apologize if I screwed up names or plot points from when I was only half-interested.
So George has been counseling Alan that remarrying might help erase Evelyn from his mind, and George takes his advice when, at the end of his one-night-stand with Gladys, he proposes. She's wary, but next thing you know, they're married. They come back to the house, where Aunt Agatha has hired five maids who all wear the same uniform and all have blonde curly wigs. Not long after she's arrived at the house, Gladys goes out to the tomb out back and has the caretaker lift the lid of the coffin and--no Evelyn! This is all observed by Albert, who is always lurking whenever anything happens, but it would seem that someone ELSE is also lurking, someone who has ordered a poisonous snake from the Internet Snake Warehouse, and had it shipped express in a deluxe clear plastic box, to be easily grabbed behind the neck and taken through the garden, where it is touched to the neck of Albert. It is abundantly clear that the snake does not actually bite Albert, but for the movie's sake let's just play along.
Okay, that's fun--but we're not done yet. Remember how I said this movie has a steep awesomeness curve? Well, Aunt Agatha has also wheeled her nosy ass out into the garden, where it is revealed that she's not paralyzed at all, she can walk. However, she only makes it a few steps before she is sadly bludgeoned. She is then put back in her electric wheelchair and we get the somehow perversely satisfying shot of her dead body being propelled forward as the killer, walking along beside her, lays on the accelerator. He takes her to this cage, unlocks it, throws her body inside, and re-locks it. I was wondering what that cage was all about, but didn't have to ponder long before I remembered, ah yes, the FOXES. Then you are treated to the sight of a dress filled with meat, with a fake head and dark wig attached, being gently sniffed at and gradually being ripped apart by real foxes. Fun! There's a nice, juicy shot of a fox yanking out a trail of intestines.
After the typical crime scene investigation, George asks if he can stay the night because he just hates driving in the rain. Alan walks in the room to find a woman in a red wig, combing her hair before a portrait of Evelyn. He grabs her and strangles her for quite some time, then says "Sorry!" She asks for permission to destroy the portrait, right then, and he says she can, so she does, with gusto. Then, I can't remember if it's the next night or what, but Alan hears a scream and comes into the bedroom to find Gladys hysterical. Because, you see, there's the quite real, quite visible figure of Evelyn standing outside the window. Gladys begs Alan to stay, but he leaves, giving you a few moments of "Wow, supportive husband! And the ghost is clearly RIGHT there, so it's not like she saw vapors or anything." But he grabs a shovel and sets out to confront this apparition, ending up in the family crypt. He moves aside what he thought was Evelyn's grave to go downstairs, where the real grave is, to find Evelyn all mummified and dead just like you'd expect. The family silver is also noted. As soon as Alan turns his back, though, Evelyn opens her eyes!
Now a mountain of shit hits the mother of all fans from here on out, so you might rethink whether you want to know all the shocks this movie piles into its final moments, or would rather experience them for yourself. Final warning... Alan goes out and is stumbling through the ankle-deep mud, when Evelyn, as promised, comes out of the grave! He sees her and says "No! No! No!" causing me to finally decide that at least two-thirds of this screenplay is made up of people shouting "No!" Alan has a heart attack and dies in the mud! Then Evelyn pulls off her mask and reveals herself as--Gladys! Which means when Alan thought he saw Evelyn's corpse a moment earlier, from two feet away, he was looking right at a cheap rubber mask, but, umm, it was dark in there? She also just whips off her mask right away, while I usually consider it prudent to wait a bit to ensure that the victim is dead, or at least gain a discreet distance, but, you know, she's impetuous.
But that's not all. Next we see that Gladys and George were in on it together! You will recall that George initially steered Alan toward Gladys, and suggested he remarry, while he and Gladys were together all along. You see how this is essentially like Days of Heaven. With Albert and Aunt Agatha out of the way, Gladys will inherit the whole shebang! George also slips a line in about how HE sometimes appeared as Evelyn, which helps explain some of her appearances while we were with Gladys. Well guess who should show up then, but EVELYN! The woman herself. Although I forget what all the mechanics of this were. She poisons Gladys, but the dying Gladys stabs Evelyn, leading George to say to Evelyn "You spared me the trouble of killing her." Will this nefarious nogoodnik get away with the prize?
Next George is out with some of the other minor characters by the pool, which for some reason is surrounded by vats of sulphuric acid. I'm sure you keep vats of sulphuric acid around the house for those unexpected moments when you need to dissolve something. Anyway, they're having some rancor when suddenly ALAN, who apparently did NOT expire in the muck (And who fell down on the job, Gladys?) attacks, and George ends up in the swimming pool WITH the sulphuric acid. You're thinking this seems like it would be pretty diluted, but the movie does respect reality in this one small way by (and at this point--why?) in having him come out not melted, simply screaming "I'm burning!" And that's the end! And you're feeling like justice has been done, when you realize in retrospect that they guy who has emerged as the "hero" is a sadistic sexually-perverted serial killer! But you know, people change.
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So, pretty silly, yet, pretty awesome. Sometimes Gialli go one way and are just unusually violent and scary, sometimes they become unusually emotional and moving, and sometimes they just throw out the stops and become hyper-violent soap operas, and that's what we have here. So it's never really that unnerving or scary, but everything it throws at you in the second half makes it very fun and super trashy, and that's totally enough to redeem it. Although again, nothing in the first half would prepare you for everything that happens in the second half. If you're ready for a Giallo that's just going to be a lot of silly, violent fun, this one's for you.
Sure, just be sure to make it past the halfway mark.