Giallo a Venezia (1979)

Giallo a Venezia gets criticized quite a bit for generally being a disgusting piece of trash. Normally, I’m inclined to dismiss claims such as this as the ravings of oversensitive bluenoses, but after suffering through this one though, I am reluctantly inclined to agree wholeheartedly. After all, who can argue that the presence of naked dudes in this movie isn’t completely gratuitous and has no place in an otherwise upstanding and sleazy slice-n-dice?

Large chunks of this movie were devoted to scenes of guys thrusting back and forth on their women while wearing nothing more than their bad late seventies Venetian haircuts. Sure, I might tolerate (and probably would demand) some male thrusting in a Hercules or Maciste movie, but those guys are mega jacked, wearing leather skirts, and usually thrusting in an attempt to uproot a giant tree to toss onto a cyclops or barbarian army. The only tossing in this film was me tossing my cookies every time some randy Italian decided to go commando in my face.

Detective DePaul is called to the scene of a disturbing double murder. A man has been stabbed in his goodies and a woman has been drowned, but was inexplicably fished out of the water and left near the man. These two turn out to be a married couple named Fabio and Flavia.

DePaul locates Marizia, a friend of the couple and it is through her that we learn all about Fabio and Flavia. Director Mario Landi employs an extremely liberal use of flashbacks to show us all the things that led up to the couple’s death. These scenes can all be boiled down to the same basic thing: Fabio cajoles Flavia into participating in some degrading act or other. And when he wasn’t doing that, he’d be snorting coke and reading through the Kama Sutra!

These flashbacks go on for a long time, don’t add much to the murder mystery (he’s a drug-addled pervert – I get it!), and are accompanied by some easy listening music that veers into Big Band territory every now and again.

In spite of doing nothing much beyond eating hard boiled eggs and checkinag out some dirty slides he seized from Marizia’s house, DePaul finds himself with three or four good suspects. There’s Flavia’s previous boyfriend who is an artist. There’s the old criminal who hangs out with Marizia. There’s the ex-boyfriend who keeps leaving nasty messages on Marizia’s answering machine. And then you’ve got Marizia herself. DePaul is a good detective so he continues to eat his eggs and banter with his partner and the coroner until the suspects have thinned themselves out by killing each other off.

And that’s really where the movie manages to save itself. Do you like cruel and mean-spirited deaths? Well gosh, yeah! Who the heck doesn’t? The beauty of it is that Landi lavishes the same lingering love on his death scenes as he does his icky sex scenes. You want hookers stabbed in the crotch? Check! How about a guy shot and then burned alive? Flame on, baby! A person getting their leg sawed off and shoved in a refrigerator? That’s on everyone’s wish list!

And I’m going to tell you, regardless of what else you read about this film, if you are a fan of legs getting sawed off, this is your Holy Grail. Landi doesn’t skimp on the sawing action at all! This dude starts to saw and he just keeps going! And to put the cherry on top, the killer wakes up the victim after the victim passes out so that the victim can feel it all over again! You just don’t get that sort of consideration from every deranged maniac!

But would all this senseless violence matter if we didn’t care about the characters or the mystery? Yes! That’s why it’s senseless violence! And a good thing, too since the mystery isn’t that much of a mystery and no one you care about is in jeopardy.

In a good giallo, you’re racing to unravel the mystery before time runs out and another person dies and usually that person is someone the investigator wants to desperately save. DePaul is more interested in cracking his eggs than this case. He’s not bent out of shape when someone gets torched or dismembered – it’s just narrowing his list of suspects. And the best part is, he still gets it wrong!

Still, the good outweighs the bad here. The repulsive male nudity, the limp mystery, the barely interested detective, and the silly use of a nosy neighbor to provide the clue that finally cracks the case are all useful as a way to toughen yourself up for future crappy giallo efforts. Besides, you are getting some nice murders that wouldn’t be out of place in Lucio Fulci horror movie.

And it’s not like Landi wasn’t trying as hard as he could. Sure, the only other movie of note he made was Patrick Lives Again, but he and writer Aldo Serio did their research for this one. They’ve got their killer sporting gigantic sunglasses and wearing black gloves, just like a real life giallo movie killer would! Now if only they would have had their actors wearing their frigging clothes – I shouldn’t have to spend five minutes watching a leg getting sawed off and thinking what a relief it is.

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