|Submitted by Iain McLachlan |
(Sep 28, 2004)
RIVELAZIONI DI UN MANIACO SESSUALE AL CAPO DELLA SQUADRA MOBILE
Alternate Titles: SO SWEET, SO DEAD; THE SLASHER IS THE SEX MANIAC; THE SLASHER; SO NAKED, SO DEAD, REVELATIONS OF A SEX MANIAC TO THE HEAD OF THE CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION, PENETRATION.
Pro Co: Produzione Cinematografiche Romane (P.C.R.)
Dir: Roberto (Bianchi) Montero;
Pro: Eugenio Florimonte;
Wrs: Luigi Angelo, Italo Fasan, Robert Montero; orig st: Luigi Angelo, Italo Fisan;
Exec Pros: Angelo Faccenna. Mario Fellegrino.
Phot: Fausto Rossi;
Film Ed: Rolando Salvatori;
Mus: Giorgio Gaslini;
Sets: Massimo Bolongaro.
SFX: Vitantonio Ricci;
Make-Up: Liliana Dulac.
Cast: Farley Granger, Sylva Koscina, Silvano Tranquilli, Annabella Incontrera, Chris Avram, Femi Benussi, Krista Nell, Angela Covello, Fabrizio Moresco, Andrea Scotti, Irene Pollmer, Luciano Rossi, Jessica Dublin, Susan Scott (=Nieves Navarro), Sandro Pizzorro.
As the giallo, the Italian cinematic equivalent of the British and American murder mystery novel, grew further apart from its roots in the German Edgar Wallace-inspired whodunits of the late 1950s and 1960s, termed krimis, they developed their own unique identity and style, with the emphasis on lurid primary colours together elaborate shock and suspense sequences. Another feature of this genre was the lack of direct involvement by the authorities, in the form of the police, in the investigation of crimes, the focus of the plots instead shifting either to bystanders, as was the case in Dario Argento’s L’Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo (1969), or the group of suspects directly linked to the crime, typified by Mario Bava’s Sei Donne per L’Asssassino (1964), considered by many, along with the same filmmaker’s La Ragazza Che Sapeva Troppo (1963), to be the first true giallo.
There were of course exceptions, such as the film reviewed here, Rivelazioni di un Maniaco Sessuale al Capo della Squadra Mobile, which features elements from the Bava and Argento models, while still concentrating on the more traditional detective hero and his activities.
In a prosperous small provincial town in Southern Italy, a naked woman is discovered murdered and mutilated. By her body are a number of photographs of her having sex with her lover, his face having been cut out. At the morgue, the chief pathologist suggests to the detective in charge of the case, Inspector Capuano, that the victim was killed almost instantly by a from an open blade razor to the neck, the subsequent blows being the result of a homicidal fury. A fellow police officer is of the opinion that, due to the circumstances surrounding the murder, especially the presence of the photographs, they are dealing with a maniac. Capuano considers having the pictures of the lover blown up so that all his physical details can be logged, but rejects the idea as impractical, not least because the victim’s husband is a general with very powerful political connections, meaning that any investigation must be handled very delicately. It is decided in the meantime to arrest members of the local criminal fraternity and determine any links, no matter how tenuous, with the case. Despite intensive questioning of suspects, no new information is yielded and so Capuano returns home to his wife. She is worried about the effect his latest investigation is having on him, while he complains about the wall of silence surrounding the case, meaning that he cannot perform his duties properly. He also believes that the killer is very likely to strike again. Out in the countryside, a woman cavorting with her lover is covertly photographed by a figure whose features are obscured by gloves, a hat and heavy overcoat. Later, at a secret hideaway, the couple finish having sex. The lover bemoans having to leave, but is reminded that the woman must also leave so that she can host a bridge game organised by her husband. Shortly after he leaves, and she begins to dress, the villa is plunged into darkness and an attack is launched by the figure seen photographing the couple earlier. The woman manages to escape her assailant and makes it onto a nearby beach, before succumbing and being hacked to death by a razor. The killer scatters photographs over her body. The next morning her boyfriend is reassured by his lawyer that he has nothing to fear from the resulting police investigation, since his face had been removed from the photos. He is advised that because of the victim’s powerful husband, the police will not pursue the case too forcefully and that he should continue with his life as normal. Detective Capulano and the pathologist discuss the connection between the two murders and mull over possible motives for the crimes, including jealousy and psychosis brought about by impotence or homosexual rage. The detective hears strange laughter coming from the morgue and is taken inside by the pathologist. There they encounter, Gastoni, the morgue assistant who takes a strong pride in his work as an embalmer and whose laughter is the result of perfectly restoring a corpse’s former beauty. As they leave, the assistant is heard muttering something about forgiveness for sins. The next day, the police mount a surveillance operation on the latest victim’s funeral, filming those present. Nothing untoward is found. The following day, in a beauty salon, some of the well-to-do women of the town discuss recent events, and are concerned as to who could be the next victim. At a meeting with the Police Commissioner, Capuano admits that he has hit a dead end with the investigation, since the only suspects that he has are considered untouchable because of their social standing and political connections. He decides to continue the case nevertheless, convinced that the killer will strike again and possibly make a mistake. He is warned to tread carefully by his superior. Meanwhile, in a wooded area, two lovers are photographed as they make love in a car…
Director Robert Bianchi Montero was fairly typical of the journeyman directors who littered the Italian film industry from the 1950s to 1970s. Like many of his contemporaries, a product of the neo-realist movement of the 1940s, Montero could be relied upon to turn his hand to any genre that was in vogue with the general public, including mondos, spaghetti westerns, peplum, war movies and spy thrillers, all showing a marked neo-realist bias. This influence can also be felt throughout Rivelazione di un Marniaco Sessuale al Capo della Squadra Mobile.
On the surface, Montero’s film bears all the hallmarks of a giallo, along the lines of the Mario Bava and Dario Argento model, with its convoluted plotting, a plethora of read herrings, including the jealous husband (Silvano Tranquilli, Ceremonia Sangrienta 1972) and the creepy morgue attendant (Luciano Rossi, La Morte ha Sorriso all’Assassino 1972) and, most obviously, the masked and gloved killer lifted from Bava’s Sei donne per L’Assassino, which has become a fixture of the genre. However, instead of concentrating on expected giallo elements, like the creation of violent set-pieces for the murder sequences, and establishing atmosphere and tension through the use of lighting and editing, he reveals himself to be concerned with other issues. In fact, the main focus of attention for the director seems to be the social and political climate in which the murder investigation takes place.
The senior detective on the case, Inspector Capuano (Farley Granger, Alla Ricerca del Piacere 1972) has, by necessity, become something of a political animal, very aware of the political landscape he inhabits, and which citizens he can and cannot antagonise. Unfortunately this means that he cannot follow the normal rules of investigation in this particular murder case, since a wrong move could result in him being transferred or kicked off the force all together. Instead he is reduced to harassing minor criminal types, as a sop to the media, who only see the police’s failure to achieve any results.
Montero and co-writers Luigi Angelo (L’Uomo Puma 1979) and Italo Fasan (Goldface: Il Fantastico Superman 1968) have a very jaundiced view of the upper classes in the small provincial town in which the story takes place. This is illustrated by Silvano Tranquilli’s sleazy lawyer, seemingly connected to everyone of significance in town, including the Police Commissioner. He admits to the detective that both he and his wife, along with others within his social group, claiming that the times condone such behaviour, as long they maintain the illusion of decency and strict morality they present to the lower orders.
It is implied that the existence of such twisted morality in the older generation is inciting social tensions within their offspring, with references being made to the political turmoil that Italy was experiencing at the time and the daughter’s lawyer (Angela Covello, Baba Yaga 1973) becoming involved (albeit half-heartedly) with revolutionary politics. It should be noted that to many disaffected, young upper middle-class people, the left-wing terrorist groups active in Italy and Germany during the 1970s proved very attractive.
Thematically, this is all very interesting, at least when described. However, dramatically, it fails since the any concepts introduced by the writers are never developed and quickly abandoned, the situations the characters face reduced to mere melodrama, mundane at best.
Directors like Roberto Bianchi Montero, who came from a neo-realist background and continued to follows its traditions throughout their careers, are noted for the sense of detachment conveyed in their movies, with both the viewer and the director regarded as observers of events occurring on-screen, providing a veneer of naturalism and realism. This approach is perfectly suited to the contemporary dramas and comedies that Montero turned out during the 1940s and1950s, along with his faux documentaries from the early 1960s, but created problems for more genre-related projects, these being more narrative-driven and requiring more audience involvement and/or manipulation. Rivelazione di un Maniaco Sessuale al Capo della Squadre Mobile is a case in point.
Given the right treatment, the premise of this movie, with the detective on the case dealing not only having to deal with a psychotic serial killer, but having to manoeuvre his through the political minefield surrounding the case, where vested interests and moral corruption rule, could have proved a fascinating exercise. Instead, the sense of detachment that pervades the rest of this enterprise becomes very apparent, undermining the presentation of the mechanics of the police investigation, which should have been at least interesting, as the police use scientific techniques, sift through possible suspects and use various ploys to draw out the culprit. Instead the operation unfolds in a deliberately paced series of loosely related vignettes, generating little in the way of dramatic tension or narrative drive.
Matters are not helped in the rest of the story by the serious underwriting of nearly all the characters, none of them, with the possible exception of Luciano Rossi’s morgue attendant (sporting a seriously deranged blonde hairpiece), bearing any personality traits whatsoever. There is a convention in gialli that detective characters, usually secondary or peripheral figures, show some quirky side to their personalities, in order to flesh out their parts. Thus, the cop in Duccio Tessari’s Una Farfala con le Ali Insanguinate (1971) is obsessed with obtaining the perfect cup of coffee, Mario Landi’s Giallo a Venezia (1978) has a policeman with the unpleasant habit of constantly munching boiled eggs, while Dario Argento features a sleuth who can never guess the outcome of mystery novels in his 1982 work Tenebre. In the leading role of the piece, Farley Granger as the chief investigator is given very little to work with and comes across as a mundane, if dedicated, individual with whom the audience has little empathy or interest. To be fair there do appear to be some attempts by the writers to provide some background detail for the detective, notably that he appears to have married above his class to Sylva Koscina (Sette Scialli di Seta Giallo 1972), whose father is an industrialist in Northern Italy, and who would like Granger to quit his job and go work for. Koscina also appears to be part of the same social group as the victims, implying that she employs the same vices and adding some weight to the climactic twist, where it is revealed that she has been cheating on her workaholic husband. This is of course a great irony, but presented so ineptly that it loses much of its impact.
Added to this is some very sloppy plotting, which focuses on what seems to be an important individual, such as Angelo Covello whose character witnesses the murder of her next door neighbour, or the lover of the second victim (Andrea Scotti), and then quickly shifts to another person before anything can be developed or resolved.
As a work of giallo cinema, Montero’s suffers from some serious shortcomings. The most obvious is the laboured pacing of the piece, thanks in part to Montero’s overly low-key and naturalistic approach, which will prove challenging for less tolerant viewers. The naturalism extends to the cinematography by Fausto Rossi (Le Amazzoni – Donne di Amore e di Guerra 1973), with Rossi making little impact in terms of inventive lighting and use of colour, although he does employ some striking compositions which make good use of the scope format. The zoom lens is badly utilised.
Possibly the most controversial aspect of any giallo, and arguably the highpoint of many such works, are the elaborate murder sequences for which the genre is famous. Here Roberto Montero proves to be completely out of his depth. While graphic in nature, and no doubt disturbing for audiences of the time, with the killer slashing at naked bodies with an open-blade razor, they lack any real shock value, due to unimaginative and frankly leaden staging and editing. The murder of Femi Bemussi (Un’Accetta per la Luna di Miele 1969) is particularly botched, taking place on a beach in slow motion. One death scene, that involving Krista Nell (Las Amantes del Diablo 1971), is of some interest in that it takes place on an elaborate iron staircase, and seems to be a direct visual reference to an earlier motion picture that was a major influence on gialli, Robert Siodmak’s The Spiral Staircase (1945). There, physical rather than moral imperfection was being punished.
Rivelazione di un Maniaco Sessuale al Capo della Squadra is not without some merit, it must be said. Among the more interesting scenes are where one of the victims is in her bathroom and wipes the steam from a mirror, only to find the killer standing directly behind her, Angelo Covello finding herself stuck in a lift with a menacing stranger wearing dark glasses with black gloves, and the use of a red light in a photographic dark room for dramatic effect, when the detective discovers that his wife has been cheating on him. The film also features an outstanding cast of Euro exploitation talent, among them Sylva Koscina, Chris Avram and Susan Scott, whose presence will be enough to ensure a cult following for the work, its overall quality proving largely irrelevant.
During the last act, the director and his writing partners employ a device favoured by many toiling in the field of gialli in order to tie up any loose ends in the plot. This involves the introduction of previously unknown and unannounced clues and characters and has even been adopted by non-Italian mystery thrillers in the giallo tradition, such as Dick Maas’s Amsterdamned (1988). Here, the detective, while involved in a telephone call with the taunting killer, overhears the very distinct chime of a grandfather clock, which leads him to the home of the chief pathologist (Chris Avram, L’Ossessa 1974), a location never shown before then (although it is briefly alluded to in a piece of dialogue earlier in the film). Then the character of Roberto (Sandro Pizzorro) again never seen before, or referred to, is introduced as the long-time lover of the cop’s wife, and who is continuing with their affair.
For those who form the cult following surrounding Roberto Montero’s production, a big draw in addition to the presence of the cast is that many of the female members are required to strip at various points in the film. Much of the nudity on show is full-frontal and involves fairly graphic sex scenes (sometimes shot through silk curtains or rose bushes). Thanks again to the director’s detached style, these sequences are not terribly erotic in any way, although they will please, the less discriminating video voyeur. The overall effect achieved is an air of seediness, underlined by the continental jazz score from Giorgio Gaslini (La Notte del Diavoli 1972) that is heavy on horns and vocals.
Some viewers may have problem with the puritanical nature of this picture, where after stripping off and having sex, the women are invariably killed and mutilated, for the most obscure motivation, while others will accept such perceived sordidness as just as part of the guilty appeal of such a venture.
The film ends on a particularly mean-spirited note when the detective allows the psychotic Avram to hack up his unfaithful wife, before he shoots the man dead.
In 1976, the film was acquired for distribution by a US company who re-edited the work, changing the nature of the plot and some of the characterisations, and inserted newly shot hardcore porn footage featuring the talents of the likes of Harry Reems and Tina Russell, titling it Penetration. There are also softcore versions under a variety of names.
©Iain McLachlan 2004
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