Giallo in Venice (Giallo a Venezia) (Mario Landi, 1979)

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When a husband and wife are discovered murdered on the shores of Venice, it’s up to a hard-boiled detective to determine who committed the heinous act as the bodies continue to pile up in increasingly deplorable ways.

This one surprised me quite a bit. Coming from Mario Landi (Patrick Still Lives) I expected it to be at least a mildly lurid giallo, and despite its notoriety for being one of the sleaziest giallo films ever made, I entered into this whole endeavor expecting that there’s no way it could possibly live up to such a boastful moniker. I am delighted to report that I was mistaken. As soon as the film begins the viewer is assaulted with a brutal stabbing which segues into the preliminary police investigation of a young couple found dead by the Giudecca canal in Venice. Having been murdered by completely different methods and under bizarre circumstances, it’s up to Yanni-lookalike Inspector Angelo De Paul (Jeff Blynn) and his trusty Telly Savalas doppelganger-sidekick Maestrin (Eolo Capritti; The Key) to piece together the puzzle of the events leading up to the brutal slayings. Soon they start to unravel what happened in a series of flashbacks focused on the dead couple as lines between relationships are blurred and things get sleazier and nastier as time goes on.

After the aforementioned opening violence, Giallo in Venice takes its time getting into the swing of things as the audience is treated to much rambling about the case courtesy of Inspector De Paul as he idly and almost obsessively consumes more hard boiled eggs in one take than I have eaten in an entire year. Seriously, nary a scene goes by where he’s not cracking and peeling one of those little cholesterol bombs (his coat pockets are literally  stuffed with them). Once he manages to corner Marzia (Mariangela Giordano; Patrick Still Lives, Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror), the beautiful friend of the deceased couple (Flavia and Fabio; played by Leonora Fani [The House By the Edge of the Lake] and Gianni Dei [Patrick Still Lives], respectively) and manages to get her to open up about what she knows regarding their depraved relationship (surely due to his charms), the film flashes back to flesh out the events leading up to their deaths. These events make up the meat of the film, and some of the subject matter is exquisitely lurid; containing all manner of sexual depravity including exhibitionism, masochism, and rape. As if that wasn’t enough, everyone Marizia seems to hook up with is getting bumped off by a man wearing big mirrored sunglasses (used to great stylish effect, as we see his victims reflected in them as he does his dirty work) murdering men and women alike in a variety of shocking and grisly ways – including a great scene involving a female prostitute getting stabbed in her lady-hole over and over again that takes the theme of misogyny to a whole different level of fucked-up. The unique perspective to the old tried-and-true whodunit formula is where this film really shines; there are so many twists and turns and WTF moments even the most cynical giallo watcher is bound to be left scratching their head at one point or another – nothing is ever as it seems.

The killings in the film are extremely brutal and graphic even by giallo standards, almost appearing at times to have more in common with a German splatter film than the classic Italian mysteries. Fortunately it actually transcends categorization as it happens to be exquisitely written and never falls short in terms of pacing or relevance and the production values remain high throughout; in particular the imaginative kill scenes, some of which are likely to stick with you for a very long time.

The city of Venice is used to great advantage; long panoramic shots of the canals are interspersed with scenes taking place in the countryside or in dingy tenement apartments, at times exposing the seedy underbelly of Italian society that is all too often obfuscated by romantic idealism. Mario Landi certainly flexes his talent here to ample effect (and his strange proclivity for showing graphic vaginal trauma); it’s unfortunate his career didn’t last much longer than the two films succeeding this.

 

I can’t recommend this underrated and rare little gem enough. You’ll read a lot of bullshit about it, but the bottom line is Giallo in Venice will appeal to giallo junkies as well as horror and thriller fans alike. Sleazy, gory, cruel, intriguing and quirky are adjectives that don’t even begin to do the film justice. This is absolutely essential viewing.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:

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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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