Saturday 7 May 2016

Deathly hollows… Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975)

This thing called giallo: attractive women under threat, knives in the darkness, a killer amongst us and men behaving weirdly… some kind of sexy style always with a mean sense of humour as eager to add to the unease as the fake blood. It’s not dreary that’s for sure and Edwige Fenech is in it too – those huge brown eyes accentuated by short-cropped hair proving far more alluring than the acres of more obvious on display.

Directed by Andrea Bianchi from a story co-written with frequent collaborator Massimo Felisatti, Strip Nude for Your Killer is a knowing take on the by now well-established genre. It’s a bit like an Agatha Christie who dunnit only with nudity and far more leather-clad killers on motorcycles. The cast are less gentile as well with the exception of Edwige’s photographer’s assistant Magda.

Femi Benussi
Everything is in service to the art of shock and in this the giallo is no different from similar sexy-murder films from the US and UK from the mid-sixties to the seventies, film makers giving a more enlightened audience a thrill previously less clearly stated in screen. The age of visually-specific sensation as the ratings system relaxed… But I’ve never really got the relationship between sex and death: Strip Nude for Your Killer? Really?

But, in this case, I don’t think the title fits the film as, mild spoiler, it’s not really about consensual sex before murder…

The killer
The film begins in tinted queasiness as an illicit abortion goes wrong a girl dies and her body is dumped in the bathroom of her flat by two men. Not quite the sexy opening you were expecting perhaps – an early marker of Bianchi and Felisatti’s humour as they puncture the mood from the get-go.

Soon after the doctor responsible for the death is murdered on the steps of his practice by an assailant in motor biker gear – two down and we’re only just started.

Lucia pursued by Carlo at the pool
Next we switch to a public swimming pool where a curvy redhead Lucia (Femi Benussi) parades in revealing bikini and attracts the attention of priapic photographer, Carlo (Nino Castelnuovo), who follows her back to the steam room for a bit more steam. He tells her she could be a model and invites her to his studio.

The action shifts to the Albatross Modelling Studio where Carlo works with his girlfriend Magda (I know - he’s cheating on Edwige Fenech - what an idiot!) and a host of lovely models including long-cool blonde Patrizia (Swedish star Solvi Stubing) and the equally long hot platinum-flicked Doris (Erna Schurer – one of the films best actors).

At the shoot
The show is run by the rotund Maurizio (Franco Diogene) or more exactly his dominatrix wife Gisella (Giuliana Cecchini here listed as Amanda…) who takes a special interest in the girls and marks Lucia at first sight as requiring further attention… (there are lesbians, of course there are lesbians…) even has her corpulent husband looks on in emasculated frustration. Not that this doesn’t stop him trying it on with all the girls as well… he more pitiful than she who is masterful.

Carlo and Magda share a joke...
Carlo and Magda make out after everyone has gone and we do a double-take as he’s already cheated on her once today: is this our sympathetic leading couple? As for their sex-play… it seems, to put it delicately, that it’s all for Carlo.

After they have gone the leather-clad killer breaks into the studio and pulls out a shot of a group of people from the files… a hit list?

The workers at the studio
So it may prove, as a leather-clad hand knocks on the door of one of the studio’s photographers, Mario (Claudio Pellegrini) who, recognising the person, lets them in. After identifying the photograph the hapless snapper gets stabbed for his thanks and is discovered later soaked in blood and mutilated.

Time for the police to get involved and the next day the Commissioner (Lucio Como) interrupts a photo shoot to interview the main players. They’re all taken to the station where he attempts to get some answers whilst, creepily, one of the middle-aged cops stares at every inch of Lucia – a comment on the watching audience perhaps?

Lucia tires of the male gaze
Next we’re at Gisella’s apartment as she and Lucia are seemingly enjoying a quiet moment… suddenly Gisella leaps up and slaps her new acquisition, boy she seems very hard to please. She dresses and storms out leaving Lucia all alone, in the nude, wandering around the very large flat. Noises, there are noises… surely not here? But as the vulnerable model quivers in the kitchen the killer moves in once again.

Now things are getting messy but cometh the hour cometh the wannabe detective couple – Magda and Carlo try to piece the evidence together after they learn of the murder in the following day’s papers: something familiar about the earring found in Lucia’s hand…

On the case
But it won’t stop the killings… nor those strange moments of humour.

Maurizio tries to seduce Doris by playing the economic and sympathy card even after she expresses a preference for his missus and the dangers such a transgression might involve. But Maurizio can’t deliver and ends up carrying through his inflatable doll after Doris has left – OK we get the point.

Erna Schurer
Maurizio gets killed and is soon followed by Doris and her model lover Stefan – another who seems to care little for his lover - who are brutalized at the cost of even more red paint.

The Commissioner sees a pattern as do we… clearly almost no one gets out of this film alive but the question remains as to whom?

Solvi Stubing
Dusty verdict: There’s still enough alive to not “spoil” the ending but really this is more about the style than the mystery. The narrative flies past with  character-building effort only really directed at Magda who is the film’s only sympathetic character.

Not that Doris, Lucia and their fellow victims deserve to die but… we don’t really get to know them. Nor do we really get to know the killer who even after they are revealed, remains a mystery.

Edwige Fenech's best features are, actually, her eyes...
Franco Delli Colli deserves a mention for his effective cinematography whilst Berto Pisano’s groovy score adds to the period charm.

The conventions of the giallo feature were originally set out by  director Mario Bava in the early sixties with titles such as The Girl Who Knew too Much (1963) and Blood and Black Lace (1964) which added more sex and specific violence to the Italian thriller genre. Darlo Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) took things to a new level and set the tone for a decade of even greater suspense, sex and violence.

Strip Nude for Your Killer plays with these themes without being entirely convincing and perhaps its sense of humour is the downfall as if it is laughing too hard at its self-awareness and trying to shock too hard right up to the – literal – end joke.

Available from Amazon, parental guidance advised…

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