Visually strong, if typically frustrating, Italian Horror from maestro meggger Mario Bava, brimming over with indelible images in lurid EastmanColor as a half dozen curvaceous models at an exclusive Fashion Salon fall victim to a masked serial killer. The film gets cited as the start of the ‘Giallo’ tradition (a specialized Italian strain of gory thrillers), but there’s not a bared breast in sight. Instead, Bava, riding on the downdraft of '50s/'60s Italian cinema, where high standards mirrored the rise & fall of Italy's post-WWII ‘Il Boom’ economy, runs the show along the lines of the country's pervading solid, shared film technique. He even manages to get some decent acting out of his chic models, and from the film’s Hollywood ringer, Cameron Mitchell. One image of a freshly drowned model, shot from under the water, with blue, blue eyes and red, red lipstick is alone worth the price of admission. But the story! The script! Low priority stuff for Bava. 'Bad things happen' is about as far we get. (Even with a near quote out of, of all things, DOUBLE INDEMNITY/’44.) As emotion, as narrative, he’s always running on empty. How he gets as far as he does without gas is a credit to his craft, and what ultimately limits him.*
DOUBLE-BILL: *Perhaps Bava is better served in anthology films like BLACK SABBATH/’63 where each narrative only has to support about a half hour of screen time.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Bava went to some trouble to have his multinational cast speak (or rather ‘mouth’) in English for a more convincing ‘dub.’ Even so, the film plays best in Italian. But lookout!; one of the submenus on an otherwise excellent VCI DVD has the Italian track marked as French . . . and vice versa.