Thursday, 2 June 2022

Watch Me When I Kill (1977)

Watch Me When I Kill is a 1977 giallo directed by Antonio Bido. Or, as we later discover, it's a sort of giallo.

You have to be a bit patient with this one. For quite some time you won’t have a clue what’s going on. There’s a killer. The identity of his intended victim (or victims) is a mystery. There’s a woman, a dancer named Mara (Paola Tedesco) who thinks she’s the target but we have no idea why (and nor does she). There’s also a seedy middle-aged man named Bozzi who seems to think he’s the real target, but we don’t know why. There’s a middle-aged woman who seems to be mixed up in things as well.

The middle-aged guy has been receiving threats but they’re so cryptic they provide no clues, and even the nature of the threats is unclear. Are they attempts to frighten or serious death threats? Some of the clues are bizarre sound messages that make no sense. And what’s with the dogs?

Lukas Karman (Corrado Pani) is a sound engineer who has a bit of a romantic interest in Mara. He gets drawn into these strange events when Bozzi asks for him for help. Bozzi has taped some of the telephone messages he’s been receiving. They sound like just white noise but since Lukas is a sound engineer maybe he can extract some sense from them. It’s a good idea but the tapes remain cryptic.

Lukas initially thinks Mara should go to the police but she doesn’t like the police and she doesn’t want the aggravation. Lukas comes to think she’s right - the two of them can crack the puzzle on their own. That naturally turns out to be more dangerous than they’d anticipated.

Lukas is a reasonably intelligent man but the killer always seems to be one jump ahead of him. There are people Lukas needs to talk to but the killer knows the identity of these people. Lukas’s task is complicated by having to worry about Mara’s safety.

The plot does eventually come together in a fairly satisfactory manner so you just have to not worry too much that the early part of the film is so confusing.

The major weakness is that the killer’s motivation is made much too obvious right from the start (and you have to wonder how on earth Lukas missed such obvious clues). The motivation turns out to be one of the perennial clichés of 60s and 70s film-making. It is given a morally ambiguous twist that makes it a bit more interesting.

The other weakness is that the movie doesn’t have the stylistic excess that one hopes for in a giallo. Giallo fans tend to get excited by imaginative murder methods and there is one murder in this movie that fits that category. The coffee cup clue is cute.

The acting is fine. Corrado Pani makes a good hero - he’s smart without being too smart and brave without being too brave and he’s likeable. Paola Tedesco is also quite good.

For a giallo this is a surprisingly unsexy movie. Not only is there no nudity, we don’t even see the heroine wearing any sexy outfits. Although we assume that Lukas and Mara are attracted to each other they don’t even exchange a single kiss.

It’s also surprisingly bloodless. A couple of the murders are brutal, but without any blood being spilled. If you like gore you’ll be disappointed. So there’s no nudity, no sex and no gore. I’d say that eliminates most of the potential giallo audience. In fact it even raises question as to whether this movie is a true giallo. Is it a giallo if there are no sexual motivations whatsoever? It has lots of giallo elements but stylistically it’s more of a straightforward thriller.

The DVD from Shameless in the UK is barebones but the anamorphic transfer is nice. I had a few minor problems with the disc, which is something I’ve never encountered before from Shameless. This movie has also had a Blu-Ray release, from Synapse.

I was a little bit underwhelmed by Watch Me When I Kill. It’s a competently made film and it has some suspense but it’s dull by giallo standards.

Probably only worth buying if you’re a giallo completist. Otherwise, maybe worth a rental.

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