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(Excerpt from "Giallo Standard Grade Examination 1990: Question Three")
3) In your own words, please take the following scenario and create your own Giallo plot from it:
John and Peter are identical twins who work in a pharmacy. John is married to Denise, who hates John and loves Peter. Gert is an ex-lover of Denise who is trying to blackmail Peter. John has recently been diagnosed with epilepsy that is causing John to have blackouts. Annie is a sometime lover of Peter.
Answer by Baz Enby, Colomba High School:
"Annie dresses up as Denise to get rid of Annie but then John has an eppy that knocks over a knife collection onto Denise dressed as Annie then he wakes up and thinks he's killed Annie then buries Denise but also accidentally buries his own brother too right before both of them are to go up in front of a Pharmacy Regulation panel so John gets a full length mirror and pretends to be both of them then Gert shows up but he's really John wearing a mask with another full length mirror then the panel is Annie and her three twins then the cops show up and kill everyone."
Examiner's remarks: "I think this pupil is brain damaged! What kind of spaz wouldn't figure out that John's epilepsy was actually caused by Peter injecting him with drugs and depriving him of sleep? They work in a pharmacy for God's sake! Baz also clearly has no understanding of the Giallo genre. It's obvious that Peter would impersonate John, go into town, bed Annie (as John though, not Peter), then meet Gert as Peter, but then reveal himself as John (impersonated by Peter), then kill Gert but not really kill him, then return home John and inject him with drugs and then act out the entire night's goings on in front of John so that when John wakes up he thinks he bedded Annie and killed Gert! It's COMMON SENSE AND PRETTY STRAIGHTFORWARD!
Fail. Will probably end up being a civil servant or something.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Macabre" also known as "Viaje al vacio", which roughly translates to
"voyage (or trip) to nowhere" is a giallo that is also a noir. Its four
main characters are Denise (Teresa Gimpera), her husband John (Larry
Ward), John's twin brother Peter (Larry Ward), and a blackmailer and
former consort of Denise named Gert (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart). Silvana
Venturelli also enters in as Annie, lover of Peter.
This story takes us on one heck of a ride, that's for sure, with some dizzying developments that add up to an effective story, well-played, well-directed, filled with surprises and twists.
Gert arrives in town determined to get money out of Denise by the threat of informing her pharmacist husband John of her past. Denise is an amazing character. She's vivacious and bold. She's unhappy in this hick town and wants to go to Paris with Peter, whom she is stringing along to help her in her designs to drive John mad and get his money. Peter is conflicted about this plot against John. He desires Denise and is hostile to John, but the bond of being a twin brother is strong. Peter has Annie as a lover on the side. Gert is sharp enough to see what's going on, so Denise and Peter enlist him in their plans. Their plan involves keeping John awake with drugs, causing sleep deprivation, and then making him believe (among other things) that he killed Gert, while telling him that he didn't. You see, John is distinguished from Peter in one important way. He's epileptic.
To give you a sample of the story's convolutions, at one point we have Peter impersonating John with Annie, who thinks he is this different man, John, whom she has never met before. And we have Peter stringing her along and asking her to compare his love-making as John with that of Peter (himself).
Altogether an enjoyable giallo and noir story with criminal intent, murder, disorientation, deception and disillusionment permeating the story. These noir voyages never get to where they are planned to arrive.
This is an entertaining Italian giallo, but one that might not appeal
to newcomers to the genre because even by giallo standards the plot
here is especially absurd. The movie starts with what appears to be a
simple case of blackmail, but the hapless blackmailer (Giacomo
Rossi-Stuart) finds that his intended target (Larry Ward)is actually
the identical twin brother of the target, a crooked pharmacist who is
having an affair with his brother's wife (Spanish actress Teresa
Gimpera). The adulterous pair enlist the blackmailer in a ridiculously
complicated scheme to drive their brother/husband insane. This
involves, among other things, the twin pretending to be his brother and
picking up and abusing a streetwalker (the gorgeous Silvana Venturelli,
who appeared in several Radley Metzger movies). Perhaps the most
ridiculous conceit, however, has the villainous pair implanting false
memories in the brother/husband through auto-suggestion after drugging
him and triggering grand mal seizures! (They can't just kill him
because of a provision in his will, so they have to mentally
incapacitate him somehow). Anyway, the whole thing only gets more
ridiculous from there, but the ending is excellent.
Although it suffers the usual indifferent English dubbing job, the acting all seems pretty good. The otherwise unknown Larry Ward is surprisingly good as the two brothers. Giacomo Rossi-Stuart is good as always, if a bit wasted in a small role. The two women are also both good, but this is obviously Spanish-Italian production and I apparently saw the more conservative Spanish cut, so Venturrelli quite uncharacteristically keeps her kit on here (if you want to see a lot more of her though check out "The Lickerish Quartet"). I also saw a relatively decent bootleg but one that was still obviously substandard compared to a legitimate release, so it was a pretty hard to appreciate any visual stylings the film might have. Spanish director Seto doesn't seem to be in the category of Argento, Martino, Lenzi, Fulci, et. al. when it comes to visually exciting work , but who can really tell with one of these bootlegs?
This rather ridiculous and ridiculously convoluted movie will probably only confuse newcomers to the generally crazy, madcap giallo genre, but hardcore giallo enthusiasts will probably like it.
Shadow of Death is a little known Italian thriller, but also a very
interesting one and it's certainly a film that doesn't deserve to be
missed. The film is often considered a part of the Giallo genre; and
although it lacks many of the genre trademarks, the fact that it
features a few; as well as the fact that it was released in 1969, mean
that it just about qualifies as a part of the genre. The film takes in
the classic thriller plot line of a wife wanting to kill her husband
for financial gain and mixes this with the idea of wanting to send
someone insane (this was also featured in Umberto Lenzi's well revered
Giallo Orgasmo) and the idea of identical twins. The film begins as we
witness a stranger arrive in town. He quickly goes to see his ex-lover
Denise, who is not so happily married to John; and is having an affair
with his identical twin brother Peter. They are also plotting to send
John insane. After the stranger (later revealed to be a man named Gert)
has his blackmail attempts rebuked, the pair decide to enlist his help
for their plot.
Director Javier Setó cleverly gives his film a very claustrophobic setting, which ensures that the focus is always on the main characters. The storyline is twisted and clever; and the characters play a very important part in the proceedings. The director ensures that there's a good reason for all their motivations; and while most of them do wear their emotions on their sleeves, it still provides a relatively engaging viewing. There isn't a great deal of variety in terms of the locations used but the style and atmosphere always fits the film, and this makes up for it. The plot at times does get a bit choppy and it doesn't always make complete sense; but generally speaking the film flows fairly well and does more than enough to keep the audience interested for the eighty five minute running time. As we boil down to the climax and more twists come into play; things do get very interesting. Overall, this is a well thought-out and well put together little thriller and while I wouldn't quite call it a must see, it is very much worth a look if you can find a copy.
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