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The Fifth Cord (1971)
"Giornata nera per l'ariete" (original title)

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An alcoholic journalist finds himself on the trail of a murderer after the police make him a suspect in their investigation.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Andrea Bild
Silvia Monti ...
Police Inspector
Ira von Fürstenberg ...
Isabel Lancia
Edmund Purdom ...
Edouard Vermont
Rossella Falk ...
Sophia Bini
Dr. Richard Bini
Guido Alberti ...
Luciano Bartoli ...
Walter Auer (as Luciano Baroli)
Agostina Belli ...
Maurizio Bonuglia ...
John Lubbock
Pamela Tiffin ...
Lu Auer
Corrado Gaipa ...
Andrea Scotti ...
Luigi Antonio Guerra ...
(as L. Antonio Guerra)


After a high-class party in Rome, there's an assault. The victim is injured but lives. Andrea, an investigative reporter who drinks too much, is assigned the story. Then, always on Tuesdays, there are a series of murders. At each crime scene, a glove is left with a finger cut off for each victim. After four murders, Andrea thinks he's making progress, but by this time he may himself be a suspect, and someone he loves is in danger. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Mystery | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

January 1975 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Evil Fingers  »

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User Reviews

The Geometry of Shadows
28 March 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

"I am going to commit murder," whispers our killer, as the camera flits around the jaded revellers at a New Year shindig. "I can imagine the thrill and pleasure I will experience as I stalk my victim..." Shortly after, John Lubbock (Maurizio Bonuglia) survives an attack in an underpass on his way home, and journalist Andrea Bild (Franco Nero), a fellow attendee, decides to investigate. Then a second party goer - invalid Doctor's wife Sophia Bini (Rossella Falk) - is attacked and killed in her home, and Andrea's elderly editor is found dead in a local park, both bodies accompanied by the killer's calling card (a black glove with first one then subsequent fingers cut off). Suddenly, the outspoken, hard-drinking journalist finds himself rising swiftly up the list of suspects.

What raises The Fifth Cord above the average giallo is striking cinematography and a couple of genuinely suspense-filled murders. The sequence involving the Doctor's wife is the most characteristic of the genre. Taking place in a huge and intimidating bedroom it also evokes the Gothic feel of old Hollywood and the memory of a certain Mrs de Winter. Bazzoni expertly handles the build-up of tension, getting the unfortunate Mrs Bini out of bed and crawling along the floor in a rising panic as first her wheelchair then telephone (her lifeline) vanish into the shadows. There's an almost supernatural element at play here. When the familiar gloved hands suddenly appear either side of the screen to slowly descend from behind and wrap themselves around her throat, they seem almost disembodied.

In contrast, the rest of the film is a study in modernity. Everything is concrete and glass, clean lines and polished surfaces. Every shot is carefully and deliberately lensed and filled with geometric shapes and patterns. Edges and shadows converge to corral Nero as the finger points increasingly in his direction. A scene in which he meets with the investigating officer in a subterranean parking lot is particularly well done, where the frosted windows behind the actors are reflected in the roof of the car in front and join with the widescreen framing to form a cage. The ending comprises tough-guy fisticuffs and a pulse-quickening chase sequence through the cadaverous wreck of an abandoned factory where Nero finally unmasks the black-coated killer, having already deduced the real motive, which twists the opening voice-over in a new and ambiguous light.

This is a solid, visually impressive giallo, if at times a little less engaging than it should be. The characters, other than Andrea, aren't effectively introduced or given enough screen time and are too often simply referred to by name, so it's difficult to remember who's who and why we should care. Consequently the narrative sometimes lacks clarity, getting itself into a bit of a muddle during the mid-section, and having spent most of the film presuming events have unfolded over a matter of days only to discover the killings have been occurring for roughly a five month period is a little jarring. There's nothing to suggest the passage of time, though the static environment does correspond with Bazzoni's austere vision.

A cold and relatively bleak film, The Fifth Cord makes the most of its angular urban settings to say something about the fractured nature of modern city life, from Nero's world-weary alcoholic loner to the estranged Doctor and his wife to hardworking single parent Helene (Silvia Monti). A world filled with acquaintances as opposed to friends, where people choose the warm bodies of strangers (filmed here with restraint rather than a gratuitous eye for sleaze) over the ones they may have at home. Nero, though at times out-and-out brutish, brings gravitas (and a suitably chiseled visage) to his genre-standard character, and Monti, in a limited role, manages to be strong and insightful and can keep her head in a crisis, helping to counterbalance the popular view of women in gialli as merely window dressing or cannon fodder. The English dubbing is of a high standard, with Nero providing his own voice. Overall it's more of a straightforward crime caper than a horror yarn, but worth checking out for the arresting visuals alone.

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