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A woman, a survivor of a failed murder attempt by a person dubbed "The Half-Moon Killer" by the police, and her husband must find the connecting thread between herself, six other women, and the killer before the killer strikes at her again. Written by
Although this was director Lenzi's fifth (virtually) successive entry in the Giallo subgenre, as the title itself indicates, it was his first real 'body count' effort; it also turned out to be the last film produced by German company Rialto, noted for making Krimis which, for all intents and purposes, featured many traits of the later and more violent Italian Gialli. Composer Riz Ortolani's typically cool lounge tune over the opening credits is virtually the whole score here since variations of it are played throughout the film and, in hindsight, emerges as easily the most memorable thing about this average thriller; incidentally, I knew I had heard the song featured towards the midpoint of the film somewhere before and, as it turned out, it was lifted from an earlier genre effort by the same director SO SWEET SO PERVERSE (1969)!
While even the casting here is somewhat subpar with bland leading man Antonio Sabato and underused Rossella Falk and Marisa Mell (albeit in an unconvincing dual role), most of the girl victims (including Uschi Glas, Marina Malfatti, Gabriella Giorgelli) are certainly attractive as per the standard formula requirements but, atypically, none ever get truly naked. The rest of the male cast is made up of Pier Paolo Capponi (as the investigating Inspector), Claudio Gora (as an enigmatic clue-dropping stranger) and ubiquitous character actor Nello Pazzafini as the obligatory brutish but ultimately innocent suspect grilled by the Police. Needless to say, the presence of the equally mandatory gloved killer makes itself felt right from the very first scene but, funnily enough, here he is also made to dispose of his first victim's elderly mother or concierge asleep in the next room!
Although the motive for the murders is the tried-and-tested one of revenge for the death of a relative, the way the serial killer obtains his list of potential victims (a page of a signing-in book at a hotel they had all worked at during the previous year) is far-fetched. The "half moon" talisman left by the killer as his signature on the scene of the crime coincidentally ties the film to the unrelated Hollywood fantasy flick THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET (1944) that I have just watched as part of this ongoing "Halloween Challenge" and, indeed, the film was even released under the alternate title of PUZZLE OF THE SILVER HALF MOONS in some territories! Par for the course is the investigation independently initiated by fashion designer Sabato soon after his 'fresh' bride Glas is assaulted on the train taking them to their honeymoon destination; somewhat foolishly, the film makes use of the same ruse of purposefully misinforming the murderer firstly of the success of his latest attack (Glas eventually goes into hiding) and later of Sabato's arrest (thus giving him free rein to conduct his attempts at amateur detection). Ultimately, a Giallo is only as good as its group of assorted potential suspects and, in this case, there are only three: an American émigré leading a hedonistic lifestyle in a hippie-like commune, nervous socialite Mell (who also gets the film's premiere murder set-piece via a driller to the chest but, unluckily for the killer, it is her lookalike 'innocent' twin who gets it!) and a mousey priest.
Once the lifeless body of the blond Yank is found hanged, the priest-killer reveal is rendered predictable (also because we keep going back to him for no evident reason) and links it with DON'T TORTURE A DUCKILING (1972) but his drowning comeuppance is pretty weak and anticlimactic especially compared to the visceral one suffered by the child-killing clergyman in the latter Lucio Fulci film! Unfortunately, unlike the positive comments I had expressed regarding the English dubbing of Riccardo Freda's THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (1971), the one present here is mediocre at best.
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