SUSPECTED DEATH OF A MINOR (Sergio Martino, 1975) ***
I had never heard of this before its Sazuma "Special Edition" DVD came along (though I actually acquired it recently from ulterior sources); consequently, I took the film to be a very minor Martino effort so that I went into it without much expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it all turned out to be more so, in fact, than some of the director's more popular titles though I can see how anyone hoping for a typical giallo will be confused and disappointed by its overriding poliziottesco elements, and even more so the sometimes daft comedy touches (on which I'll elaborate later on). Thematically, SUSPECTED DEATH OF A MINOR is an unofficial companion to the Massimo Dallamano trilogy of gialli revolving around teenage prostitution rackets WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972), WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (1974) and RINGS OF FEAR (1978; completed by Alberto Negrin after the film-maker's tragic demise in a road accident); in that regard, it's hardly original, but Martino (whose last genre outing this proved to be) lends it his customary flair aided a great deal by a splendid Goblinesque score courtesy of the obscure Luciano Michelini. Casting is another asset, led by Claudio Cassinelli who would himself suffer an untimely death 10 years later in a helicopter crash while filming another Martino film! as the unconventional hero (forever breaking his spectacles, he starts off as mystery-man and rogue but is eventually revealed to be a special undercover cop), Mel Ferrer as his long-suffering superior, and Massimo Girotti as the obligatory would-be respectable but all-powerful businessman pulling the strings. While there are obviously a number of female figures here (though, uncharacteristically, little nudity), none really emerges to take center-stage including late starlet Jenny Tamburi who, despite a severely underwritten role, is still given an unwarranted cruel fate! The film comes to life principally in a handful of well-staged set-pieces, which take the form of chases rather than murders an assassination attempt aboard a roller-coaster ride, a cliff-hanging sequence involving the opening roof of a cinema (which, according to an online review, is showing Martino's own YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY !), and the climactic across-the-water showdown between Cassinelli and Girotti. However, the most memorable (because it is so unexpected) certainly emerges the comical one in which the hero and his petty-thief pal take the Police on a wild ride driving a rickety machine whose doors are constantly getting dislodged, Cassinelli asks his companion to throw them at their pursuers but there's also a bit where a man riding a bike is left with a mere tricycle following a brush with the speeding vehicles and another which, hilariously, has a hit-and-run victim literally land and roll (repeatedly) on his head!
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