Murder Meets Slapstick, in Sergio Martino's Odd Last Giallo
As many of my fellow Italian Horror fans probably do, I consider Sergio Martino one of my favorite directors. The man has delivered great films in a variety of genres, but he is doubtlessly (and rightly) most famous for his Gialli. Before seeing this film, I had already seen his five other contributions to the Giallo-genre, "The Strange Vice Of Mrs Wardh" (1971), "The Scorpion's Tail" (1971), "Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key" (1972), "All Colors Of The Dark" (1972), and "Torso" (1973), all of which are nothing short of brilliance. I've seen all these films multiple times, and while they all had the typical great Martino-style, each one of these films has something very particular. Especially the ingenious Poe-inspired "Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key" is a personal favorite of mine that easily ranks among the greatest Gialli ever brought to screen. This "La Morte Sospetta Di Una Minorenne" (aka. "Suspected Death Of A Minor") of 1975 is doubtlessly also a very memorable film, and while I did not quite like it as much as Martino's other five Gialli, one cannot deny that it has its very particular qualities. This is doubtlessly Martino's oddest Giallo, as it is not a typical specimen of the genre, but a weird and highly unconventional mixture of Giallo, Crime flick, and, in many parts, Comedy that even includes Slapstick-elements.
I do not want to give away too much of the plot, since it is, in many ways, unpredictable, and bears many unexpected twists. The mid 70s were already the end of the most successful heyday of the Italian Giallo, whilst the heyday of Italian Crime flicks was beginning around the time. Several Gialli from the time, therefore used elements that are mainly attributed to the Poliziottesco, such as drugs, underage prostitution, corruption etc. The most famous example for that may be Massimo Dallamano's "La Polizia Chiede Ajuto" (aka. "What Have They Done To Your Daughters?" of 1974, and it is also the case with this film. The overload of slapstick elements here is quite unique, though, which is not necessarily a good thing. True, even the most famous Giallo of all-time (and also one of the greatest), Dario Argento's masterpiece "Profondo Rosso" from the same year, has several comical moments. Not to the same extent, though, as these moments are just occasionally in "Profondo Rosso", where they actually greatly create more closeness to the characters. In "Suspected Death Of A Minor" these elements are not quite as funny, but therefore including more slapstick, omnipresent and used to a sometimes annoying extent. Even so, the idea of a Giallo with slapstick-elements is original, to say at least, and the film does not loose its compelling Mystery/Thriller parts. Leading man Claudio Casellini starred in a variety of Italian Exploitation and Horror productions, including "Flavia The Heretic", "Murder At The Etruscan Cemetery" and director Martino's very own "Mountain Of The Cannibal God". The role which Casellini is probably best known for is that of the investigating detective in "What Have They Done To Your Daughters", a film that bears many resemblances to this one (even though "What Have They Done To Your Daughters" is more serious, and a lot better). The film is superbly shot, and the score by Luciano Michelini is brilliant and contributes a lot to the atmosphere and suspense. Overall. "Suspected Death Of A Minor" is a highly recommendable film for all my fellow Giallo-enthusiasts and Sergio Martino fans. I would nonetheless recommend to see Martino's brilliant other Gialli first. Especially "Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key" (which, by the way, is funnily referenced to in this film) comes with my highest possible recommendations, and films like "Torso" and "The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh" are also essential for genre-fans. My opinion on "Suspected Death Of A Minor": 7/10
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