The Girl in Room 2A (1974)
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Perhaps the most defining thing about this giallo is the fact that it was directed by an American. When I saw the name William Rose in the opening credits, I automatically assumed that this must be an Americanised Italian name for a director wishing to sell his product in the States. But no, it was in fact an American B-movie director working in Italy. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the fact that The Girl in Room 2A is not exactly the most stylish giallo out there. Visually it is pretty pedestrian when set alongside other similar Italian productions, although, in fairness, this may be due to the quite limited settings. Quite a lot of the movie takes place within the confines of the boarding house and this may also account for the lack of good lighting. It's certainly a relatively restrained effort in terms of violence, except for the pre-credit sequence of course, which is very salacious. In fairness, the beginning promises more than the movie ultimately delivers. I wouldn't say it ever gets dull but it just doesn't necessarily live up to its potential.
There are a few strange details such as the mysterious villain who looks very similar to the Crimson Executioner from Bloody Pit of Horror (1965). This one doesn't possess the sheer delirium of that crazy film though, this one is much more down-beat, while still being far from realistic. The casting is notable for a couple of the actresses. The lead girl is Daniela Giordano who made a very memorable and sexy turn in Mario Bava's comedy Four Times That Night. She isn't quite as well utilised in this feature, as Bava's playful movie was better suited to her. The other actress of note is Rosalba Neri who starred in many Italian genre pictures in the 70's, such as the excellent Amuck! Sadly she is very under-utilised in this film which is somewhat careless of the film-makers.
This isn't a prime example of the genre. It isn't quite stylish enough, nor is the mystery interesting enough. Nevertheless, it does have enough strangeness to be worth a watch if you are a fan of Italian thrillers.
Despite being slow, the film is at least interesting for the most part, and American director William L. Rose seems to have some sense of direction where the story is concerned, as it eventually comes to a point that mostly makes sense. The lack of mystery is a major negative point, however, and while I'm not entirely sure whether you are meant to have guessed the identity of the murderers, it's so blindingly obvious that I find it hard to believe you weren't already supposed to know. The cast features just one name, and that belongs to sexy seductress Rosalba Neri...who is unfortunately wasted with a role that is far too small for illustrious persona. The locations didn't impress me much, as the film doesn't feature a lot of variety in this department, and the cinematography isn't exactly awe-inspiring. There are a couple of grisly murders - one of which is the one that happens before the opening credits. The lack of murders wouldn't have been a big problem for me, however, if the film was more exciting. Overall, Girl in Room 2a isn't the worst Giallo you're ever likely to see; but it certainly isn't the best, and I don't recommend going out of your way to find a copy.
Yours truly homes in the second group. Somehow, the American born smut director William Rose (previously responsible for duds like "Rent-A-Girl" and "50,000 B.C.") found some financers and collaborators in Italy. Good for him, but just because a film is released in 1974 and the title contains keywords like "casa" and "paura", it doesn't necessarily make it a giallo. Admittedly, certain trademarks are present, like beautiful and innocent young women being slaughtered by a masked assailant, the boarding house type of setting and the brother of a former victim independently investigating the case. But it's made clear rather early in the film that the girls are being targeted by a perverse satanic cult rather than by a perverse lone killer and, moreover, "The Girl in Room 2A" doesn't feature any stylistic giallo trademark like imaginative camerawork or a dazzling soundtrack. Margaret Bradley is a young woman just released from prison and, just like many girls before her, the friendly and caring parole officer Alice Songbird sends her to the boarding house of the elderly Mrs. Grant where she can quietly build up her life again. During the pre-opening credits scene (basically the only good part of the entire film) we already witnessed how the tenants of this house are kidnapped, tortured, killed and thrown off a cliff. After some strange occurrences, Margaret hooks up with a handsome young stranger who's looking for his sister that went missing. The biggest default of "The Girl in Room 2A" is the miserable script. Everything that happens seems so random and meaningless. Who are these cult members? Why and to whom are they sacrificing the girls? The answers are quite simple, in fact: William Rose is a completely untalented writer/director and his entire repertoire proves that he isn't interested in atmosphere, tension-building or consistent storytelling. He likes to film young girls in various states of nakedness and suffering. And then still he's not very good at it, since ravishing cult sirens like Rosalba Neri and Karin Schubert are dramatically wasted. There are a few notably grisly death sequences, but (again) popping up randomly. Perhaps in the hands of a REAL contemporary Italian giallo-director, this could potentially have been a modest classic. In the hands of this guy, it's nothing but a daft and forgettable non-giallo.
However, it's also about this time that the film's daftness begins to rise, what with the terrible acting of the nurse in a loony bin, choppy editing, and a flashback sequence where women are whipped in a Jess Franco fashion. The director also thinks it's a great idea to include upbeat jazz music at the most inappropriate of moments, like when the hero is thrown into the back of a car with a snake in a suitcase (a really crap way to kill someone, seeing how they just murdered everyone else without leaving anything to chance).
The gore increases around this point too, as does the introduction of two muscle men who take on the cult. You also get an explanation as to how that bloodstain keeps appearing on the floor of room 2A, and I use 'how' on purpose because you'll be asking 'why' even after you find out what's happening. There's also the mystery of who is in the red mask if you still care about that by the end of the film.
Not much Rosalba in this one either. This is a hugely stupid film but sometimes we need a bit of that in our lives too.
Daniela Giordano plays the young waif recently released from a women's jail for a crime she didn't commit who finds herself wrapped up in a web of intrigue involving a cult of devil worshipers (?) who target girls just like her, all of which ended up staying in room 2a of a boarding house from hell. And all of which either ended up insane or dead after being subjected to some really cruel forms of ceremonial torture that gives the film its reputation amongst connoisseurs of Euro Trash.
Giordano is a feast for the eyes just sitting there at a bus stop but the show is stolen by beefy Samson Peplum actor Brad Harris as a big palooka Yankee living in southern Italy for reasons that are never explained. Harris offers the film's hero a beer at one point and you just have to laugh. He and his 6' 3" 275lb buddy Willie from Brooklyn ride around in Harris' little Volkswagen Beetle looking for action, and the film's standout moment for me was seeing these three huge guys spill out of such a tiny car when running to the rescue with the hero in the big climax.
Which is surprisingly anti-climactic and involves a literal cliffhanger that has the most inappropriate dramatic music tacked onto it until BLACK EMANUELLE GOES EAST. It's more fun watching Harris & Willie batter down the iron door to the castle, and if anything director Rose missed an opportunity to better contrast this doofus Stan Wojohowitz-like American presence with the Italian culture they seem so out of place in. They are so huge every scene with Harris feels claustrophobic as he squeezes through doors or tries not to demolish the furniture by just leaning on it during conversation scenes.
There's some good bits to the film too, like Spaghetti Western actor Frank Latimore as a tortured cult associate driven mad by realizing he literally sold his soul, a welcome nude scene by Ms. Giordano, various torture sequences and a couple of potent gore effects. But when compared to the usual flair of Italian Giallo fare its all pretty artless & matter of fact. Not that there's anything wrong with that mind you, it's just a cheap little Italian B movie, and it's always life affirming seeing Brad Harris take two guys & crack their heads together like a pair of coconuts. Now that's the stuff!
Also strange is that William Rose, the director, made an Italian flick. He was better known for exploitation like Rent-A-Girl (1965). The Girl In Room 2A was the last one he directed. The direction was okay but what a weird editing it had. There were a lot of jumps made by editing towards the story.
The flick itself started of rather nasty with a naked girl being impaled with a stick by a hooded killer. Even their the bad editing is shown were suddenly she's killed and next shot she's being thrown from a cliff. It never becomes really bloody it even becomes a bit dull after the opening credits. But still I kept watching what would happen. It's easy to see who the hooded killer is so there isn't that much mystery added to this flick.
For the collectors it does have some value due the actors being involved like Brad Harris who went further to Hercules (1983) or our main lead Daniela Giordano who appeared one year later in Inquisicion directed by cult actor Paul Naschy. But most will be disappointed by the short role Rosalba Neri had here in this flick, she appeared in a lot of B-flicks (Lady Frankenstein 1971).
Not exactly my cup of tea but somehow I kept watching this dull flick with not that much of blood and some cheesy torturing, of course being Italian, it do has a lot of overdubs and nudity.
Gore 1/5 Nudity 1,5/5 Effects 1,5/5 Story 2/5 Comedy 0/5
The film starts promisingly with a kidnap and torture of a young girl who is then impaled on a spike by a crimson hooded killer, who does show up on occasion throughout the film, but there is very little in the way of spectacular giallo killings after that, the story kept me interested, but overall its not a Giallo I'd recommend, the visuals are uninspired, the score is at times laughably unsuitable but the biggest crime of all is the under use of Rosalba Neri who is restricted to about 3 minutes screen time, the identity of the Hooded killer is also rather obvious. 5/10
The Girl in Room 2A kicks off in fine giallo style, with the bloody murder of a topless woman during the opening credits, the victim impaled, her body thrown over the edge of a cliff; however, giallo fans are bound to be disappointed by director William Rose's lack of style (all of his previous films were pure sexploitation; I'm thinking he should have stuck with what he knew best), the low body count and a plot that strays a long way from the conventions of the genre.
Regular bouts of female nudity and some gratuitous sleaze (girls are tied up and flogged by a maniac in a red hood and cape) help prevent the viewer from dozing off, but remaining invested in the film is a struggle, the pedestrian direction, lack of gore, and dreary pace all taking their toll. The film ends with the revelation that the women are being killed by a sect who seek to 'cleanse' the wicked, and shows the masked killer to be none other than... well, that would be telling, but suffice to say it's suitably silly.
5 out of 10, minus one point for the inexplicable scene that shows a machine pumping blood through the floorboards of Margaret's room - what the hell was that all about?