Luigi Cozzi can quite often be found working in the Argento shop in Rome (or at least he was when I went there over five years ago). To people who have seen some of his lame directorial efforts such as Starcrash (a cheap Star Wars knock off starring Caroline Munro), or his abysmal Argento rip-off The Black Cat, working behind a shop counter is probably the best place for him!! It comes as rather a shock, therefore, that The Dark is Deaths Friend is a consummate thriller made with no small level of directorial talent, and is at times genuinely disturbing, sustaining an oppressive atmosphere throughout its running time. We are introduced to Mr Mainardi (George Hilton), and it quickly becomes apparent that he wishes his wife was dead. Mainardi happens to stumble across a shadowy figure who is in the process of disposing of a body, but instead of turning the murderer in to the police he decides to cut a deal with the killer that involves the murder of his wife. Having arranged the death of his wife, Mainardi is not averse to going back to his house and having sex with her, even though he is well aware that her days are numbered.
The killer (Michel Antoine, better known as the unfortunate painter at the beginning of Fulci's The Beyond) duly commits the murder, and dumps the body in the boot of his car ready for disposal. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, a young couple, Luca and Laura, steal the car and decide to head off to the beach for a bit of fun, where they decide that while they have already stolen a car they may as well break into a house while they are at it. Luca leaves the house, and while he is on his travels he picks up a young blonde and heads back to the house for a three in the bed session. The killer, however, has tracked the couple down to the house and breaks in, immediately attacking and raping Laura (Cristina Galbo, from Let Sleeping Corpses Lie). This scene is genuinely shocking, and is made a lot worse by cross cutting the rape with a consensual sex scene between Luca and the blonde he has picked up.
At this point, things take a turn for the worse, but it would be grossly unfair of me to reveal much more of the plot, as I always feel that much of the fun of watching a giallo is trying to work out who is doing what to whom, and what is going to happen next!! The acting in the film is first rate, particularly the three male leads who all play sleazy characters with little or no redeeming features- even the erstwhile male lead is a philanderer who thinks nothing of having sex with a young blonde behind his girlfriend's back. Cozzi's direction is suitably taut, and the cinematography is very dark which adds considerably to the oppressive atmosphere on display throughout the entire film.
The score by Nando de Luca is worth a mention as well -a mournful main theme on the guitar is prevalent for much of the proceedings, adding heavily to the downbeat tone of Cozzi's finest hour. All in all this is a fine addition to the giallo canon, and is highly recommended.
Version on review is the Greek VHS on the VCI Videocity label