While I enjoy the giallo, I have to admit that there have been very few that have actually “moved” me. The majority of the films in this genre feature such fantastically twisted plots and soap-operatic characters that it’s often hard for me to develop any sort of emotional investment in a particular character. With Flavio Mogherini’s “The Pyjama Girl Case”, however, I found myself not only hooked in by the innovative style in which the story was presented, but also truly invested in the respective fates of its characters.
Based (loosely) on an actual case in 1930’s Australia, the film tells the story of a retired detective (Milland) lured back into duty by the discovery of the body of a woman on a local beach. The woman is clad only in a pair of flimsy yellow pajamas, her face burned beyond recognition. The police try to identify the remains through all manner of tests but, when that fails, they resort to placing the woman’s nude body on display for the public to see, in hopes that someone will be able to identify her by any distinguishing marks.
Meanwhile, a second story unfolds, focusing on the young Glenda (Di Lazzaro), a confused and promiscuous girl who is juggling relationships with three different lovers. She is attracted to the power and wealth of Henry (Mel Ferrer), a professor whose gentle nature provides Glenda with something of a father figure, as well as the promise of a better life. However, she is always drawn back to the sexual relationship she has with Roy (Howard Ross), a camper-dwelling low-life who is well aware of her other relationships, but masks his jealousy with typical machismo. Roy introduces Glenda to Antonio (Michele Placido), an Italian immigrant with dreams of opening his own restaurant, and the two eventually fall in love and get married, with Antonio initially secure with Glenda’s need to “sleep around”. As time passes, though, Glenda’s relationships of convenience disintegrate into a sordid mess of jealousy, anger, resentment, and betrayal.
The Pyjama Girl Case is a very unique and involving film, presented in a nonlinear structure that, as far as I’m aware of, was a first for the giallo genre. The way in which the stories of Glenda and the investigation merge is inspired stuff, and, even though it’s fairly obvious how it’s all going to end, I still found myself hoping I was wrong. Sure, Glenda’s not the most likeable character, but neither are the men she’s involved with, as they are just as instrumental in her downfall as she is.
Blue Underground present The Pyjama Girl Case with a crisp and clear 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, original mono soundtrack (English dub only), and some gwelcome bonus features, including an extensive interview with author Richard Evans about the details of the actual case. There’s also an original theatrical trailer, and a very cool 8-page mini graphic novel from Eddie Campbell (From Hell) that further sheds light on this bizarre crime.
While giallo fans will certainly appreciate this film, I’m not so sure I’d even classify this one as such, seeing as how it never really embraces the genre’s usual trappings. Yes, there's sex and murder, and, yes, it's an Italian film, but the similiarities end there. Even if you want to call it a giallo, you'd have to admit The Pyjama Girl Case is easily one of the most “mainstream” offerings from the genre, which should make this film also appealing to casual viewers looking for an expertly crafted and surprisingly moving bit of “true crime” cinema. Definitely one worth checking out.