The models and staff of a low rent Milanese modelling agency are being brutally slain one-by-one, by a knife-wielding killer in a motorcycle helmet and full leathers. The police make their usual perfunctory and utterly ineffective investigations, leaving most of the legwork to the agency's misogynistic, speedo-wearing lens-man Carlo Bianchi (Nino Castelnuovo) and his assistant/lover Magda Cortis (Edwige Fenech). Soon, the pair incur the wrath of the killer when Magda overhears a blackmail plot involving lesbian agency chief, Gisella; and when Carlo follows her to a night-time rendezvous point he inadvertently photographs Gisella's killer. The possibility that the undeveloped film might contain an image of the murderer leads to the usual climactic confrontation and revelations.
This mid-70s offering from journeyman director Andrea Bianchi is a fairly telling guide to the development of the then-ubiquitous Italian Giallo sub-genre. Bianchi was a director whose films are generally perceived to have displayed very little art or innovation across the genre spectrum in which he briefly flourished, but which, nevertheless, have attained a kind of retrospective notoriety through the director's undoubted knack for distilling the baser elements in what made such films attractive, and presenting them quite unadulterated of any of the genre's finer elements. The title of this particular offering tells you exactly what to expect, and wastes no time in dishing it out with a ladle! It now plays as an often extremely amusing period piece, caught between detailing the traditional ingredients of the giallo that refer right back to Mario Bava's seminal "Blood and Black Lace" -- these being a plot centred on the fake glamour of a fashion institution, the endemic corruption and in-house infidelities among its employees, and a revenge-hungry killer who sports the requirement leather black gloves -- and looking ahead to the faded lounge-sleaze factor and cynical nihilism that was to be embodied most infamously in Lucio Fulci's infamous "New York Ripper".
This leaves us with a film whose moral compass is often wildly off-kilter and a tone that veers haphazardly between grim Fulci-like episodes such as the opening botched abortion sequence and a mid-70s style of inappropriate humour that nowadays looks like nothing so much as the most leering form of casually brutal sexism. We are talking here about a film whose protagonist (played by tanned smarm merchant Nino Castelnuovo) is not only a serial philanderer and sex pest, but who "jokes" with his girlfriend Edwige Fenech over pretending to anally rape her! (This is the closing scene of the film — intended as a spot of "light relief" after the suspenseful horrors of the preceding ninety minutes of relentless sleaze!)
The plot is an unconvincingly mechanical excuse to get as many naked Italian starlets slain in as fast a time as possible (and the revelation of the killer's identity will doubtless provoke cries of "who?" from the perplexed viewer) but it does allow Bianchi to nurture a comically intricate array of sexual intrigues among the cast of characters; a sleazy "La Ronde" that sees everyone shagging everyone else on the side — male and female — engendering the usual easily seen-through red herrings for the killer's motive. The murder set-pieces are staged with deliberate but edgy efficiency by the director, although he resorts too often to the same misdirection techniques (the victim is always distracted by an off screen noise, only for the killer to leap into frame from an "unexpected" angle) which become easy to spot after the umpteenth time. It's also rather odd how the victims seem to put up very little struggle as they're being offed —simply lying prone while the leather-clad maniac slashes and stabs at them. The film climaxes in an orgy of brutality which does indeed reach "New York Ripper" levels of unpleasantness, involving a castration and a breast amputation for two unlucky victims!
Bianchi's direction is mostly workman-like and concerns itself mainly only with the scenes of sex and violence; plot and dialogue scenes meanwhile lack energy or imagination, and drift by to very little effect leaving the viewer with a feeling of disengagement when no one is being shagged or sliced up. This is giallo by numbers then, with the sleaze factor ramped up to compensate for all other deficiencies. Know what to expect though and there is enough lounge-funk scored chaos to keep Euro sleaze enthusiasts entertained.
Shameless have provided another decent transfer which compares favourably with its U.S. release by Blue Underground. Note that the opening abortion sequence is lacking the weird blue filter effect which plagued the BU release - and it looks all the better for this omission. The only extras are trailers for other Shameless titles.