24 January 2011 | Bloodwank
Breezy and likable comic giallo
The giallo has since the genre began employed humour, from at least the time of Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much spots of comedy have leavened the intrigue and stylised violence. Not a bad thing either in my book, gialli operate in a realm outside of normal human experience and to pursue their concerns with deathly seriousness is not always the best approach. Still, there aren't many substantially comic gialli, perhaps because the earthy nature of a lot of Euro exploitation comedy of the time was ill fitting with the rarefied nature of the giallo. Death Steps In The Dark is an example of a substantially humorous giallo and it actually works out pretty nicely, while never especially funny the film carries its humour with an unforced daftness that is a little charming, and only grating in a short sequence of the hero in drag. Then again I've never been a fan of drag humour and others may think more of it. The general plotting is serious stuff and fairly convoluted, whilst travelling through a tunnel the lights go out in a train and a nun is murdered, suspicion falls on fashion photographer Luciano and he must prove is innocence, murder and intrigue continuing all the while. Maurizio Pradeaux of the similarly lesser seen Death Carries A Cane directs here, bringing style and colour, the pace is quick and there are some memorable moments including a use of defiantly unerotic ultra close up during a sex scene that could pass for one of Jesus Franco's craziest dalliances and a particularly fine murder with nice bloodshed. The suspense scenes are for the most part taken seriously with good use of killer POV shooting, and while never especially gory the kills get a bit of the red stuff flowing, satisfying enough in a film like this where the tone is lighter and the emphasis not so much on shocks. Acting is generally decent, Leonard Mann sympathetic as the confused and somewhat frazzled hero, Vera Krouska a delight as his dim witted girlfriend and Robert Webber suitably dry as a police inspector just trying to get the job done, despite plot convolutions, idiots around him and heartburn. The Riz Ortolani score is solid too, has a smooth and romantic feel to it that works with the surroundings and general style. There are a couple of drawbacks here, one easy to point out and one less so, but they conspire to bring the film down a few notches. Though often amusing the humour is pretty basic and tends towards sexism, it may all be in good fun but the lack of sophistication is pretty glaring. And the explanation for events is based on information that doesn't appear anywhere in the prior proceedings, the film lays clues as to its killer, but the ultimate explanation is pretty left-field and its a bit of a downer that it wasn't hinted at earlier, it feels a bit of a cheat. Still for the most part this is fun stuff and giallo completists could do worse than check it out.