10 January 2007 | The_Void
Giallo elements in a spy thriller!
Mystère is kind of what James Bond would be like if it were made by a sleazy Italian cast and crew. The film just about qualifies as a Giallo, although the spy elements are far more prominent in the plot. Mystère was released in 1983, well after the Giallo heyday, so I'm thinking that writer-director Carlo Vanzina (who went on to direct the more Giallo-like Nothing Underneath two years later) wanted to inject some new life into the genre, and he's almost succeeded in doing that. It's true that Mystère is more than a little bit silly, sometimes even bordering on out and out ridiculousness; but it makes for fun viewing, and that's the important thing. The story is conveyed episodically, and the prologue shows a German photographer accidentally snapping off shots of a political killing. He also gets a shot of the murderer, and before long Russian spies decide that they want the negatives. The photographer hides them in a lighter and proceeds to hire prostitutes Pamela and Mystère, one of which is light-fingered. Pamela and the photographer are killed by an unknown assailant, and Mystère ends up with the lighter in her possession.
The film doesn't live up to other genre films in terms of gore; despite the fact that the murders are committed by a man carrying a cane with a blade on the end, we get to see very little blood and the only fairly nasty sequence in the film isn't a murder. There's a few car chases and clever spy stuff thrown in, however, and while this may not necessarily be what a Giallo fan wants; it is fairly entertaining, and at times provides a nice diversion from the common murder-fuelled Giallo plot lines. One of the things that stands out most about this film is Carole Bouquet - the lead actress provides an interesting lead performance, and she's backed up by cult regular John Steiner, who despite being British plays a Russian agent and Phil Coccioletti, who is actually American despite his Italian-sounding name. The music is fairly catchy, but doesn't really provide much in the way of atmosphere. Carlo Vanzina's cinematography isn't particularly stunning either, but it's not too important since this is more of a spy thriller anyway. Overall, this is an interesting film at least; and while I can certainly understand why it hasn't been remembered along with the best of the genre, I'd say it's just about worth tracking down.