Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Concerto per pistola solista (1970)

...aka: Butler Didn't Do It!, The
...aka: Killer's Weekend, The
...aka: Story of a Crime
...aka: Weekend Murders, The

Directed by:
Michele Lupo

A murder-mystery co-produced by Italian and Spanish backers, set in England, containing a mixed international cast (most of whom are dubbed), farcical elements (it almost plays out like an Agatha Christie spoof), some distinctly British humour and an all-too-familiar reading-of-the-will set-up might sound like a recipe for disaster but - surprise! - this is anything but. Despite being written off with a middling review in Adrian Luther Smith's Blood & Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies, I personally found THE WEEKEND MURDERS to be a mostly successful and amusing concoction and certainly one of the most entertaining Italian genre productions of the 1970s. Things open with an amusing golf game as a bunch of stuffy characters uncover a human hand in a sand trap. The film then jumps back a few days as an extended family show up at a country estate soon after obscenely wealthy Henry Carter has passed on. Apparently, he didn't get along too well with anyone aside from his niece Barbara (top-billed Anna Moffo), who brought some peace and serenity to his final years, so she ends up receiving the bulk of the valuables while everyone else is left fuming and conspiring about how they can get their share. Almost immediately after, someone begins killing characters off one by one.
The mile-long list of quirky suspects (and in many cases the actors bringing them to life) and their interactions is one aspect that makes this one stand out amongst others of its type. One of the most unusual is a perverted would-be rapist and mama's boy named Georgie (Christopher Chittel), who seems to have taken inspiration from Bud Cort in HAROLD MAUDE and stages a bloody fake bathtub suicide and a fake knife murder just to annoy everyone. He has a strange Oedipal relationship with his domineering mother Lady Gladys (Marisa Fabbri), can't handle the come-on's from sexually aggressive maid Evelyn (Orchidea de Santis) after he tries to rape her and finally ends up being broken in by Pauline (Beryl Cunningham), a black woman Henry's obnoxious playboy nephew Theodore (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) claims he married just to piss everyone else off and who's also sleeping with the valet, Arthur ("Robert Hundar"/ Claudio Undari). Henry's only child Isabelle ("Eveline Stewart"/ Ida Galli) has just recently lost her baby, is having a falling out with her unemployed husband Anthony (Peter Baldwin) - who is secretly in love with Barbara, anyway - and ends up picking up a strange guy (Franco Borelli) in town and brings him back to the mansion. To round out the list of possible suspects, there's also Henry's brother Lawrence (Quinto Parmeggiana), butler Peter (Ballard Berkeley), lawyer Mr. Thornton (Richard Caldicott) and a gardener (Harry Hutchinson) who isn't too happy that Henry didn't leave him his prized flowers in the will.
Bringing in most of the more obvious comedy are local bobby Sgt. Aloisius Thorpe (Gastone Moschin) and Scotland Yard's Inspector Gray (British comedian Lance Percival). Moschin's character; a goofy, buck-toothed, bumbling type, turns out to be the most clever person in the film and is the one who finally uncovers the killer. Both actors work off each other very well. The humorous elements run the gamut from obvious slapstick to blackly humorous commentary on class and racism to some mildly tasteless bits, but a surprisingly amount of it is actually funny, and consistently so. There are lots of dramatic zooms (obviously meant to parody similar films), as well as some weird-but-slick editing cuts featuring close-ups of various suspects accompanied by the sound of gun shots. The film also works adequately as a mystery. While the script may not be as convoluted, the writing's actually better than what you'll find in most other gialli and the killer's identity is a genuine surprise, as is their modus operandi.
PETA members might not like seeing a bunny rabbit getting shot, but otherwise this is a good-natured and amusing little diversion. MGM handled the theatrical release in the U.S., but they never bothered to issue the film to VHS here. Code Red has this on their list of 2009 DVD releases, so I guess we can expect a decent copy here soon.
Debuting on my Top 10 for 1970 list at #5.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Filme "Metro Goldwyn Mayer"

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