Saturday, September 24, 2011

El asesino no está solo (1975)

... aka: Killer is Not Alone, The
... aka: Murderer is Not Alone, The

Directed by:
Jesús García de Dueñas

A young man picks up a prostitute and cuts her throat with a wire. The killer, dubbed "The Wire Strangler" by the press, is a lonely, shy, timid, well-mannered young man named Julio (David Carpenter), who comes from a well-to-do family, likes frankfurters and rhinocerus' and suffers from some sort of childhood trauma (which we get flashes of throughout the movie) that prevents him from being intimate with women (and leads him to murder those who want to be intimate with him). His parents are, and presumably always have been, too preoccupied with work and travel to pay him much mind and he was often left in the care of others growing up. Julio runs off to Madrid to try to start over again after his latest murder, and goes to stay at a hostel run by Dolores (Lola Flores), a single mother and flamenco dance teacher. The other residents at the hostel are a pretty ecclectic bunch. There's a mystery novel writer, a skirt-chaser who sits around reading girlie magazines at the dinner table and likes to spy on one of the women undressing, an elderly retired doctor, a woman who secretly works as a prostitute and others, and they often sit around discussing the killer and his crimes; hypothesizing about what might be making him kill.

Dolores' gorgeous teenage daughter Mónica (Teresa Rabal), who's getting a bit frustrated by her mother's controlling and sheltering ways plus the fact she has to work long hours to supplement the family income, begins hanging out with Julio on a regular basis. The two share some common interests (she particularly likes the fact he doesn't talk too much) and a romance starts to blossom, which means she's inadventently putting herself in peril. Dolores frowns upon the union, but primarily because she suffers from empty nest syndrome and doesn't want to be left alone. Meanwhile, David's father Enrique (James Philbook) starts to worry about his son and travels to Madrid to try to hunt him down.

Compared to other European serial killer tales from this time, this takes an interesting approach to the material, though it has obviously been heavily influenced by the 1944 classic The Lodger. It's much more interesting seeing an absentee father investigating his own son than some random detectives. He finds out that his son's best friend Ernesto (Antonio Mayans) hadn't actually seen his son for two years, that Julio degraded a girl (María José Cantudo) who liked him and that a woman he entrusted to take care of him while he and his wife were away in Japan all summer may have been the one to traumatize him. There are obtuse flashbacks involving the sound of bells, close-ups of hair and someone kicking over a model train, plus lots of religious imagery (it takes place during some kind of religious ceremony / parade, where people are dragging crosses through the streets and such). There are also some artistic fantasy sequences of Julio in bed with various women (and a mannequin) and an appropriately melancholic score.

All of the actors do a decent job in their respective parts. Co-star Maria Rohm is interestingly cast playing three different characters; the opening murder victim, the prostitute living at the boarding house and Julio's childhood babysitter (and sports a different hair color in each role; red, blonde and mousy brunette, respectively). Rohm was of course best known for her evocative performances in the Jess Franco films VENUS IN FURS (1968) and EUGENIE... THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION (1969). Though a fine actresss (and a very attractive one), her career only lasted about ten years. In fact, The Killer is Not Alone would end up being her final genre film appearance before she retired. Rohm was married to producer Harry Alan Towers until his death in 2009 and would go on to help produce some of these films herself, including the sleazy Anthony Perkins vehicle Edge of Sanity (1989) and Pact with the Devil (2001) with Malcolm McDowell. Fans of Rohm will certainly want to hunt this title down.

The boyishly handsome Carpenter (born: Domingo Codesido Hernández) also appeared in Eloy de la Iglesias' MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD (1973), got to play Tarzan in a 1974 film which also featured Nadiuska and Paul Naschy and retired from film altogether in 1979. He passed away in 2006. Philbrook had starred in Sound of Horror (1966) and this turned out to be his final film. Flores was best known as a dancer and singer. There are many familiar Spanish character actors (José Vivó, Ángel Menéndez, Luis Ciges, etc.) in smaller roles. It was a very atypical film for the director, who mostly made documentaries.

Never released in America; theatrically or on a home viewing format, this solid psycho-drama would make for an interesting and worthy DVD release.


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