... aka: Giallo a Striscio
Giallo aren't exactly known for their exemplary writing nor their logic, so I had even less hope than usual for this one after I researched its history. This apparently started life as a multi-episode TV bumper series called Giallo a Striscio, which ran right before the Variety program on RAI (Radiotelevisione italiana) in 1979. There were fifteen of these episodes in total, each running five minutes apiece, and someone came up with the idea of cutting that all together into one feature film, which was then released to theaters in February 1980. (It sure beats just disposing of this material altogether, I suppose!) Seeing how the total length of the combined episodes would be around 75 minutes and this one runs just 60, a lot of footage obviously had to be trimmed for this to try to make sense. Or at least fit the approximation of "sense" by Lado standards.
Speaking of Lado, he's another reason I didn't get my hopes up too high. I've seen three of films thus far - the slow, dreary, poorly-written Who Saw Her Die? (1972), the likewise slow-moving and sometimes highly unpleasant Last House on the Left rip-off Late Night Trains (1974) and the awful (yet admittedly sometimes hilarious) Star Wars rip-off The Humanoid (1979) - and haven't especially liked any of them. But lets go ahead and wipe that slate of his clean and see how well he can glue together a bunch of fragmented scenes, shall we?
Actually filmed at the huge Rai production center (the "Via Teulada" of the title is apparently the street [or the plaza] where the studio is located), this opens with a film-within-a-film gag where an actress is stabbed in the back with a pair of scissors before we're given a behind-the-scenes look at all the crazy goings-on at the studio as all kinds of crew people and entertainers frantically shuffle to and fro doing their various jobs.
In addition to the usual directors, writers, producers, costumers, make-up artists, set dressers, security guards and other behind-the-scenes employees, there are newscasters, hosts, singers and musicians (marching bands, a folk band, a rock band and even a full orchestra), dancers, magicians, clowns, various animals, you name it. So when studio employee Ely (Margherita Sestito) finds what she believes to be a real corpse in a room where film reels are stored, most of the people there aren't apt to believe her. After all, the studio is packed full of people, dummies, mannequins and all kinds of other props, so most of them assume she was just seeing things, especially since the body disappears before anyone else can see it.
Still, Ely is convinced the corpse she saw was real and enlists the aid of two friends; production assistant Sandro (Pietro Brambilla) and switchboard operator Lia (Auretta Gay), to try to get to the bottom of things. Seeing how Lia is blind, they've already got the odds stacked against them before they begin. Prior to being killed, initial victim Diamante (Mariarita Viaggi) passed along an envelope / note to her dancer friend Annie (Barbara D'Urso), who becomes victim #2 when she's strangled to death with a scarf. The killer (who's decked out in the usual black outfit, gloves and bowler hat) ties the scarf to the feed on an editing machine, which ends up being blamed for strangling her and causing her to have a heart attack (?!) Additional murders follow, including a clever bit where a girl is killed with hot steam and then turned into a silver statue.
Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed this for the most part! While it's not particularly well-written, plotted, directed OR acted, has an extremely silly killer reveal and is light on exploitation elements (there's just a little blood and a couple of topless scenes), it's stylish, the camerawork is pretty good and it's a lot more entertaining and pleasant to watch than the other films I've seen from this director.
Here, Lado makes outstanding use of his great shooting locations, which gives us an endless variety of sets, props and costumes. Some of these are used for intentional humor, while others are just of the random "Hey, why not throw this in since it's already here?" variety. Why have an actor walk across a room when you can have an actor walk across a room and pass by a man dressed as a sheikh leading a camel? And why have the killer chase our heroine around with a fire axe when he can chase her around with a fire axe in a warehouse with a giant fan blowing large sheets of blue fabric around? A long chase scene through the studio is enhanced with red lighting and the proposed victim entering a set with giant playing cards and spinning mirrors. It's these kind of touches that really elevate the production.
Aldo Sassi as director Leo, Attilio Duse as producer Giorgio, Lidia Biondi (HOTEL FEAR) as bitchy wardrobe lady Angelina and Branko Vatovec (a famous real-life astrologer in Italy) as Lia's overprotective brother Enrico are the co-stars. Actor Giuseppe Bambieri (playing himself) has a couple of amusing scenes and there's behind-the-scenes studio footage that includes comedian Renato Rascel (UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE), actress Corinne Clery, TV presenter Pippo Baudo, singer Domenico Modugno and other then-famous Italian celebs. The music by Fabio Frizzi recycles some of his score for CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980).
This has never been given a U.S. release in any form nor an official home video release in ANY country as far as I know. However, a number of bootleg sites sell this with English subs and, as of this writing at least, it's available to view on Youtube.