3/8/10

The Killer Must Kill Again (1975): He's Got OCD for Murder

The title of today’s selection for Once Upon a Time in Italy is The Killer Must Kill Again [Italian: Il ragno]. If you wonder why the killer must kill again, it is very easily explained. Otherwise, he would be known as “the guy who used to used to kill” and not “the killer”. That kind of thing is hard on the ego and all. Ok, so maybe that’s not his motivation, but for the week leading up to watching this film, I annoyed my wife with that joke so I thought it only fair that I spread the pain. The Killer Must Kill Again is directed by Luigi Cozzi, a director I talked about sometime back with my review of Starcrash (which you can also hear about on Sinful Cinema Episode 5). Cozzi doesn’t have the best track record overall, but lately I’ve been on quite the giallo kick so I couldn’t resist checking out this title. Plus, it stars the indomitable George Hilton whose presence will get me to check out any film.

When Georgio Mainardi (George Hilton) happens to spy a killer (Michel Antoine) disposing of a body in a river, he sees an opportunity to get rid of his domineering wife Nora (Teresa Velazquez). He talks the killer into offing his wife for a hefty sum of money. While Georgio is away at a party setting up a rock solid alibi, the killer travels to Georgio’s home, gets inside by posing as a business associate, and kills the wife. When a couple of joyriding teens steal his car, the killer must boost another ride to chase the teens as they head for the beach. Meanwhile, the case comes under heavy scrutiny from the police inspector (Eduardo Fajardo), and Georgio find himself under suspicion for the perfectly planned murder.

Watching the DVD extras on the Mondo Macabre disk, I was struck at how much Luigi Cozzi’s career mirrored the tales you hear coming from genre directors in the United States. Like them, Cozzi grew up a science fiction fan and a lover of Famous Monsters of Filmland. By his early twenties, he was the Italian correspondent for Forrest J. Ackerman’s magazine, and when he was only twenty-two years old, he made his first low budget film, The Tunnel Under the World an interpretation of a story by science fiction writer Fredrick Poul. It was his association with his friend Dario Argento that finally got him into the business of making films. First, he helped write Argento’s giallo Four Flies on Grey Velvet before Dario got Luigi a job directing on the TV series Door Into Darkness. After directing one of the most popular episodes, Cozzi was given a chance to direct his first feature which was coincidentally The Killer Must Kill Again.

For anyone who has seen Cozzi’s later hackneyed work, it is hard to wrap your mind around TKMKA being from the same director. His style had clearly been influenced by his friend Dario, but there are quite a few artistic flourishes that make this film visually interesting. Working with cinematographers Riccardo Pallottini (The Man From Deep River, Lady Frankenstein) and Franco Di Giacomo, Cozzi explored many interesting angles moving shots to create suspense in the film. After all, unlike most gialli, the killer’s identity is plainly known throughout so Cozzi had to use the camera (and a clever script) to toy with the audience’s expectations. The scene that stands out above all is the intercutting of a fairly non-explicit rape with a scene of moderately explicit consensual lovemaking. It’s a great juxtaposition to begin with, but it also makes the rape, sparingly and without much detail, quite chilling.

Cozzi not only had a solid script to work with and some cinematic ideas to put on the screen, but also a solid cast to work with. French actor Michel Antoine (whose real name was Antoine Saint-John) is really the star of this film despite the appearance of the better-known George Hilton. With his angular face and a look that seems like James Coburn and Anthony Perkins had a baby, he makes for an incredibly creepy figure on the screen. You look at the guy, and it’s quite easy to think that he’s a killer. I’m sure that’s great for getting film roles, but it must be hell getting dates. While he made a handful of other films, his most role would be his turn as the artist Schweick in Fulci’s film The Beyond, Antoine never really ended up being a mainstay in films of the time. That’s too bad because of all the gialli killers I’ve seen he definitely had me convinced that he was capable of what I saw onscreen.

While George Hilton got top billing for this film, he really has precious little screen time. That being said, he does put in a solid performance anytime he does show up. His character is easily a despicable slime ball, and I thought it was very clever that what begins to give away his guilt to the police, a monogrammed lighter, would act as a reference to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, a film the Cozzi no doubt was inspired by. The only two other real characters are the teen joy riders, Luca and Laura. Now, Luca he lives on the seventh floor. No, wait, that’s a Suzanne Vega song. This Luca played by Alessio Orano, who also appeared in the Mario Bava film Lisa and the Devil, and he gives the teen a pompous confidence that made this viewer want to sock him in the jaw for most of the film. Meanwhile, Laura, played by Christina Galbo, seems a sweet girl who unfortunately is mixed up with an asshole whose actions end with her being stalked by a killer (who must kill again).

Delving deeper into Luigi Cozzi’s catalog might not garner you many (if any) films of the same quality as The Killer Must Kill Again, but there are a few entertaining choices to be had. However, if I were going to recommend one of the director’s films to someone, I would definitely steer them toward The Killer Must Kill Again. While it doesn’t really function in the typical style of a giallo, Cozzi’s use of camerawork to add suspense hints at a career that could have been had Cozzi not went down a path of science fiction and fantasy films instead. So fans of giallo and Italian film should check this one out, and if you’ve seen any of Lugi’s later film, don’t hold that against him.

Bugg Rating

Couldn't find a trailer so here's Rev. Phantom's excellent video review of Contamination.

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