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Giallo

Italy 1934
produced by
Societa Anonima Stefano Pittaluga, Società Italiana Cines
directed by Mario Camerini
starring Assia Noris, Sandro Ruffini, Elio Steiner, Giulio Gemmò, Carlo Ranieri, Aronne Limardi, Carlo Lombardi, Vanda Barbini, Luigi Erminio D'Olivo
screenplay by Mario Soldati, Mario Camerini, based on the play The Man Who Changed His Name by Edgar Wallace, music by Guido Albanese

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Henriette (Assia Noris), a city girl, is bored to death with her husband Giorgio (Sandro Ruffini), a rich farmer for whom farming is everything and who has no sense for adventure. So she goes on trips to the city on her own ever so often, just to live a little. On one such trip, she notices a stranger trying to break into her hotel room - but fortunately, the guest next door, Count Amati (Elio Steiner), comes to her rescue - thing is, the intruder and Amati are actually the same man, it was just a ruse on his behalf to win her attention. She's though unaware of that ruse, and falls for him hook, line and sinker. The next day back at Giorgio's farm, she stumbles upon Amati again - as it turns out that he wants to buy some land from Giorgio, something she has so far opposed, but she's now happy to overthink her position. As it happens, Giorgio is called away for an urgent call, and Amati is more than eager to sign the contract without delay - as silver has been found on the land in question, and naturally Amati wants to seal the deal before Giorgio learns of this fact, which of course is actually what above call is about. Anyways, so while Giorgio is out, Henriette helps Amati in the search for the contract to hastily sign it - but instead the two find documents that Giorgio had his name changed and under his real name was a convicted murderer. Giorgio returns before Amati and Henriette can find the contract and tells them he'll have a new contract set up the next day (without telling Amati he has grown wise to the silver), and insists that Amati will not only stay for the night but also join him on a fox hunt - which Amati misinterprets as an attempt on his life. Things don't get better over the evening, and eventually, Amati confesses to Henriette to being a coward who has only used above ruse to steal his way into her heart for the contract, and he eventually makes an escape. Giorgio meanwhile has found out that Henriette has found out his secret and proves to her beyond doubt that he isn't the convicted killer she has thought him to be, just someone with the same name who changed it to avoid being mistaken for him. And suddenly, Giorgio seems all the more exciting to Henriette.

 

Now the giallo is a pretty much exclusively Italian genre of serial killer murder mysteries of the psychological horror or psycho-thriller variety of the 1960s and 70s and beyond that had a strong root in the German krimi genre that peaked in the early to mid 1960s, first and foremost due to the popularity of the German Edgar Wallace adaptations. So from that perspective it only seems fitting that the first Italian Edgar Wallace adaptation (at least according to my research) would be called "Giallo" (never mind of course that the word, meaning "yellow" in English, was derived from the yellow covers of a series of pulp crime novels by primarily British and American writers, including Edgar Wallace, released by publishing house Mondadori).

Now having said all that, this Giallo in question has remarkably little to do with the gialli from decades later (Mario Bava's La Ragazza che Sapeva Troppo/The Girl Who Knew Too Much from 1963 being often cited as the first "real" giallo), it's rather a crime farce with actually not even one dead body throughout. Now taken out of context and by its own terms, the film is somewhat likeable as it flows nicely, but at the same time it just can't shake its origins as a stage play, and even if the adaptation is said to be a loose one, the film has a somewhat stagey feel to it, with the fox hunt sequence being the sole exception. Also, the film swings back and forth between suspense piece and all-out farce, and doesn't do too greatly in either. It's still a likeable little film though that at its short running time (less than 70 minutes) doesn't outstay its welcome.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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directed by
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written by
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starring
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