« Fade Out | Main | The Village / Spirit of the Beehive »

June 17, 2005

The Killer Must Kill Again

Luigi Cozzi - 1973

First I want to get a cheap shot out of the way - the somewhat redundant title this film is saddled with makes me think this film should play on a theater marquee with Nightmares come at Night.

The story behind The Killer Must Kill Again is in some ways more interesting than the actual film. The title was changed from The Spider, indicative of the webs the characters create to trap others, as well as trap themselves. The director's commentary is a history of making a film with one compromise after another. Several of the actors were cast at the insistance of the producers. The film was re-edited and held up for release for two years. In spite of the obstacles, Cozzi still has a pride in his first theatrical film.

We see a man, Giorgio Mainardi, arguing with his wife, Norma. She controls the accounts that support his business ventures. He leaves to meet with a girl friend, and stopping to make a call from a pay phone, sees a man, only identified as D.A., pushing a Volkswagen into a river. The Volkswagen has a dead woman inside. Mainardi blackmails D.A. into murdering Norma. D.A. strangles Norma while Giorgio is at a party. D.A. hides the dead woman in the trunk of a very large Mercedes and goes back into the house to wipe fingerprints. The Mercedes is stolen by a couple of teenagers who are off to the beach. D.A. pursues the car thieves to a large, abandoned house.

While Cozzi is most know for his association with Dario Argento, this film is in some ways an anti-Giallo. For those unfamiliar with the term, Giallo is Italian for yellow. Paperback crime thrillers had yellow covers, and the books were the inspiration for movies characterized by extreme violence and sexuality. While Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace from 1964 is generally considered the first true Giallo film, the genre's cycle peaked during the early 70s following the release of Argento's Bird with Crystal Plumage, eventually fading in the next few years. Cozzi deliberately works against the genre conventions.

Unlike Giallo, Cozzi introduces the killer in the beginning of the film. D.A. is not the compulsive, illusive killer of other Giallo but a person reluctantly put in circumstances that force him to kill again. The plot is propelled by D.A.'s ineptness, first not noticing Giorgio, and then allowing the car to be stolen. The initials D.A. that are on the killer's cigarette lighter are an obvious reference to Dario Argento. While Cozzi confirms in the commentary that the scene of the Volkwagen sinking in water is his tribute to Psycho, the film has other Hitchcockian references. Death by strangulation and hidden corpses have popped up throughout Hitchcock's films, such as Frenzy and Rope. Cozzi has also populated the film with several blonde women, although much more voluptuous than Grace Kelly or even Janet Leigh. The Killer Must Kill Again is more old fashioned and linear in its narrative.

The film does have a great visual reference to the genre. The house of the Mainardis has a bold yellow interior decorated with pop art. What was amazing to learn in the commentary is that the interior belonged to a real house with nothing changed for the film.

The commentary was done with Pete Tombs. Tombs co-wrote one of my favorite books, Immoral Tales: European Sex and Horror Movies 1956 - 1984. That one book has determined quite a bit of my Netflix list. Tombs has expanded from writing about films to establishing his own DVD label, Mondo Macabro, for the Anglo-American market.

I first learned about Luigi Cozzi from a Dario Argento internet list I use to belong to. Cozzi's career as a film maker has been erratic at best. His last original film was made in 1989. Since then, Cozzi has been the director of record on a couple of films documentaries on Dario Argento. The only film by Cozzi I have seen previously was The Black Cat (1989). This is a film about the making of a film inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. While Poe supplied the title, the narrative is about an angry female spirit, connecting the film more directly to Argento's Suspiria and Inferno. There is even a scene where the characters discuss Suspiria while the theme music by Goblin is played. I saw the film on the SciFi network several years ago. As only a couple of his films are currently available, it may be a while before Cozzi's career can be more fully assessed.

There is an interview with Cozzi at Devildead.com from February 2004. In addition to running a bookstore with Argento in Rome that specializes in horror and science fiction, Cozzi has acted as a publisher on books on film, as well as author on books on Argento and Bava. Cozzi has stated that he has been unable to make films due to changes in the Italian film market. One has to wonder, based on the career paths of his peers, if Cozzi no longer had the stomach or passion needed to continue being a director. Based on the this one online interview I could find, I suspect that the battles and compromises outdid the rewards for the completed work.

Posted by peter at June 17, 2005 04:14 PM