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September 22, 2017

Suspicious Death of a Minor

suspected death poster 1.jpg

Morte sospetta di una minorenne / To Young to Die
Sergio Martino - 1975
Arrow Video BD Regions A/B & DVD Regions 1/2 Two-disc set

Suspicious Death of a Minor is something of an oddity in Sergio Martino's filmography. The film is a sometimes incongruous blend of giallo, poliziotteschi and broad comedy. The tonal shifts are often unexpected, especially during the first half of the film. If the film isn't up there with other Martino films such as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, I'll still take it over something like the risible Mountain of the Cannibal God with Stacy Keach as a jungle explorer and Ursula Andress as the involuntary sacrificial human. For those like myself who had never seen this film before, it takes a while to accept the film on its own terms when Luciano Michelini's Goblin inspired opening music seems to set up the viewer's expectations.

As it stands, the death in the title is a small part of a larger puzzle concerning prostitution, drugs trafficking and kidnapping in Milan. The main character, Paulo Germi, is an undercover cop with very unconventional methods of dealing with criminals. The screenplay was written by the very prolific Ernesto Gastaldi, and then revised by Martino. The blu-ray comes with a supplementary interview with Martino where the director discusses deliberately toning down the violence. The hitman with the constant sunglasses, the bagmen and the pimp turn out to be pawns working on behalf of less obvious criminals, the objects of Germi's investigation.

There are a couple of motifs repeated throughout the film. More significantly is having a lens of Germi's glasses cracked several times during the action, the symbolism obvious but effective for someone looking at clues but not quite understanding what he's looking at or how various pieces connect. There is also a running gag with Germi's old Citroen, ready to fall apart at any moment. Just as the opening music seems to have been inspired by Dario Argento's Deep Red, released about six months before Martino's film, I have to wonder if the gags involving Germi's car were inspired by the dilapidated car driven by Daria Nicolodi.

Germ's white Citroen gets a workout in a chase scene. Martino was unable to work with Remy Julienne for this film, but there is a nice sight gag where a side-swiped bicycle becomes a unicycle. There is also a shootout at an amusement park with Germi and a hitman on a rollercoaster. Most inspired is Germi chasing the sunglass wearing killer on the roof of a movie theater, a theater that turns out to have a retractable roof.

Especially for those interested in genre films, or Italian films in general, Troy Howarth's commentary should prove useful. Howarth, who has written extensively on Italian horror films, points out the various character actors and provides short biographies on them as well as key crew members. Most of the commentary is devoted to Martino, his brother, the producer Luciano Martino, and frequent Martino star Claudio Cassinelli. Howarth also briefly covers the careers of two top actors in major supporting roles here, Massimo Girotti and Mel Ferrer. The film itself looks quite good, but I suspect will be most appreciated by Martino completists.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 22, 2017 06:47 AM