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September 17, 2019

Who Saw Her Die?

who saw her die?.jpg

Chi l'ha vista morire?
Aldo Lado - 1972
Arrow Video BD Region A

While the casting of the two actors as an estranged married couple was not originally what was intended, George Lazenby and Anita Strindberg visually compliment each other. They play the parents of the titular "her". Both are quite thin, gaunt, their faces almost skeletal. This kind of visual unity is also part of two moments when these parents try to process their grief at the loss of their daughter. Lado has a tight close up of Strindberg's face, a tear falling from her left eye and a small wet streak below her right eye. The camera moves left to Lazenby's face, facing away from Strindberg, with the camera moving to the right of the screen, again on Strindberg. In a moment of reconciliation through their mourning, Strindberg and Lazenby wear knit shirts that are the same shade of gray, although of different textures.

Who Saw Her Die? takes place in Venice just before winter. Sunlight only appears in the early scenes of Franco (Lazenby) with his young daughter, Roberta. In the last scene with Roberta, she is in the middle of a circle surrounded by equally young children, in a variation of "Ring Around the Rosie". The children are in a shady part of a small square. The exterior shots from that point on become increasingly darker, with overcast skies and extreme fog during the day, as well as several scenes taking place in the darkness of night. Several of the pathways available to the characters offer restricted availability of movement. There is a constant sense of claustrophobia.

There are the usual giallo tropes - a murder mystery with psycho-sexual links to the killer's past, red herrings and deliberate misdirection. There are also the murder set pieces required of the genre. Ennio Morricone provided the score which primarily consists of a children's choir singing a variation of the title.

It is somewhat difficult to judge George Lazenby's performance as he was dubbed not only in Italian, but also in the English language version as well, by American actor Mark Forest. But what appears to be genuine is his relationship with Nicoletta Elmi as Roberta. The two seem to take pleasure in each other, such as when they are skipping together on the street, or playing "telephone" with a couple of small shells. It could also be that without the immense outside pressures, Lazenby was able to be more relaxed than was in his debut as the one-time James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Aldo Lado's familiarity with Venice gave him the ability to film most of the film in the less familiar parts of the city, where working class families lived, as well as the more industrial areas. Not seen in the usual tourist's eye view are shots of the merchants setting up their stands for the outdoor market near the Grand Canal. Just about a year prior to making Her Saw Her Die?, Lado wrote the story and served as Assistant Director on a film showing a more glamorous Venice, The Designated Victim.

As is usual with Arrow, the blu-ray comes with generous extras. Film historian Troy Howarth discusses the film at hand as well as Aldo Lado's career, but also spends time placing Who Saw Her Die? within the context of both genre filmmaking in Italy, but also the Italian film industry of the early 1970s. Interviews with Aldo Lado and screenwriter Franceso Barilli, both shot last June, provide sometimes contradictory, but always interesting information on the production of the film, as well as thoughts on their own careers. A now mature Nicoletta Elmi shares her memories of acting in several films, where unlike the good natured Roberta, she played more malevolent youngsters, notably in Dario Argento's Deep Red. Giallo specialist Michael Mackenzie also provides more details, including a side by side shot comparison with Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now which was release more than a year later, but shares some uncanny similarities. I also advise checking out the extras for the discussion of the final line in the film following the revealing of the killer's identity, which inadvertently creates the film's biggest plot hole. The transfer is from from a 2K restoration which is just about perfect.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 17, 2019 08:32 AM