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August 01, 2023

So Sweet, So Dead


Rivelazioni di un maniaco sessuale al capo della squadra mobile / The Slasher is the Sex Maniac
Roberto Montero - 1972

Every once in a while, someone makes a post about watching the cinematic equivalent to comfort food. For myself, this means checking on Tubi. The brief commercial breaks do not disturb me, especially as the film returns to a couple of seconds prior to the break so no part of the film is lost. While it is often surprising how many good and even great films pop up on Tubi, what I like to seek out are previously unseen or unknown gialli or Italian westerns. I can not explain my attraction to Italian genre films from the 1970s. Both genres were considered critically disreputable at the time with the possible exceptions of Sergio Leone and Dario Argento. Both genres have gone under considerable critical reevaluation in the past fifty years. In the intervening years, the trashiness of the Italian thrillers has become a feature and not a bug.

I have not read Farley Granger's autobiography, but I would not be surprised if he never mentioned this film. After starring in films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Nicholas Ray and Luchino Visconti, why bother? Not only was Granger's stardom quite diminished even though he was only 47 years old, but the U.S. distribution was by William Mishkin, a specialist in grindhouse releases. Granger appears to have a ragged hair cut or a bad toop, plus a mustache in his role as a police inspector. A man dressed in black, his face obscured by a black stocking, is murdering the unfaithful wives of the elite in an unnamed city. The women have their throats cut. The killer leaves photographs of the women, nude with their respective lovers. The men in the photographs have their faces scratched out. As these things go, So Sweet, So Dead is relatively restrained with the violence save for close-ups of slashed throats, but generous on the nudity with actresses Sylva Koscina, Susan Scott and Femi Benussi.

There are the expected red herrings, misdirection and J & B Scotch product placement. There are also a couple of scenes involving the daughter of one of the victims where it seemed like no one noticed that they made no sense. In one scene, the daughter has returned from school at the same morning time as her father is leaving the house to go work. The followup to the scene of the daughter witnessing her mother's murder made me wonder how no one on the set noticed its incongruity. The clues all seem to point to a man whose job is to reconstruct and repair the bodies of the victims. He is played by Luciano Rossi, a supporting player in many genre films. Rossi physically looks somewhat like the guy you would hire if you wanted Klaus Kinski but had to hire a cheaper actor. Rossi's English dubbed voice sounds at times like the cartoon version of Peter Lorre. Rossi is so creepy and deranged that only someone who has never seen a movie would peg him as the mad slasher. A surprising aside, Luciano Rossi is the subject of a book written by horror film specialist Kier-La Janisse.

What little I know about director Roberto Montero is found in Wikipedia and IMDb. Like many Italian directors, his career was largely dictated by whatever genre was in favor at the time. The only bit of artistic flash here is some color tinting in a flashback. Montero may not be in the same league as Sergio Martino or Umberto Lenzi, but that should not be held against him. Not all comfort food is of nutritional value. Neither should all movies need to have any significance beyond their existence.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 1, 2023 07:00 AM