Wednesday, January 25, 2017


This early giallo film (an Italian genre which typically mixes elements from mysteries and crime thrillers with sex, gore and an elaborate visual style) is also considered the starting point for what became the slasher movie. Technically, it's an old-fashioned mystery or police drama at heart. A masked killer is stalking a fashion house, killing attractive female models. The police are called in and it's discovered that the first woman killed, Isabella, was keeping a diary filled with salacious secrets about the fashion house, but the diary is now missing. The owners of the house (Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok) seem a little lackadaisical about the other models' concerns for their wellbeing and the murders continue, with the killer apparently searching for the diary. The chief inspector (Thomas Reiner) puts all the men in and around the house, including Mitchell, in jail overnight but a murder occurs anyway. How many more will die before justice is served?

Well, if you paid attention to the Italian title (which is usually translated as "Six Women for the Murderer") you'll know. You'll also probably figure out at least part of the solution. But the entertainment value here isn't in the mystery, but in the creepy but gorgeous stalking and murder setpieces. Director Mario Bava indulges his talent for use of color both visually and symbolically. Whatever you may think of the portrayal of the murders (unsettling but not as graphic as would become common after 1978's HALLOWEEN), the film is, between use of color and use of the camera, stunning looking. I find most giallo movies to be claustrophobic—I'm not sure if it's camera angles or airless plotting or the artificial dubbing—and this one is as well, perhaps mostly because it all takes place in the fashion house or in the models' homes. Despite the large size of the rooms and the widescreen format of the film, the atmosphere still feels stifling, and that may well add to the overall tone of unease. Mitchell, Bartok and Reiner are fine, and not much in the way of emoting is asked of anyone else. You could probably turn the sound down on this and still enjoy it as visual art: the red mannequins with jet black hair, the deep shadows, the rich reds and purples, the use of mirrors and curtains. This is a cult classic that deserves to be given credit for launching a genre of horror film that lives on. [TCM]

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