HCF REWIND NO. 158: MY DEAR KILLER AKA MIO CARO ASSASINO [Italy 1972]
AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 97 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A man standing by a lake directs someone in a dredger truck, but the driver kills him with it instead. Inspector Luca Peretti arrives on the scene and sets out to track down the driver. He finds out who he is, but discovers he has hung himself. His widow works out that a key discovered in her dead husband’s pocket could fit a locker at the local post office, but is herself killed when she checks it out. Luca starts to link the goings ons to an incident in the past where a young girl was kidnapped and a high ransom demanded from her rich parents. Her father was killed during a bungled rescue attempt and subsequently she was left to starve to death. The perpetrators were never caught….
This rather good giallo was the only film in the genre directed by Tonino Valerii, normally happier with westerns and the maker of some very good ones like My Name Is Nobody [which is often erroneously considered a Sergio Leone film though Leone did produce it]. It has a good plot which, while complex enough to require your full attention, doesn’t over complicate matters and try to lead the audience down the garden path. It moves at a decent pace, though fails to gain steam towards the end which could have made it work better, and has some creative kills, helped considerably by the editing of Franco Fraticelli who would go on to edit three of Dario Argento’s greatest films, though there aren’t very many of them which may disappoint some fans of this kind of movie. It also has some unusual touches of black humour which don’t jar with a very Lucio Fulci-like misanthropic feel [nobody’s really very nice in it and most people have something wrong with them or are doing something unsavoury] and a rather melancholic feel which makes it all quite compelling, though I could have done with less of our hero arguing with his girlfriend and a bit more emphasis on the intricate plot he unravels.
1971 and 1972 were probably the Golden Years of the giallo, with titles [and didn’t they have great titles, so imaginative!] like The Iguana with The Tongue Of Fire, Short Night Of Glass Dolls and Don’t Torture A Duckling really showing off what varied work can be done with a fairly rigid format. My Dear Killer seemed to get lost amidst all these other films and didn’t get much of a release outside of Italy. Perhaps this is because, despite a couple of very over-the-top kills, it’s generally a more low key effort than some of the others, despite its story of multiple murders, kidnapping, madness and child abuse. Perhaps it’s also because there’s a palpable sense of grubbiness to the whole affair, even if it’s not very explicit. There’s a scene, for instance, when Luca is talking to a painter and a naked pre-pubescent girl he’s obviously using as a model walks in on them. As with Who Saw Her Die? and Don’t Torture A Duckling, which also dealt with child killings, there’s a rather sad feel of lost innocence, enhanced by Ennio Morricone’s lullaby theme, which alternates with jagged, disturbing atonal passages in the typical manner of the composer for these films.
It opens with a kill so crazy you just have to laugh. The driver of a dredger manoeuvures the machine’s claw and stops it above the victims’s head, then, before he has a chance to react, brings the claw down and clasps it around his neck. The man is pulled high into the air, where he struggles for a moment before his body and his freshly severed head come tumbling to the ground! Later on the black-gloved [of course] killer sits and chats with his next victim-to-be victim before searching her house for something to kill her with. He or she obviously isn’t too well organised or just doesn’t like to carry his instruments of death with him. He eventually picks up a circular saw which is unplugged and gets to work on her, though we don’t see the killer plug the cable in, and even if we are supposed to assume he does, the wire seems to grow in length vastly! Then again, this may have been deliberate in its absurdity, as there is a distinct element of the tongue-in-cheek here and there. Aside from the police being even more stupid than normal here [when the first victim’s widow phones to tell them she’s found her husband’s key to a locker which may contain important evidence, rather than sending some people round, they advise her to check it out herself!], leading man George Hilton, normally very stoic in these films, has a few darkly comic bits like where he demonstrates how a man found hung could have not committed suicide, by casually using the swinging body as a prop to aid his argument. There are also some amusing lines like: “they’re sending the pieces along for autopsy.” And the climax has the killer unmasked in front of everyone else Poirot style, after which the killer pulls the plug on the lights plunging the room into darkness and screams!
The final scene is rather thrown away and, while My Dear Killer is certainly enjoyable, my feeling is that it could have done with a couple more exciting moments to ramp up the proceedings somewhat.Valerii doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with the giallo, though he carefully balances the silly and the serious [very serious] aspects of the screenplay, which he co-wrote with three others, one of them being José Gutiérrez Maesso who co-wrote the original Django, which can be glimpsed on a TV while somebody calls it a “terrible western”….and pays for it with her life. It’s a good film to introduce newcomers to the lurid delights of the genre, as for once it does all end up pretty much making sense.