Chi l'ha vista morire?, Who Saw Her Die? (1972)
Directed by: Aldo Lado
Written by: Aldo Lado, Francesco Barilli, Massimo D'Avak, Ruediger von Spiess
Starring: Adolfo Celi, Anita Strindberg, George Lazenby
HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still can not forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore….our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection. Here Italian horror fan Dr Lenera looks at a little seen giallo from 1972 starring On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s George Lazenby!
HCF REWIND NO.17.WHO SAW HER DIE AKA CHI L’HA VISTA MORIRE
AVAILABLE ON DVD:Now
RUNNING TIME:90 mins
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
1967, at a ski resort in Italy, a young girl is slain and buried by a maniac wearing a veil. Five years later, Franco Serpieri, a sculptor, welcomes the arrival of his daughter Roberta in Venice. Franco sis still married to Roberto’s mother but they are estranged and he spends more time with his mistress Ginevra. Unfortunately the same veil wearing maniac is also in Venice and begins to stalk Roberto, eventually attacking her. After frantically searching for her, Roberto sees his daughter’s dead body being pulled out of the river. He decides to find Roberto’s killer and luckily enough has some clues………
The term giallo is the name given to a unique subgenre of Italian mystery thrillers which emphasised the violent and horrific aspects. The word giallo actually means yellow in Italian and the origin of this kind of film actually dates back many decades to when Italian translations of fictional crime books always had yellow covers. The success of Dario Argento’s The Bird With The Crystal Plumage in 1969 [though of course it was Mario Bava who started things off with The Girl who Knew Too Much in 1963] led to a outpour of giallos in the 70s. These soon took over from the Spaghetti Western as the main type of commercial cinema in Italy, though unsurprisingly they vary in quality, with some good, some bad, and some very ugly. Of course Argento perfected the form but there were other good directors of these films such as Lucio Fulci and Sergio Martino. Aldo Lado’s Who Saw Her Die? isn’t really a great example of the giallo, but it’s a reasonably enjoyable thriller which certainly has some merit. Lado had just made the superb thriller Short Night Of Glass Dolls, and would later make the fine, though controversial, Late Night Trains. These and others show that he was an intelligent director with something to say as well as being very good as creating tension, but it seems to me he saw Who Saw Her Die as just a job, even though, as usual, he was involved in the script. Its star, one-time James Bond George Lazenby lost thirty five pounds for the role, and the film was packed with talent behind the camera, but it didn’t have enough to distinguish itself from dozens of similar films, resulting in it doing mediocre business and barely getting released overseas.
It certainly opens very well, with the ski resort killing. After some lovely aerial shots, we see the child from the killer’s point of view through his/her veil, and some really disturbing Ennio Morricone music featuring a children’s chorus over a beat. You’d better like this music, because from now on almost every appearance of the killer is accompanied by this music, and it ends up being rather annoying. Anyway, the opening murder is not seen in any detail, but the sight of the killer burying the bloody body is quite disturbing. Cut to a few years later, and some really poor attempts at human drama involving our hero Franco, his daughter, his mistress and his ex-wife. The scenes between father and daughter are extremely stilted and one especially laughable bit has his ex-wife tell him to basically ‘move on’ immediately after their daughter’s daughter! Still, Roberta’s murder is carefully built up so you almost want it to happen, and afterwards the developing mystery gets quite complex and interesting, though this critic spotted the killer almost half way through. Lado manages to work in his usual political elements though, such as criticising the rich for exploiting the poor, and here attacks the Catholic church, something the Italian censors were not too happy with [he placated them by shortening a couple of scenes and adding a throwaway final line].
The film is quite well paced but suffers from having many sequences that begin well but don’t fulfill their potential. A good example is a pursuit in a deserted factory, which starts off superbly and is very tense but suddenly comes to an end [remember how brilliantly Fulci did such scenes in some of his films such as The Psychic?], and similarly the final fight is almost over before you know it. There are only two murders shown in detail, one a stabbing [which was cut in the old UK video] and one a garrotting in a cinema, a scene which could have been brilliant but instead is laughable due to the cinema being so ludicrously bright that anyone there could have seen the killing. There’s a slapdash element to much of the film, with good scenes often alternating with poor and sometimes unintentionally funny ones. What is impressive though is Franco Di Giacomo’s atmospheric winter photography of Venice. One year before Don’t Look Now, this movie also presented the city as a gloomy, sinister maze, and in fact there are other uncanny similarities to Nicolas Roeg’s classic, not just in terms of the plot, but in the direction, including the way certain shots from elsewhere in the film are cut in to other scenes, even during a sex sequence. I doubt Roeg saw this movie before embarking on his, as it didn’t get a UK cinema release, but it is interesting.
Lazenby looks awful in this film, scraggy and worn out, like he’s been on heroine or something, and it’s hard to entirely appreciate his performance when he’s dubbed with an American accent [as with many films like this, everyone spoke in their own language, then the film was dubbed into various languages without recalling any of the cast]. He does try hard with his role though and plays it with conviction, sometimes really conveying his character’s torment, but then again I thought he was a great Bond too! 007 fans will also spot Adolpho Celi from Thunderball. I’ve already mentioned Morricone’s score, which is almost entirely chorale, an interesting choice, but repetitive to the point of tedium. It also often seems badly cut in and out of the film. It’s not one of the Maestro’s better efforts, but considering the huge amount of film scores he was churning out around this time one can forgive him! Who Saw Her Die is certainly not boring and without a doubt worth a view, but is a frustrating watch overall, because it should be great with some of the elements it has in it. However, it just falls badly short, often feeling rushed and clumsy.