‘The Killer Must Kill Again’ is not a traditional giallo as it completely does away with three of the genre’s defining elements. Firstly, there is no mystery, as we know from the outset the identity of the killer and his motivation. Secondly, as there is no mystery, there is no convoluted plot with proceedings taking a more simplistic approach; no new characters pop up at the end to confuse the viewer making for a linear narrative that is pleasantly easy to follow for a change. Thirdly, in the middle act, the focus of the narrative switches to a young couple who find themselves caught up in George Hilton’s character’s dirty scheming. Despite the top billing of the euro cult favourite, Hilton takes a backseat here in a supporting role after featuring prominently in the opening act. These two young leads do not get to play amateur sleuths though trying to solve a mystery figuring out the cause of their predicament as is the norm in gialli because they are oblivious to what is going on and the unseen danger of a psychotic killer (Antoine Saint-John) stalking them.
For the rest of the film until its finale, the story is seen through the eyes of this antagonist and this couple he is after while cutting to scenes with George Hilton in other locations as his character deals with a police investigation who returns to the forefront of the screen for the climax of the story. Other commonplace conventions that identify a giallo outing are here though - a plot involving blackmail and murder for money with colourful characters, graphic set-pieces and thick fat suspense. Directed by Luigi Cozzi also known for his 1978 Star Wars rip-off ‘Starcrash’ and his 1980 Alien rip-off ‘Contamination’ the latter of which found its way onto the UK DDP’s list of video nasties in 1983 (although I cannot see why) executes here like most gialli a very stylish affair that is tightly paced. It is dripping with atmosphere thanks to the gorgeous cinematography by Riccardo Pallottini with uncredited work by Franco Di Giacomo and Nando De Luca’s surreal and tension inducing score. All this and playing with the established rules of the genre is what makes the movie a unique and very entertaining giallo.
Cheating husband Giorgio Mainardi (Hilton) has an argument with his rich wife Norma (Tere Velázquez) who has wised up to his betrayal and cuts him off financially with Giorrgio owing massive debts. He tells her that he is leaving her and storms out. While out after finishing a call to his mistress from a payphone he witnesses a mysterious man (Saint-John), disposing of a woman’s dead body by pushing the car that he drove her in into a canal. Instead of reporting it to the police, Giorgio blackmails the murderer to kill his wife for payment. Returning home, Giorgio has passionate make up sex with Norma.
Meeting the killer again later in a cinema Giorgio instructs him to murder his wife that night in which she will be home alone. Giving him part of his money upfront, Giorgio tells him he has told her to expect a friend and to make it look like a kidnapping and that when it is done he will get the rest of the money from the ransom her rich industrialist father will pay. When doing the job, everything goes well until the killer hits a snag. After putting Norma’s body in the trunk of his car and having left the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition, he goes back into the house to wipe away any fingerprints he might have left. While inside a young couple, Luca played by Alessio Orano (Mario Bava’s exquisite ‘Lisa and the Devil’) and Laura (the pretty Cristina Galbó) come along and steal the car completely unaware of what they have in the boot. Luca steals the car to take Laura to an old abandoned villa by the seaside and the killer stealing a car himself gives chase.
This first suspenseful act sets up what has the potential to be an exciting remaining hour. However, the second act puts the breaks on that as we spend time with Luca and Laura in the rundown house but the intention here is for us to get to know and like them as we wait for the killer to turn up so we actually care what happens to them when the bloody terror begins. The screenplay introduces the story’s two sets of main players in two acts so this is unavoidable and important if we the audience are to be invested in two characters who are in such peril but are not aware of it. The director makes sure here though to inject some suspenseful moments as we tensely await the arrival of the killer and employs some creepy imagery of this rundown villa’s various sinister looking props.
This works especially well when it comes the killer’s explicitly depicted disturbingly brutal rape of Laura while Luca has gone out to get something to eat for the two of them in the stolen car with Norma’s dead body in the trunk. This is brilliantly juxtaposed to Luca’s cheating on Laura when he picks up a dumb blonde (Femi Benussi) whose car has broken down. The prolonged cutting between the killer’s violation of Luca’s girlfriend and the lustful consensual act of him and the dizzy slapper is an inspired contrast of the important differences between sex and sexual violence. Luca and Laura stealing the car, also stealing $150 from a petrol station attendant and Luca cheating on Laura portray them as not necessarily bad people but just young and stupid (we have all been there) and as is the case in most gialli not even the antagonists are entirely innocent; not bad just not perfect. In other words, they are human.
The real star here is Antoine Saint-John credited here as Michel Antoine who has an immensely brooding presence. He is extremely intimidating, menacing and sadistic his reptilian like facial features, his tall slim build, decked out completely in black, only talking when he has to and no backstory at all makes him a highly memorable villain. He just turns up on screen in the opening scene set in a car park placing the women’s dead body in the passenger seat of the car and no explanation is given as to why he killed her. His character is given no name credited simply as “Killer”. Although the original title was ‘The Spider’, evidenced by the graphics of the cobwebs and spider in the opening title and closing credits sequences respectively. Maybe this antagonist was going to be the titular character until the producers changed the title to the rather terrible ‘The Killer Must Kill Again’. If the film had of been seen by a wider audience upon release he may have actually become one one of the great iconic movie madmen. The always-good George Hilton as a smarmy sleazebag ably supports Saint-John and Orano and the cute Galbó are effective in drawing our sympathies as the naïve young delinquents.
While not a spectacular example of the genre not matching Dario Argento’s grand operatic composition, ‘The Killer Must Kill Again’ is a solid unconventional atmospheric giallo, which is easier to follow for this stripped down experimentation. The whole cast is great, it is skilfully shot, edited, scored and is well-paced despite slowing down a bit in the middle but that is for the good reason to connect Luca and Laura with the audience whose patience is paid off as it only builds suspense and tension in anticipation for the compelling last act.
*** out of ****
Dave J. Wilson
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