The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)
Antonio Bido’s giallo owes a lot to genre predecessors, but this is more than a derivative rehash of Italian horror fare. Set against the backdrop of Venice like Aldo Lado’s superb “Who Saw Her Die?” (1972) – for my thoughts on that, see here https://hotdogcinema.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/who-saw-her-die-1972/ – and thematically similar to Lucio Fulco’s masterpiece, “Don’t Torture a Duckling” (1972) (and for my views on that particular gem see here https://hotdogcinema.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/dont-torture-a-duckling-1972/), it’s also a film deserving of praise in its own right.
The set-piece play warrants a specific mention. Now, elaborate set-pieces are typical of the genre but – unlike those established by Bava and Argento’s bravado – here less attention is paid to the act of murder itself with devotion instead to the tension created in the build-up. Bido takes this to the extreme in the murder of “the count” (played by Massimo Serato, probably most famous for his role as the priest in “Don’t Look Now” (1973)) in a lucidly executed sequence rolling on for minutes, and heightened with a glowing Goblin-esque score.
Loose acting, and difficult scripting, can plague giallos and render them unsatisfactory to modern audiences. Not so in this case. Former 20th Century Fox contract player Craig Hill is cast as Don Paulo – a murderous priest crippled by schizophrenia – and Lino Capolicchio (the lead in 1976’s “The House of Laughing Windows”) gives a sympathetic account of his conflicted visiting brother. Bido stuffs his film with the vintage characteristics and red-herrings which have become so well-loved. There’s a witness to a brutal murder by a cloaked figure on a stormy night; a mentally-retarded son locked away from public view; a mysterious painting depicting a decades-old crime and some mandatory shots of hollowed-out dolls.
What endears the film to me is that it’s all taken seriously, and apart from one rather ridiculous ‘romantic holiday getaway on a boat’ scene, the film is all the better for it.
The nod to Vertigo at the film’s closing is hearty and there’s some ace editing as our killer realises his own guilt. All in all, one of the more solemn entries in the genre which still packs a punch.
Hotdog rating: 8/10