GIALLO IN VENICE (1979) Blu-ray
Director: Mario Landi
Scorpion Releasing

The Italian thriller hits a low point as the GIALLO IN VENICE brings grime and sleaze to The Floating City on Scorpion Releasing's Limited Edition Blu-ray.

The discovery of the bodies of couple Fabio (Gianni Dei, A WHITE DRESS FOR MARIALE) and Flavia (Leonora Fani, HOTEL OF FEAR) beside the canals makes for quite the conundrum for hardboiled (and hardboiled egg-eating) Detective Angelo Pol (Jeff Blynn, WEAPONS OF DEATH). If it was a robbery or a drug deal gone bad, why stab him to death and drown her? And then, why pull her body out of the water? They learn from Flavia's school friend Marzia (Maria Angela Giordano, THE SECT) that Fabio had aberrant sexual tastes that could only be satisfied by having sex with Flavia while being watched or watching her with other men, and that Flavia was an unwilling participant who nevertheless loved her husband. Marzia has been receiving threatening phone calls and letters from a nutty ex, but that is not the reason that Pol has her phone bugged, and they soon learn of her association with former drug dealer Marco (Maurizio Streccioni) and the existence of incriminating photographs revealing an orgy in which Flavia and Fabio were participants. When Moana (Maria Mancini, SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN), the prostitute hired for the orgy, is found stabbed to death with a pair of scissors like the ones used on Fabio, suspicion turns to Flavia's former lover Bruno (Vassili Karis, THE ARENA), a graphic artist whose sexually-violent artwork showcases scissors who also offered to kill Fabio for his treatment of Flavia. As more of Marzia's circle meet violent deaths at the hands (and other weapons) of an assailant in mirrored sunglasses, Pol is still at a loss to directly tie the savagery of those kills with the murders of the couple.

The words giallo and Venice normally conjure up the elegance of THE DESIGNATED VICTIM or WHO SAW HER DIE? – not to mention Nicolas Roeg's "psychic thriller" DON’T' LOOK NOW – but GIALLO IN VENEZIA is exactly what seasoned Italian exploitation would expect from producer Gabriele Cristiani (MONDO CANE 2000) and director Mario Landi (PATRICK STILL LIVES). The central question of the mystery is cleverly misdirected by a plot that is otherwise dependent on the dumbest detective ever who could have solved things quicker with the most basic detective work but instead interrupts dramatic testimony that might have lead towards the truth in favor of interrogation that gets to the solution of the case in the most roundabout way. Blynn makes for a bland sleuth but no one really fares well performance-wise, with the beautiful Fani particularly wasted being groped by various men, including the bewilderingly Dei, a popular singer whose film career veered towards Italian sexploitation as diverse as SEX OF THE WITCH to A VIRGIN IN THE FAMILY. The copious nudity is as ugly as the crude gore effects, including a crotch stabbing and the charred aftermath of a knee-capping and torching. As with PATRICK STILL LIVES (also featuring Dei) and BURIAL GROUND, Cristiani's girlfriend Giordano is on the receiving end of the film's most nauseating act of sexualized violence. The photography of Franco Villa (CALIBER 9) is never more than workmanlike, looking at its best when the Venetian backdrops are prettiest while the film more often than not favors more derelict and anonymous locations – including the exterior of BURIAL GROUND's Lazio villa where that film's butler Claudio Zucchet makes an uncredited appearance as a police officer – and the recycled cues of Berto Pisano (ARCANA) are often highly inappropriate (apart from a few cues that popped up in BURIAL GROUND). Ultimately, the film is no better than Mario Gariazzo's PLAY MOTEL, another combination of giallo and graphic sex – although GIALLO IN VENICE only includes one hardcore insert – but has more in common with the dreary but unpleasant THE KILLER IS STILL AMONG US, one of two quick sleazy cash-ins on the true life "Monster of Florence" killings.

Although an English pressbook exists titled THRILLING IN VENICE, GIALLO IN VENICE was never released in English-speaking territories, nor has an English dub turned up. Some fans first became aware of the film through its goriest highlight excerpted by Video Search of Miami on one of their promo tapes but the most accessible English-friendly version was a wretched quality subtitled DVD rip of the Italian VHS release which was snipped of the brief hardcore bits which turned up on a Brazilian NTSC edition. Speculation on the lack of a DVD release ranged from a supposed lack of suitable elements to a licensor charging a fortune – both of which were entirely plausible – with the film finally being released on Blu-ray in Germany in 2016 in a mediabook by X-Rated that featured English subtitles for the feature but not the commentary by film historian Dr. Kai Naumann or the interviews with the German dubbing artists. Code Red initially announced a Blu-ray release around the same time but it was eventually taken over by Scorpion Releasing whose 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen transfer is derived from a new scan with "extensive color correction" that results in some deep reds and healthier yellows (and skintones) as well as night exteriors that are no longer murky (although one bit that was probably meant to be day-for-night is bright enough to "appreciate" the graphic nature of one of the kills). The clean-up has not erased the many scratches that appear at the start of each reel, but it is hard to imagine a cleaner presentation rehabilitating this curio. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is fairly clean, limited by the mix and the even older recordings of the music cues. The optional English subtitles only stumble when the coroner jokingly refers to Pol as "Maigrei."

The sole extra of the package is an audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth who describes the film as a grab bag of giallo clichés; as such, it is very suited to his analysis, noting the various ingredients and how far back in the giallo filmography they go back (as presumably Cristiani, Landi, and WATCH ME WHEN I KILL screenwriter Aldo Serio were filling out a sex and gore vehicle with anything they could from the genre to pad the "mystery" to feature length). He notes that the brassier portions of the score come from Pisano's score for the sixties film INTERRABANG and provides background on the cast – Blynn was an American model who went to Italy and worked in Italian fotoromanzi before landing a series of roles as a "cut rate Maurizio Merli" (who, Howarth notes, as already a cut rate Franco Nero) – but also does point out the mis-directions of the plot as well as the cheats. While Blynn really is an enervating presence, Howarth does come down on him inordinately while almost perving over Giordano and Fani. The disc also includes trailers for THE PSYCHIC, THE GATES OF HELL (Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD), MURDER ROCK, ENIGMA ROSSO, and OPERA. The cover is reversible and a poster is included. The original limited run is sold out, but Scorpion commissioned another run in light of surprising sales. (Eric Cotenas)