Director: Flavio Mogherini
Blue Underground

More a less a diverse crime thriller rather than a “body count” giallo, THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE bases its premise on a real-life grisly murder which occurred in the 1930s. Filmed in Australia (where the real “Pyjama Girl Mystery” took place), this Italian/Spanish co-production is notable for a performance by American Oscar winner Ray Milland towards the end of his long career. Even exploitation films fans used to seeing Milland during his AIP tenure might be surprised to see him playing an over-the-hill cop in this rather perverted late 1970s foreign-made suspense yarn.

On an Australian beach, a woman’s body is found beaten and largely burnt. Since the face is unidentifiable, the only thing the police have to go on is the pair of yellow pajamas she was garbed in and the fact that she was sexually molested before her death. Fascinated by the case, retired detective Thompson (Milland) is not satisfied with the investigating ways of the younger policemen, and convinces his colleagues to allow him to get involved. At the same time, the story of a young woman named Glenda Blythe (Dalila Di Lazzaro, best known as the “female zombie” from FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN) unfolds. Glenda’s troubles are numerous. As she struggles to make a living, she finds herself involved with three different men at the same time: a German playboy (Howard Ross from WEREWOLF WOMAN and NEW YORK RIPPER), an older professor (Mel Ferrer) and a poor Italian waiter named Antonio (Michele Placido), whom she eventually marries. Glenda’s problems don’t end there, and running away only gets her in deeper waters as the two storylines slowly collide before the startling conclusion.

THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE can be an initially confusing and very downbeat affair, but its uncharacteristic plot structure, filled with tragic characters and morbid occurrences, makes for intriguing viewing. Having a mutilated woman’s body the focus of the film is gruesome enough, and this is heightened by a fascinatingly original scene where her preserved bare corpse is exhibited to dozens of circling pedestrians in the authorities’ desperate attempt to identify her. Although Ray Milland looks even older than his 71 years, rather than sleepwalking through the role, he makes his character very enjoyable to watch and tends to steal scenes. As the old vet opposed to the new ways, his investigation has him questioning various oddballs with such minuscule evidence as table rice and laundry tags, and in one hilarious bit as he exits a suspect’s home, Milland jiggles his fist in a masturbation gesture, uttering, “Have a good time!” Dalila Di Lazzaro is stunning as ever, and even though her real speaking voice is not heard on the English track, this is probably her finest hour. Stone-faced Mel Ferrer has probably done more Italian trash films than any other American actor, so his supporting presence here comes as no surprise. Riz Ortolani’s pulsating and discofied score can be grating at first, but it soon offsets the film’s perverse and grim nature to good effect. Amanda Lear’s husky vocals on two soundtrack tunes feels truly out of place here, but only add to the unusual approach of the filmmakers.

Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement, THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE lives up to BU’s usual stellar transfers. The colors are nicely saturated with natural fleshtones. Black levels are strong and picture detail is exceptionally sharp throughout the presentation, and the print source is free of any visual damage. The English dubbed audio track (with Milland’s and Ferrer’s real voices) is presented in 2.0 mono, and is free of any distortion, with the dialogue and music being nicely balanced.

Extras include a 30-minute featurette entitled “The Pyjama Girl Mystery: A True Story of Murder, Obsession and Lies.” Interviewing Richard Evans, author of the book The Pyjama Girl Mystery, he discusses the real-life 1934 Australian murder case in which the film is based on, and the details of the incident are pretty fascinating. The real “Pyjama Girl” was an unknown woman whose body was dumped in the road after being brutally murdered, and the case became a well-documented unsolved crime for decades. Like in the movie, her body was preserved and displayed for onlookers. When it seemed that the case was solved a decade later, it really wasn’t! The story is quite multifaceted and would probably make a great movie if told true to form. Also included is the original international trailer, and in the disc’s case is a black and white 8-page graphic novel, The Pyjama Girl by Eddie Campbell. (George R. Reis)