THE FIFTH CORD **** Italy 1971 Dir: Luigi Bazzoni. 92 mins
A strong, engrossing giallo with an unnerving opening: we are immediately thrust into the world of its killer, his voiceover explaining his plans to kill someone while we (and he) spy on New Year’s Eve revellers. Handsome journalist Franco Nero – who drinks J & B while driving and routinely cracks his girlfriend around the face – probes a series of attacks on his circle of friends, the killer’s signature being a black glove left at each murder scene, the number of fingers severed in tandem with the number of claimed victims.
One of the most visually impressive of all non-Argento gialli thanks to the outstanding cinematography of the great Vittorio Storaro, this also has some of the greatest suspense set pieces of the genre. Although mostly bloodless, it delivers a nerve-rending dusk-set park scene in which Nero’s editor is stalked, and a classic sequence of a paraplegic woman agonisingly striving to evade an intruder before hurtling down a winding staircase. Ominous phone calls and copious red herrings punctuate the gripping story, all adorned with the killer’s twisted world view: “There is something divine, even profound about having that one second to transform a member of the human race into an inanimate object…” The climax is suitably intense – the terrorisation of a small boy in a large house as he follows his mum’s phone instructions to shut all the security blinds – and Ennio Morricone’s typically evocative score is smartly used: most of the scenes of threat and violence are largely played with just ambient sound.
Review by Steven West