A BLACK VEIL FOR LISA **** Italy / West Germany 1968 Dir: Massimo Dallamano. 95 mins
A pre-Argento giallo influenced by Hitchcock, the German “krimi” cycle and American film noir, this largely lacks the more overtly horrific elements that would rapidly redefine the genre in the wake of THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. It’s also a stylish calling card for director Massimo Dallamano, who shot the first two DOLLARS movies for Sergio Leone before his promising directorial career (most memorable for WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE and WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS) was cut short by an untimely death.
After an early genre-standard scene of a black leather-gloved figure in a fedora knifing a guy as he walks home from the pub, this follows J & B-quaffing Inspector John Mills, head of Hamburg’s Narcotics division and perpetually nagged by his beautiful wife (Luciana Paluzzi). Nagged to the point of hiring the hitman he’s been tracking (Robert Hoffman) to finish her off for good. Although punctuated by short, sharp, non-bloody murders in dark alleyways, this intricately plotted thriller plays as an above-average police procedural. En route to a signposted cynical ending, it also takes in road rage, a carnival interlude, chilly clifftops, groovy 1960’s nightspots, illicit sex by the fire and a suspenseful forest-set foot chase finale. Yellow is, naturally enough, a prominent fixture in its colour scheme, and it’s extremely well crafted by a filmmaker going places. There’s also something particularly disquieting about dear old Johnny Mills (amongst other things) striking his wife after she threatens to get a lover just out of spite. Bonus points for a dose of innuendo (“Do you intend to keep it up?”) and cunningly hidden male genitalia a la AUSTIN POWERS.
Review by Steven West