Chi l'ha vista morire (1972)
Italian director Aldo Lado is probably best known stateside for the tacky 1979 sci-fi B-movie Humanoid, but what a lot of casual fans of that film might not realize is that during the early part of that decade he helmed a number of so-called giallo projects. Giallo (Italian for yellow) came to represent a lurid style of Italian filmmaking prevalent in the late 1960s and early 1970s, known for being full of nudity, sex, violence, and which generally featured a weirdly twisted climax. Anchor Bay has just released four superbly restored, rarely seen, examples of the genre (available separately or as part of a four-disc Giallo Collection boxset), and Lado's Who Saw Her Die? (1972) is probably the best of the bunch.
This was only Lado's second directorial gig, which came on the heels of his 1971 debut with another giallo film, Short Night of the Glass Dolls. While this one lacks the usual slam-bang ending of most films in the genre, the storyline is certainly much more dark and disturbing, as it centers largely on pedophilia. The film opens with an unsettling murder of a young girl on a snow-covered field in France, and we see much of it through the black-veiled point of view of the killer. The vicious swiftness, and apparent randomness of the act is accentuated by a marvelously eerie Ennio Morricone score; imagine a perversely creepier version of Jerry Goldsmith's work on The Omen, and you'll get the idea.
The story then jumps forward to 1972 Venice, where struggling sculptor Franco (George Lazenby) eagerly welcomes the arrival of his young daughter Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi of Deep Red, Flesh For Frankenstein and Twitch of the Dead Nerve). The Venice in Who Saw Her Die? (Lado's home) is not painted as the romantic tourist city, but rather as a dark, dirty place full of narrow, hidden streets and shadowy quarters. Roberta soon becomes the target of the same black-veiled killer from the opening, and Lado stages a number of chilling near misses as she is unknowingly stalked. Putting a child in danger can often be a hollow, manipulative suspense building gimmick for some directors, but Lado proceeds with the unthinkable when Roberta's tiny body is soon shown floating facedown in one of the Venice canals. It's a chilling sequence, and is one of the darkest moments in the entire film.
What follows is Franco's desperate search for the killer of his daughter, and this introduces a number of potentially guilty characters (ironically, primarily friends of his) all of whom have exhibited some sort of seemingly pedophilia-related actions at one point or another. True to the giallo genre, we know there will be a surprise ending, so there are many red herrings to be found and the cadaverous Jose Quaglio's bird-loving attorney, a man with a questionable past, is one of the slimiest. Franco's sexy estranged wife Elizabeth (Anita Strindberg) joins the hunt, too, as well as his highly suspect chubby newspaper reporter buddy (Peter Chatel in a role that today would be played by the likes of Oliver Platt).
Lado had some obvious difficulty with Italian censors when the film was released in 1972, due in no small part to the often subtle elements of pedophilia that permeate Who Saw Her Die? Even if the final revelation of the killer is fairly predictable, there is an uneasy vibe throughout that still works today, and when combined with the outstanding job Anchor Bay has done on the image transfer, makes this one at least worthy of a rental for fans of dark thrillers.
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