Featuring TRAUMA, KILLER IS ONE OF 13, and THE POLICE ARE BLUNDERING IN THE DARK
With their first collection of bizarre and lesser known giallo films from the 70s, Vinegar Syndrome invites viewers to a world of slashing knives, bashing heads, dashing gentlemen, and flashing ladies. Available now, Forgotten Gialli Volume 1 collects three vintage European murder mysteries: The Killer is One of Thirteen (1973), The Police are Blundering in the Dark (1975), and Trauma (1978).
It’s pretty clear that these films were selected not only for their relative obscurity but also their uniqueness. Each of the films is quite different in their own way, while still exhibiting the hallmark traits of their shared genre: a bizarre incorporation of atomic age science fiction, an Agatha Christie-esque ensemble piece, and a rural character study that veers into vengeful slasher.
THE KILLER IS ONE OF 13 (1973)
A dozen guests accept an invitation to a weekend stay at the lavish home of a rich widow who is their friend in common, only to learn at the opening dinner that their hostess has an ulterior reason for inviting them. She has whittled down the suspects of her husband’s murder to the people in the room.
Following in the general premise of And Then There Were None, the Spanish giallo film introduces the audience to each of the guests, whom like all people have — and hide — their own secrets and insecurities. With the premise of the mystery established, all of the guests become wrapped up in the quest to discover the killer’s identity — after all, leaving would only cast suspicion upon themselves. And then, one by one… they themselves start getting murdered. Is it the original murderer, afraid of being discovered? Their vengeful hostess? Something altogether different as the various guests seek to hide their own dirty secrets from discovery? The killer is one of thirteen.
Probably the most mainstream and least exploitative film in this box set, the film’s cast includes many several recognizable genre regulars like Patty Shepard, Simón Andreu, José María Prada, Jack Taylor, and Paul Naschy.
As inherently flawed or criminal characters, the various guests are interesting but often unlikable — some outright detestable. But as in And Then There Were None and other films that follow its framework, a few of the more interesting characters emerge the primary protagonists (and suspects) as the diminishing cast gets smaller.
THE POLICE ARE BLUNDERING IN THE DARK (1975)
As a wave of brutal murders grips the area, a reporter becomes directly involved in the mystery when his lady friend, a fashion model, is stabbed to death at a local inn — the nervous setup of which is a bit Psycho-esque and makes for a pretty solid establishing segment.
His search takes him to the villa of fashion photographer Edmondo Parisi, where reside the players/suspects in this murder mystery: the wheelchair-bound Parisi, his secretive wife, their lovely niece, a cantankerous butler, and shamelessly amorous maid.
A bizarre and film, La polizia brancola nel buio is most characteristically notable for its very strange and jarring hard left-turn into science fiction. After following a more or less typical giallo mystery pattern, the film veers into a totally unexpected direction with the introduction of a novel concept that I’ll leave unsaid. This shift is both the film’s key feature and a failed experiment in the sense that while it ups the weirdness, it’s pretty absurd and unbelievable, and ill-fitted to the rest of the movie.
It’s ultimately not a great film, but certainly a notably unique one.
Hands down my favorite of the three films in this collection, the Spanish film Trauma is an immensely enjoyable, rather sleazy tale, and a latter representation of the genre, as by 1978 giallo was waning. The film stars Ágata Lys and Heinrich Starhemberg as a remote innkeeper and her guest. A quiet author named Daniel (Starhemberg) secludes to a remote location to escape his home life and work on his writing. The lovely innkeeper Veronica (Lys), whose disabled husband remains confined upstairs in a remote part of the building, takes a liking to the gentleman and the pair quickly ease into a friendly rhythm.
Meanwhile, Veronica is annoyed and shocked by other guests that visit, all of whom are unmarried couples (one seemingly a prostitute and her client, even) who turn her beautiful hideaway into a den of sin. Well, to tell the short version, those folks all end up dead, mutilated, or simply disappeared.
This is a very odd, misanthropic, and randy little slasher movie where pretty much every character winds up either naked or dead (or in most cases both). The weirdness of the mystery and the chemistry of Lys and Starhemberg (both lead characters are pretty likeable despite their flaws) make this one a pleasure to watch.
Each of the films in the set features a new 2K restoration, scanned from original 35mm negatives. As Vinegar Syndrome notably does their own scanning, this is presumably their own in-house work. The scans look terrific, with vibrant colors — not exhibiting the chunky scan noise or overtly yellow palette that are so common to many scans (particularly older ones) of vintage Italian films.
reviewer’s note: I received screener copies of all three films but not the actual boxed set itself, so here are Vinegar Syndrome’s own stock images of the external box.
Special Features and Extras — TRAUMA
• Historical commentary track with European cult cinema author Troy Howarth
• Promotional image gallery (0:30)
Special Features and Extras — KILLER IS ONE OF 13
• Historical commentary with author and Editor-In-Chief of Diabolique Magazine Kat Ellinger
• Promotional image gallery (1:15)
Special Features and Extras — THE POLICE ARE BLUNDERING
• Historical audio essay with film historian and critic Rachael Nisbet
• Promotional image gallery (0:24)
Get it exclusively at vinegarsyndrome.com!
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.