Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who Saw Her Die? (1972)

I can honestly say that Who Saw Her Die? is the most mature and brilliant giallo of the seventies. Of course there is other giallos of the same quality, but this is the only one that mixes such a serious subject and gets away with it. There's sex and violence, but Aldo Lado's masterpiece never feels like exploitation or a quick cash-in on Nicolas Roeg's amazing Don't Look Now.

This is such a beautiful movie, but still underneath, so full of dread and perversion. All men, except maybe George Lazenby's character, could be pedophiles and their looks are lingering way to long on every little girl in their way. From the rich art-dealer Serafian (my favorite, as usual, Adolfo Celi!) to the catholic priest Father James (Alessandro Haber), and everyone else in between. This is one of those few giallos with interesting and well-written characters, and where you really care for hero and his wife, both played with sensitivity by George Lazenby (in his best role ever) and Anita Strindberg. The chemistry between Lazenby and his ginger daughter Roberta (who other than Nicoletta Elmi?) is sparkling! Lado also chooses to make us see a lot of scenes from the daughters view, with the same curiosity as a child have. A stroke of genius. Just look at the scene where Roberta and her dad visits Sefarian for the first time, and she looks around, studying the animals on the wallpapers or checking the old furniture.

Lado chooses to not let us see how the parents react to their daughters death, but the build up, the love for her, makes us realize how terrible it must have been. Similar to Lars Von Triers Antichrist, guilt is also a factor here. Lazenby leaves his daughter alone for some steamy sex and then work with his art, it's not until late the same evening he realize that she's gone - but then it's of course too late. The interacting between Strindberg and Lazenby feels very real, and for once these characters feels like a real couple and not just two handsome actors tossed together for a couple of weeks in a foggy and moisty Venice. Both are sensational, and it's a pity this isn't the movie that's being mentioned everytime these actors careers are discussed.

It's also a good murder mystery with a lot of suspects and red herrings, and once again an old piece of film is an important lead. You will get a killer with black gloves and a knife (a very fake knife by the way), a couple of murders and people giving each other strange looks. Sexuality, every kinda, is important and weird enough, there's no real blame on sexuality itself in the end - and the pedophilia theme might not be so important after all, or...? Arty and with top-notch direction by Aldo Lado, this could be my favorite giallo ever. But there's one thing that makes it even more fantastic...

... the score by Ennio Morricone. This time he has a lot of girl choirs in the music, using weird voice-samplings and creating something that goes from cute and beautiful to disturbing in just a couple of seconds. The music enhances the poetry of the cinematography and the intelligent storytelling by Lado, and even here I'm convinced this one of Morricone's best scores ever.

There's so much to write about Who Saw Her Die, but only the language barrier in my case stops this. I just don't have English words enough to tell you about how magnificent this movie is. So watch it yourself, and I hope you'll agree with me!


Neil Sarver said...

Amazingly, Who Saw Her Die? definitely came before Don't Look Now, which makes the common themes even more amazing to me.

I agree Who Saw He Die? is a wonderful, intelligent piece of work. I should watch it again some time soon.

Ninja Dixon said...

Neil, ha! I never thought about that! Don't Look Now came after! Hm, know I need to watch that one again!

Alex B. said...

I'm afraid I'll have to disagree here, Fred.
Now I like "Who saw her die?" and love Lado, but there are undeniable issues with this film.
The script - a) it's not hard to tell who the killer is; b) the killers' motive is slim (apart from the fact that he's mad, of course).
Some very mechanical moments in the story - the way a bunch of red herrings are introduced.

Lazenby is amazing and it's nice to see Peter Chatel in a supporting role (by the way, what happens to his character? he sort of "falls out" of the film after a fight with Lazenby. I suppose he's served his function so they just drop him there)
I would say, the only thing that's really commendable is the cinematography. Lado creates an amazing dreamy world. But the crap script prevents one from immersing himself in it totally.
Also, the porn film reel they discover - wasn't that a bit much for what is merely another giallo? I wouldn't say the film gets away with such heavy subject.
Music is good, but there are only a few tracks which are used pretty often, which becomes a bit distracting on repeat viewings.
It's a well-executed, 100% competent film with brilliant, effective moments.
But ultimately shallow. Nothing wrong with a genre film being shallow, mind you. But it is hardly the most mature 70's giallo I've seen. Lado himself admits in an interview that this was a film made on request of producer, without great ambition or message.

Ninja Dixon said...

I disagree with you on every detail, Alex. Thank heaven it's my blog and my always so crappy taste in movies.

Alex B. said...

Wouldn't say your taste is that bad:)
I enjoy this blog greatly, and especially when I see opinion totally different from mine. I think a disagreement, when correctly expressed can result in a very enjoyable discussion. An exchange of views much more intense than when people merely say: "hey - spot on there!"
I've seen "Who saw her die?" more than once, and each time felt it didn't quite fulfil the potential. Lado reached much more impressive results with "Short night of glass dolls" and "Night train murders".
So, "Who saw her die?" is a good film, but for me it pales in comparison to the other two aforementioned Lado films.

bruce holecheck said...

I'm with Fred on this one. I had actually never caught the film on VHS; the Anchor Bay disc, as part of their Giallo Collection, was my first viewing, and it really blew me away. I couldn't believe more praise wasn't being heaped on it; I thought it was stylish, moody and, most importantly, had an emotional level others of its ilk couldn't touch. Plus I love the score. Great post, Fred; I'm happy to see *someone* giving this gem some attention.

On another note, would you be willing to swap blog links? A little cross-promotion never hurts!

Ninja Dixon said...

Thanks Bruce :)
You have now a link and latest update on my blog!

dfordoom said...

Sounds like a movie worth getting. And it's available from my current favourite DVD company, Shameless. And I have a soft spot for George Lazenby.