Death Carries A Cane


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Fall is here again, and football fans are still super annoying. I say this because I have a policy to help myself be less irritated living here in the heart of football land: whenever I think about how stupid the obsession with sports seems, I remember that this is their passion, and that they probably feel about football like I feel about Euro cult movies of the 70s. And this helps me get through this irritating time of year.

Extending that simile, sometimes being a fan of giallos feels the way I imagine it would feel to root for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Case in point: the middle-of-the-road giallo Death Carries A Cane, also known as Passi di danza su una lama di rasoio, or if you are an idiot like me and watch the Full Moon/Wizard Video version, Tormentor. Whatever print you find, this is a vehicle for the giallo stalwart Nieves Navarro/Susan Scott, who here plays a photographer that witnesses a murder through the lens of one of those telescopes people used to pay a quarter to look through in old movies but which you never see in actual tourist areas.

Anyway, Navarro watches a woman getting stabbed to death through the telescope while looking for her perpetually late boyfriend who evidently should be found in that general direction. The police won’t help her because she can’t tell them exactly where the murder took place, because she only knows the number of the apartment that was on the door. Then when the cops finally do find the body, they are sure that the killer happens to be her boyfriend (Robert Hoffmann) because he has a sprained ankle and the killer, they know from witnesses other than Navarro, walks with a cane.

Except the killer, who I thought I had figured out 30 minutes into the film, doesn’t walk with a cane. And the plot drags because of all the pointless nudity, and the final explanation for why the killer is killing is “He is crazy.”

But there is no such thing as pointless nudity, you say? Yes there is, when the pace is so slow you are stopping the film every ten minutes to search for recipes for tonight’s dinner, and wondering what housework you can do instead of watching this movie. But you have to keep restarting the film because you can’t find spoilers online and besides you promised yourself you would get your blog going again.

Look, I like looking at the women in these movies as much as the next person. I love their ridiculous fake eyelashes, and the way they take one drag of a cigarette and stab it out angrily, and the way they parade around nude. And unlike many self-styled film critics, I don’t actually enjoy bitching about bad movies most of the time, or at least unless they are more batshit insane than this one. But if the characters are going to be so nude, they should be nude while discussing the murder case, or nude while being stalked by the guy in black gloves, especially if the plot is going to be this weak. Is it the end of a giallo film that determines whether it sucks or rules, or is it all about a journey through a dimly lit landscape decorated with boobs? Watching this reminded me of the South Park episode where they huff cat pee and keep ending up in that parody of Heavy Metal.

I’m also very disappointed if I see Luciano Rossi in a film and he’s not the killer. It’s like seeing Ivan Rassimov show up in a sympathetic role: jarring. If you’re not playing a psycho, guys, why are you here?

I do enjoy all the giallo cliches. This one has civilians turning into amateur detectives, someone dressing up as a hooker to try to catch the killer, lots of loving close ups of necks being slashed, and even a bottle of J&B. The killings, what few there were, were nasty, and there was some good dynamic camera work. It’s just that the cliche I don’t like is a bad explanation for why this is all happening. If you want to read about an insane killer who kills people for no reason before being shot by the police, all you have to do is go to a news site. Besides, Death Carries A Cane doesn’t even have any ugly 70s wallpaper on display! There is no other reason to watch this movie besides being a fan of giallos and pointless nudity already. It is a waste of some really interesting red herrings, and a waste of a good twin/evil twin plot.

I will say that I’m now inspired to do a series of posts on the giallo films of Nieves Navarro to find which one is the best. From a cursory glance at her IMDb page I’m thinking the best one she appeared in was All The Colors Of The Dark, but she didn’t star in that one, so I want to find her best starring vehicle. There’s just something very likable about all her performances, no matter how stupid the movie is, and it’s more than just her looks. Which one of her giallos do you think is the best, and was it directed by her ex-husband Luciano Ercoli?

P.S. This film’s director, Maurizio Pradeaux, also helmed Death Steps In The Dark, which I found to be much more entertaining. Any other fans of that one?

P.P.S. Also, what do you think is the worst giallo out there? This is far from the worst. That might be The Devil Has Seven Faces, or Virgin Killer.