Sunday, 14 October 2012

Watch Me When I Kill (1977)

Few people really understand the influence of Italian cult cinema upon the world of the popular movie, many do not even realise there was a time that Italy knocked out hundreds of movies a year; I recently enlightened a mind when I explained the term Spaghetti Western, leaving the person in question quite surprised as to the roots of this often used phrase.  While the movies of Italy focused on what was popular in American cinema and copied it, seldom do you hear the reverse. America however frequently borrows heavily from Italy, Quentin Tarantino reaches into Italian cinema history to steal aspects for his movies, I think I can draw some reference for everyone of his movies that stems from Italy. So inspired is the director that this year we will see a remake of the Italian classic Inglorious Bastards, a movie he frequently raves about. Also this year we will see another Italian classic get the re-make treatment in Suspiria, originally directed by Dario Argento. The Italians realise talent when they see it, and the need to copy ideas that work; this brings me to the latest Shameless release Watch Me When I Kill (Aka il Gatto dagli oochi di giada, The Cats Victims, The Cat With Jade Eyes), this movies writer/director Antonio Bido was clearly so inspired by the Dario Argento movie Deep Red (Profondo Rosso) that the movie mimics it.

Watch Me When I Kill is a rare delight; it's one of those seldom seen movies that is often discussed by fans of the Italian thriller genre. The trouble being that those lesser seen or less popular movies suffer terribly without careful preservation. Apparently the movie rather surprisingly was one of the highest grossing Italian movies of the 70's, but unlike movies like the aforementioned Deep Red was not kept alive by the fans. Shameless Films struggled for months to hunt down the best source material, and get specialists in the field to give the movie some new life. I think this needs some praise as it?s a common thought that companies that buy movies to sell on their independent labels are assumed to be literally chucking movies onto discs willy nilly with little thought about quality. It was all the way back last summer that my contact at Shameless told me they were trying to get some better footage... If you want to be taken seriously in the world of DVD production then look to these guys on how to do a job properly, imagine spending half a year preserving a movie before you even know how it will be received?

Onto the movie, about time I hear you cry. What you have here is an effective little thriller, clearly shot on the hoof but with a reasonable amount of time piecing the story together. With Watch Me When I Kill the movie surrounds a shared secret, something that happened in the past that connects a group of seamlessly un-associated characters. The whole series of events begins with the murder of an old pharmacist one day while working in his store. Nightclub performer Mara (Paola Tedesco) stumbles across the scene of the crime, and by association puts herself in the line of danger. When old flame Lukas (the late Corrado Pani) comes into the picture, he starts to connect all the pieces of the puzzle.

Watch Me When I kill is like a typical blueprint whodunit style thriller (this specific type of Italian thriller has become known as Giallo), lots of random murders, and a whole bucket load of red herrings along the way to keep you guessing the movies killer until the very end. 

The movie has dated far more than any Italian thriller I can think of, and I'm not referring to the print quality. It?s clear to anyone with the slightest knowledge of Italian thrillers that director Bido is trying to replicate the power of Argento. What Argento is clever to do though is hide tell tale signs that give indication to the movies age, so that with the exclusion of fashion his movies could have been made anytime. Bido on the other hand throws ever bit of 1977 culture, and technology he can into the movie, meaning that by 1980 the movie already would have looked quite dated. This is not a digging criticism in fact it gives the movie a little charm, anyone researching late 70?s lifestyles would have a field day here; it's really quite delightful to watch. When not focusing on the culture aspects Bido rushes around Padua, Tivoli, and Rome like you?re a tourist on a 24 hour break, I wonder how much the landscape will have changed.

There are not any real scares, or moments of fright in the movie; however this does not stop the movie from at times being quite disturbing. Using "state of the art" 1977 technology in one rather long scene Lukas takes his neighbour Giovanni Bozzi to a recording studio to dissect a tape recording of noises played down the telephone to the neighbour. The recording is not too pleasant on its own, but when the various aspects are broken down it gets a little more eerie.  A movie could have been concocted off the back of this recording alone, and had you shown any signs of flagging on this movie then this would certainly alert your senses.

The story is pieced together quite nicely, with a good flow of action, mystery and a scattering of romance. For those who love those gritty moments of death, there is quite a healthy body count to keep you amused.

This is not a movie that should have been dubbed into English, it does somehow cheapen the movie, making all the actors come off as being a bit cheesy and just plain wrong, for the time you had a collection of reasonably respected actors and public celebrities, who now seem like amateurs due to rather lax dubbing techniques. Early on in the movie Mara drops in rather casually that someone had tried to kill her, the dubbing artists emotionless words make it sound more like she forgot the sugar. It's worth adding that few Italian movies would make sense in their native tongues, as cast members were often plucked from around the globe with no understanding of Italian, using the much mentioned now Deep Red, British actor David Hemmings was dubbed into Italian, but because vast portions of the original soundtrack were scrapped he was then dubbed back into English; in recent years as more of that movie has been recovered the issues of this have become far more obvious.

Sticking with Deep Red, there is this series of scenes that literally copy the movie with new eyes; shadowed figures, a table of totally random items, and false jumps. Just in case you were starting to think it was all copied, Bido curve-balls you with a connection to another Argento movie, Suspiria. Musicians Trans Europa Express burst in with a Suspiriainspired soundtrack. The group did not only rip off Goblin/Argento hits, after the initial smack in the face of obviousness you get something far more subdued, almost dreamy, even beautiful.

Watch Me When I Kill is not necessarily a movie that you watch and become an immediate fan of, it can at times be fairly hard going. I chose to watch the movie twice, and knowing the movies hidden secrets the second time round I was more alert, more involved, and as a result I enjoyed it all the more; what went from pretty average rose a few levels in my opinion.

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