Film: Virgin Killer / Enigma rosso (1978)

March 17, 2016 | By

VirginKiller1978_Ital_poster_sFilm: Weak

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Giallo / Poliziotteschi

Synopsis: A bullish detective tries to expose a orgie racket that uses young schoolgirls and disposes of members with loose lips.

Special Features:  n/a




Planned as the third installment of writer-director Massimo Dallamano’s schoolgirls-in-peril trilogy, things were put on pause when the director died in a car accident, but two years later a shooting script by committee (seven writers, including a German scribe) was put in production with TV director Alberto Negrin at the helm, and Fabio Testi returning to the series, albeit in a different role than the film which launched this protracted series, What Have You Done to Solange? (1972).

Testi plays Inspector Di Salvo, a bully of a cop charged with solving the murder of a dead teen found floating at the bottom of a dam in plastic wrapping – an interesting precursor of the moment Laura Palmer’s packaged cadaver is found at the beginning of Twin Peaks (1990-1991) – and like Solange and its sequel, What Have They Done Do Your Daughters? (1974), the clues gradually reveal a despicable racket involving teenagers being exploited by a privileged social and political class.

Instead of managing a prostitution ring, Virgin Killer’s clients rely on a corrupt teen who wrangles pretty classmates and sends them to orgies, and anyone that opens their big mouth is quickly dispatched by an assassin who, as in the second film, rides a motorcycle.

Most of the murders seem to happen because the filmmakers needed to distract bored audiences with garish shocks, and there’s an absurd level of gratuitous full frontal nudity that manages to make Negrin’s effort the sleaziest of the trilogy. It’s also directed in a workmanlike manner, and one attempted murder – marbles cascading down steps – is ridiculous, given all the maiden had to do was stand still until the marbles stopped raining down.

An orgy flashback to a girl being repeatedly impaled with a giant dildo is intercut with a teen undergoing a gynecological exam that swerves from horrifically painful to an erotic rapture, but it’s all shot in a docu-drama style with harsh lighting that makes an already ugly montage even more grotesque.

Di Salvo handles suspects young and old with a kind of arrogance and harshness that should’ve gotten him removed from the case, but he’s allowed to trudge on, almost getting burned alive while baiting the killer at a remote location, and forcing an admission from a suspect (Count Dracula’s Jack Taylor) on a crazy rollercoaster ride which quickly makes him a threat to the racket and has him stabbed with a curling iron.

Virgin Killer’s weirdest subplot involves Di Salvo periodically consulting with the younger sister of the first dead girl. It’s a variation on the giallo’s trope in which the hero (either a cop or a friend / lover / relative of a victim) eventually pairs up with a love interest and forms an investigating team. The ‘working’ relationship between Di Salvo and little Virginia doesn’t really go beyond tactical park bench meetings, but genre fans will immediately notice that actress Fausta Avelli (The Cassandra Crossing) who plays the little sister bears a striking resemblance to Nicoletta Elmi, the pale redheaded actress seen in the genre classics Bay of Blood (1971), Who Saw Her Die? (1972), and Deep Red (1975). It’s pretty obvious the producers wanted an Elmi to ensure their pastiche would look, sound, and be populated by familiar giallo elements, but as the actress was closer in age to Virginia’s older sister, they opted for a younger clone (and a pretty good one).



Not unlike Elmi’s appearance in the twist finale of Bay of Blood, Aguilar’s Virginia has a twist final scene that kind of comes out of nowhere: she visits the bandaged teen who was nearly ‘marbled’ to death, and uses a box of chocolates to distract her so she can wrap the box’s ribbon around her neck, but Di Salvo’s arrival puts an end to the revenge killing, and on a park bench he makes it clear he won’t say anything, giving the child a second chance, or in the magical world of the giallo, an early start to map out a more elaborate revenge scheme where everyone connected with her sister’s death will feel her rage. Just as a murderous child grows into a hatchet-wielding monster in Deep Red, there’s a sense Virginia has a 50/50 chance of snapping again when she’s older, stronger, and more clever.

The last death in the film is pretty preposterous – Di Salvo’s supervisor was in on the racket the whole time, and after a clear confession, steps over the dam railing and hurtles himself into the falls – but it’s the kind of spastic shock filmmakers resort to when a script lacks depth or clean logic; they just pick a character who’s been present all along, and make him / her reveal themselves in a Basil Exposition moment, and then fall into an abyss.



Virgin Killer isn’t awful, but it’s not very good, either, because it’s a patchwork of material copied and glued from better prior films (Riz Ortolani’s score follows a similar urban orchestral jazz design like Daughters), and is hampered by a variety of underdeveloped ideas.

To temper Di Salvo’s bullish attitude, he has a tender spot for cats (an interest that ultimately dooms a particular hired gun at the end of Michael Winner’s espionage thriller Scorpio), and while he does have a girlfriend, a kleptomaniac named Christina (second-billed Christine Kaufmann), she exits the film a good half hour into its already brief 85 min. running time, making her character one big non sequitur. Kaufmann’s part seems to have been created so the production’s German backer – prolific producer Artur Brauner (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Vampyros Lesbos) – had a name to help sell the film domestically.

On the one hand, it’s surprising the producers managed to create a thematic trilogy, but the film did little to reinvigorate the giallo, making this effort a prime example of the genre’s decline before the American slasher genre almost distilled the genre’s elements to the bare and most essential minimal elements: a high bodycount, some token T&A, and a twist ending that in some cases, spawned an even narrower murder & mayhem franchise like Halloween and Friday the 13th.



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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