Murder most stylish, one would have to say about Luigi Bazonni’s (The Possessed) beautiful-looking giallo (brilliantly shot by Vittorio Storaro), The Fifth Cord from 1971. While the plot may be pedestrian, this is certainly one of the most fanciful-looking and visually well-conceived murder mysteries of the era if you’re into the artsy stuff and don’t mind a few plot clichés. The film has the basics you’d expect: a black-gloved killer with issues, a man who’s a suspect even though he’s got an alibi that’s more than solid, and a few suspenseful murders that have very nice scares (the ending is particularly frightening without being gory). There’s even a bit of tasteful nudity for the heck of it (also artistically shot and lit). I found myself captivated by the film’s visual style and way in which space is utilized throughout. This one’s a grabber from start to finish and yes, worth a watch for the art direction alone.
When boozy journalist Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) gets the call from his boss to investigate a man’s assault, he gets caught up in a series of serial murders after the killer promises to dispatch five victims before he’s done. All of the victims happen to be close to Bild in one way or another, so he’s a suspect (despite being drunk most of the time and out of place of the murders as the crimes continue). Speaking of out of place, the film does an outstanding job of presenting Bild as a man who seems to be lost in his surroundings but also angry at the powers that be who force him off the story at one point.
This one tosses a few suspects at you from the get-go, but the true killer is a slight surprise if you’re not paying attention. Fortunately, this is one flick you can’t look away from thanks to how awesome it looks (you still might not figure out who the killer is until the end, though). The film has enough twisty mystery, some odd sexual content as a plot point (hey, it’s important to the story!) and a bit of violence that’s nicely handled throughout (you can watch this without hiding behind that trusty blanket you tend to whip out in some cases. What, you don’t have a Horror Blanket yet? Shame on you!).
You can feel a bit for Bild, though. He’s got a stunning ex-wife (Sylvia Monti) he still pines away for, a pretty girlfriend (Pamela Tiffin) who’s a got bit of a commitment phobia (well, that little alcoholism problem of Bild’s is part of it), a newspaper that’s got a few questionable employees and yeah, those murders he’s accused of on his busy mind. Those murders, as noted above, are some pretty fun to watch ones (well, as “fun” as suspenseful mayhem can be), but the final sequence when a child comes into play as a potential victim is one of the tensest scenes in the film where every second that passes is one where you’ll be on the edge of your seat. No spoilers here, ladies, gents, or otherwise.
Par for the course, Arrow’s got a lovely transfer (the film almost looks as it was shot last week) and some nice special features as seen here:
Overall, it’s another winner from Arrow Video and well worth a buy as a key giallo that’s not as well recalled as the bigger titles, but it sure has it where it counts for new fans as well as those who love suspense filled films of any type. Highly recommended.
Score: A (95%)
-Review screener provided by Arrow Video