Better known as a set designer and art director, Flavio Mogherini never the less contributed one directorial effort to the giallo genre with 1977's The Pyjama Girl Case, based on a particularly gruesome real life killing that took Australia by surprise in 1934.
A dead woman is found by a pair of kids on a lonely stretch of Australian beach when the film starts out and we see that she's been badly beaten and burned quite seriously. The only way that the police are able to identify her is by her bright yellow pyjamas, as her face has been burned beyond recognition. Although the cops are able to tell that she was likely raped before she was killed, they're unable to put a name to the corpse and it a tasking investigation for the local police. Enter one Detective Thompson (Ray Milland of The Premature Burial), a retired police officer who feels that the cops on the case are bumbling the investigation and who decides that since he is really interested in finding out all he can about this case, that he'll step on board to help out.
While all of this is going on we learn of a young woman named Glenda Blythe (Dalila Di Lazzaro of Kinski's Paganini) who leads a rather hard life. She's flat broke and having trouble getting by and while she soon marries her boyfriend, Antonio (Michele Placido of Plot Of Fear), her ties to two other men in her life – namely a professor named Henry Douglas (Mel Ferrar of Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City) and a wealthy European named Roy Connor (Howard Ross of Fulci's The New Gladiators) – aren't all that easy to break away from. How Glenda's story ties into that of the corpse on the beach proves to be pretty interesting stuff and as the film plays out, these two seemingly separate tales begin to intertwine into one carefully crafted murder mystery.
Not as colorful or as flamboyant as a lot of other giallo's from the era, The Pyjama Girl Case is grisly subject matter to be sure. That being said, there's enough visual flair here to ensure that things always look good, even when the subject matter can turn ugly and the cinematography is very solid. The whole ordeal feels very sleazy as the film has more than a few unlikable characters and as such the movie is pretty downbeat at tines. As dark as it gets, however, the movie is pretty engaging material as the storyline proves to be a step above most of its peers as its neither predictable or a by the numbers effort.
The film benefits from a rather interesting cast of recognizable cult movie actors. Mel Ferrar, who shows up in all manner of Italian exploitation movies from the seventies and eighties, is fine here as is an aged Ray Milland who spends a lot of his screen time looking exhausted and unhappy (it suits his character). Dalila is as pretty as she's ever been here and it's easy to see why the men in the film are drawn to her as she is quite the looker and her performance here is at times quite good and probably better than most of us would expect, even if she's obviously dubbed by someone else. Adding to the noteworthy qualities of the film is a strange score from Riz Ortolani of Cannibal Holocaust fame, and although it sometimes feels a little out of place it's at least an interesting effort.
With the bulk of the film shot on location in Australia it should come as no surprise to find that the movie is quite picturesque throughout much of its running time. The camera does its best to capture the genuinely pretty area where the murders were to have taken place.
The Pyjama Girl Case comes to Region 1 in a nice progressive scan 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colors look nice and bold throughout, the black levels stay strong and deep from start to finish, and the flesh tones look lifelike and natural. There is some mild edge enhancement present in a few scenes and some line shimmering in the usual places like on the front of a car grill or along the sides of a building but there aren't any mpeg compression artifacts worth noting nor is there much in the way of print damage aside from the odd speck or two – the image is consistently clean and very nice looking throughout. Some mild grain is present, but that's to be expected. Overall, the film looks great on this DVD.
This one hits DVD in a dubbed Dolby Digital English language mix. Quality of the mix should please most fans. Anyone familiar with Euro-cult films of this era knows that sometimes the dubs are a little wonky and that the lips don't always match the performers but that's sometimes half the fun of these films. Dialogue is clean and clear, there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced properly. There's a bit of hiss in one or two spots but it's so mild that it's really never an issue and the score sounds quite good as well.
The main supplement on this release is a really interesting half hour long documentary which goes under the title of The Pyjama Girl Mystery – A True Story Of Murder, Obsession, And Lies. This is essentially a sit down chat with Richard Evans, the author of a book which examines the real life murder case on which this film was based that is titled, appropriately enough, The Pyjama Girl Mystery. He covers in no small amount of detail the reality of the murder that took place in Australia in 1934 and it's interesting to learn what aspects of the movie were played up for sensationalist effect and which stayed true to life.
Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer and inside the keepcase is a reprint of a comic book from Eddie Campbell that was originally published in Stephen Bissette's horror anthology, Taboo, which is also based on the real life murder case. The eight page short story, simply called The Pyjama Girl sees print here in black and white and it makes a fine complimentary piece to both the feature and the documentary.
The Pyjama Girl Case might not be the flashiest or sexiest giallo ever made but it is a well executed thriller with some fine performances and nice cinematography. The story is as interesting as it is suspenseful and while it's a little more demanding than most films of its ilk, it proves to be a very good suspense film indeed. Recommended, based on the strength of the film and of Blue Underground's fine presentation.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.