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The Killer Must Kill Again

The Killer Must Kill Again
Mondo Macabro
1975 / Color / 2:35 anamorphic 16:9 / 90 86 min. / L' Assassino è costretto ad uccidere ancora, The Dark Is Death's Friend, The Killer Must Strike Again / Street Date January 25, 2005 / 19.95
Starring George Hilton, Antoine Saint-John, Femi Benussi, Cristina Galbó, Eduardo Fajardo, Teresa Velázquez, Alessio Orano, Dario Griachi, Luigi Antonio Guerra, Carla Mancini, Sydne Rome
Cinematography Riccardo Pallottini
Art Direction Luciana Schiratti
Film Editor Alberto Moro
Original Music Nando De Luca
Written by Adriano Bolzoni, Luigi Cozzi, Daniele Del Guidice
Directed by Luigi Cozzi

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

In my experience a little giallo goes a long way, but Mondo Macabro's "lost Giallo classic" The Killer Must Kill Again is a good show supported by quality extras that close a few informational gaps in our understanding of the genre. Slasher fans are bound to be attracted by the excellent quality of what until now was an obscure title viewable only on grey market pan-scan videocassettes.

Americans know Luigi Cozzi mostly from his late 70s science fiction thrillers Starcrash and Alien Contamination, which are not highly regarded. This earlier murder thriller shows him to be an eager disciple of Dario Argento. Visually more modest than top titles by Argento and Alberto Martino, it earns good points for clarity - the characters may be stock, but they at least do interesting things.


Philandering husband Mainardi (George Hilton) sees "the killer" (Michel Antoine) dispose of a female corpse, and blackmails him into murdering his wife Nora (Teresa Veláquez). All goes smoothly until the killer's car is stolen by a pair of joy-riding lovers, Luca (Alessio Orano) and Laura (Cristina Galbó) - with Nora's dead body in the trunk.

If the genre hadn't waned in popularity The Killer Must Kill Again might have done better than the minor release it eventually received. Although not particularly original or distinctively shocking, it shapes up as a good derivative product in the Dario Argento mold. Director Luigi Cozzi assisted and wrote for Argento but for his first theatrical venture limits himself to a sub-Hitchcockian plot twist or two. An unusually good cast makes the underwritten characters more than watchable, even when events fail to build in excitement.

Visually, the picture is a catalogue of genre basics. Slimy hubbie George Hilton sets his wife up as did Ray Milland in Dial M for Murder by a chance encounter with a cool-headed psychopath. He catches him in the act of pushing a Volkswagen off a pier, with a dead body inside. The car sinks (I guess all those VW ads were wrong) and Hilton tracks the killer to a nearby ice rink; they make a fast deal while watching a skater perform. Dialogue sequences are short and perfunctory and most of the film plays out in nicely shot night exteriors and flashy designer apartments. Hilton's flat with its glass desks, warm colors and stylish lighting is particularly attractive.

Hilton mostly stays out of the story while the far more interesting killer tries to retrieve his stolen car from three strangers. He's actor Michel Antoine, better known as Antoine St-John from popular pictures such as Sergio Leone's Giù la testa, John Milius' The Wind and The Lion and Lucio Fulci's The Beyond. His gaunt, exaggerated features make him an excellent mystery killer even though he's given almost nothing in the way of a personality to work with - he merely follows a logical path until events get out of his control. Antoine is well-contrasted with his three female victims, each of which project a different kind of vulnerability. Española Teresa Veláquez is good as the terrified wife, and Cristina Galbó (of the good zombie picture No profanar el sueño de los muertos) is even better as a virginal runaway.

Less convincing is Femi Benussi as a sexy blonde that just happens to catch the eye of Galbó's boyfriend at the wrong time. The car thief/boyfriend is played by Alessio Orano, another interesting Eurohorror actor that caught Savant's eye as the perverse chauffeur in Mario Bava's creepy classic Lisa and the Devil. Orano's devious looks hint at more twists that never come.

Cozzi cross-cuts between two sex scenes in an attempt to liven things up, but instead derails the forward momentum of his narrative. While we're bogged down in the usual heavy breathing and warmly-lit nudity, the story never really builds on its premise and the bloody murders that follow don't have the impact they might. The predictable ending tries for irony with a little more fancy cutting.

On the other hand, the narrative clarity is refreshing in a genre where plots often make little or no sense. Cozzi places the camera well and his cameraman consistently gives ordinary shots the visual sheen expected of higher-budget gialli. The film has an attractive surface without going overboard (as Argento frequently did) and Cozzi's intercutting works rather well in the ice rink scene. He also adds inoffensive touches like an iris shot "borrowed" from Francois Truffaut. The Killer Must Kill Again works best as an uncomplicated murder tale of the kind one watches just to see who slays who before the cops close in.

Mondo Macabro's DVD presentation of The Killer Must Kill Again is a beauty. Near-perfect elements allow the movie to be seen in the original Italian or with an English dub track. If only every rare genre picture could surface in such good condition ... the transfer is a full 2:35 width and is enhanced for widescreen.

Luigi Cozzi provides an okay commentary, well-prompted by MM's Pete Tombs. He's also interviewed on his journalistic and filmmaking career at the counter of his fantasy-horror collector's shop. The informative docu has to make do with a lot of cutaways to the same photos of Cozzi and Argento, and a lot of pulp sci-fi paperback covers, but stays above-average thanks to Cozzi's engaging personality. Another general featurette on the giallo genre is offered as well.

Also included is a trailer, an image gallery, behind-the-scenes stills and an extra title sequence with the film's original name, Il Ragno (The Spider). That name still appears on the film's difficult-to-read end credits.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, The Killer Must Kill Again rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: film director interview, audio commentary, featurette on Italo gialli, trailer, image galleries.
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: January 22, 2004

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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