When wealthy British industrialist Sir Ronald Selmer dies in a plane crash his shares as majority stockholder in the family business pass to his nephew: playboy racecar driver Paul de Revere (Leonard Mann). This enrages Sir Harold Boyd (Adolfo Celi). He wants a share in the company greater than what he already has through his marriage to Selmer's daughter, Lady Gloria (Janet Agren). Especially since they are both having adulterous affairs and she keeps threatening to take her money away. Meanwhile fellow board member, the elderly Sir Arthur Dundee (Joseph Cotten) plots to have Polly (Gloria Guida), his sexy young mistress, seduce and poison Harold in bed at the moment of climax! But before that can happen someone arranges it so Paul's car goes off a cliff. His distraught aunt Lady Clementine (Alida Valli) calls on another nephew, Superintendent Jeff Hawks (Anthony Steel) of Scotland Yard no less to investigate while the mysterious killer continues bumping off board members.
Given this Italian giallo thriller takes place in London, features a host of familiar cult film faces and reunites two stars from The Third Man (1949) one might wonder why it remains so obscure? Well, it is most likely because Indagine su un delitto perfetto a.k.a. The Perfect Crime is a starchy, meandering affair with a shaky hold on an overly intricate plot. This was the last film for Giuseppe Rosati, a writer-director more active in the Euro-crime genre: e.g. Silence the Witness (1974), The Left Hand of the Law (1975), Fear in the City (1976). With star-laden Agatha Christie murder mystery adaptations like Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Death on the Nile (1978) and The Mirror Crack'd (1980) all the rage at this time, Rosati seemingly sought to mount something tonally similar albeit with a little extra Italian kinkiness. Hence Italian sex comedy starlet Gloria Guida (looking lovelier than ever) enters the film stark naked, dripping wet from the shower while later on future zombie and cannibal film mainstay Janet Agren has a threesome in the stables.
As one might expect from an overheated Italian director the film presents a decidedly camp vision of Britain as a land of foggy streets, besuited and bowler hatted business types, fox hunts, tea parties and plummy accents. Even in the Seventies one imagines a British audience would have laughed at this. Still it is worth keeping in mind European viewers would expect such a backdrop in keeping with the image perpetuated by the likes of Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not to mention the Edgar Wallace crime films and many other Italian gialli, of England as the land of murder and intrigue. Judging from the high quality cast and stellar production design clearly money was spent though it is let down by distracting, obvious model work and rear projection. At the heart of the film rests an intricate, fairly intriguing mystery that Rosati regrettably chooses to unfold in the most plodding, ham-fisted manner possible. As a result The Perfect Crime offers scant suspense nor even much in the way of the genre's usual decadent style or lurid thrills.
With seemingly all the characters self-serving, money-grubbing degenerates plotting to bump each other off, and even the Scotland Yard detectives portrayed as strangely diffident, near emotionless robots, the film offers no-one to engage viewer sympathy. It is much like being stuck in a room with a bunch of scheming, unpleasant, privileged rich folks and the boardroom antics prove pretty boring too. At the very least the film pulls off a few choice kitsch moments reaching the height of absurdity when one character cuts out his own pacemaker! Also try not to laugh when Harold and Lady Gloria sneer at each other's poor performance in bed. Though the film's big shock twist won't prove all that shocking for seasoned giallo fans the ambiguous ending is novel and interesting. At one point a character quips: "This is right out of Agatha Christie." Ha! They wish.