Known variously in Italian as Il ragno (The Spider) and L’assassino e costretto ad uccidere ancora and in English as The Dark is Death’s Friend and The Killer Must Kill Again, this intriguingly offbeat giallo is commonly cited as the most accomplished effort by uneven genre hand Luigi Cozzi. In interviews Cozzi admitted he had little appetite for horror and was more of a science fiction and fantasy adventure fan, though a lack of enthusiasm from producers and the Italian public quashed most of his filmic dreams. Although the slapdash-but-spirited Starcrash (1978) reflects more of Cozzi’s endearingly fanboyish personality, his sole giallo outing features his most controlled, coherent and compelling work as a filmmaker.
Whereas most gialli opt for the more routine anonymous-killer-terrorizes-the city scenario, this goes down a less conventional, more rewarding route. Cozzi juggles parallel plots as the killer trails the unsuspecting couple en route to their love nest by the sea, while back in the city slimy Mainardi squirms under the scrutiny of the police who mistakenly believe his wife has been kidnapped for ransom. Equally, while the majority of gialli keep their killers offscreen until the denouement, here we have our murderer front and centre from the get-go. With his gaunt features and creepy eyes, Michel Antoine - who played the villainous German in Duck, You Sucker! (1971) a.k.a. A Fistful of Dynamite - proves a memorable madman who remains as unnervingly enigmatic as if he were wearing a mask.
Cozzi brings an experimental edge to the film with his off-kilter visual style and repeatedly cross-cuts between parallel actions, contrasting a murder with a party, a frenetic chase sequence with a slow-burning police interrogation, a passionate sex scene with an horrific rape. The cat-and-mouse finale is all the more interesting because Cozzi forgoes the usual Dario Argento suspense mechanisms and instead mounts the action as believably awkward, ugly and slow. Luciana Schiratti’s art direction combines well with the photography by Riccardo Pallotini to conjure one of the best looking giallo films while outstanding ensemble performances make the most out of the suspenseful script. Alongside Antoine’s skin-crawlingly creepy killer, the film finds George Hilton upholding his tradition of suave but shifty leads following solid turns in the likes of The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale (1970), The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) and too many more to mention.
However, the bulk of the film is ably carried by Cristina Galbo, a familiar face to Euro-horror fans after her strong turns in What Have You Done to Solange? (1971) and The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974). Galbo scores considerable sympathy as a vulnerable, sensitive woman forever caught between domineering male figures, whether it is the mad murderer or boorish boyfriend Luca. It has to be said the film deals a pretty sorry range of masculine archetypes, with Maniardi making love to his wife shortly after plotting her murder while Luca goads Laura into exposing herself to distract a gas station attendant. Luca is but one in a long line of hopelessly horny giallo guys who, frustrated with our frigid heroine, thinks nothing of scoring with a slutty stranded motorist played by gorgeous giallo staple Femi Benussi - rather wasted as a decorative victim. What knocks the film down a notch below essential status is the usual hypocritical wavering from eroticism into misogyny with the implication that a whole lot of innocent death could have been avoided had Laura simply put out for her boyfriend. A punch in the face is also due for the police inspector (Eduardo Fajardo) who upon detailing the murder and rape, tells Laura: “Your weekend at the beach has been very interesting, hasn’t it?”
Italian director of low budget horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Like many of his countrymen, Cozzi was quick to leap on the back of whatever Hollywood films were currently winning at the box office, hence films 'inspired' by Star Wars (Starcrash), Alien (Contamination), Conan (Hercules) and so on. Directed the 1991 Dario Argento documentary Master of Horror, and has worked on several Argento films over the years, including Two Evil Eyes and The Stendhal Syndrome. The pair also co-own the Rome-based movie shop Profondo Rosso.