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  Bloodstained Shadow Guilty Secret
Year: 1978
Director: Antonio Bido
Stars: Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini, Craig Hill, Massimo Serato, Juliette Mayniel, Laura Nucci, Attilio Duse, Gianfranco Bullo, Luigi Caselatto, Alfredo Zammi, Alina De Simone, Emilio Delle Piane, Sonia Viviani, Sergio Mioni
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Stefano D’Archangelo (Lino Capolicchio) is a professor returning home to see his brother, the priest Don Paolo (Craig Hill), as it’s been a long time since they spent time with one another and he’s looking forward to reuniting with him. On the train journey there, he is poring over an art magazine when he is interrupted by a young woman, Sandra Sellani (Stefania Casini), who asks if she can join him in this compartment, and he agrees, though when he tries to be gallant and help her place her suitcase on the luggage rack it drops to the floor and spills her clothes. She is not too embarrassed, indeed it proves a good reason to get chatting, but there’s tragedy looming in both their lives…

Antonio Bido was not one of the most prolific of Italian directors, and neither was he a renowned exponent of the best known genre efforts from that nation’s film industry, so you might, when encountering his work be hoping for a hidden gem or two. On the strength of Bloodstained Shadow, or Solamente nero as it was called in its native land, we were not missing much, a giallo showing up at the tail end of the style’s heyday before it really settled into often unintentional self-parody, not that this stopped them from dying out altogether, whether at the hands of black-gloved killer or otherwise. In this case, even if you hadn’t seen it before you really had seen it all before.

Which was fair enough if Bido’s intention was to give audiences a tried and tested formula which had proven to be what they wanted, but did it have to be so deliberately paced and meandering with it? Not helping that the least likely suspect was in no way a red herring, so the big finale where all was revealed was less a shock and more very much as you expected, leaving you spending the best part of a long two hours waiting for Stefano to catch up with what you had worked out a good time before. It actually began with slow motion footage of a schoolgirl strangled by an unseen maniac in a rural location, but even that was only connected to the rest of it right at the end.

With Stefano as effectively our detective, innocent-looking Capolicchio mostly wandered from one scene to the next as the mayhem went down around him, by and large taking the form of various supporting characters getting bumped off in gruesome ways. Though not particularly graphically: one man is crushed between two boats on the canal (there’s a fair Don’t Look Now chill of Venice appearance to the movie, possibly its best aspect), but you don’t see very much except a floating body in the middle distance, for example. The woman who has her head planted in a roaring fireplace was probably the most arresting image, but it wasn’t dwelt upon by any means, leaving an oddly bloodless giallo.

Bido was apparently more interested in collecting bits featuring his cast looking shifty, as for a substantial stretch not five minutes go by without someone mooching past with sinister countenance, looking through a window or giving a menacing glance or two, all very well but with little to back it up the effect was more worthy of a shrug than a shiver. When Don Paolo witnesses a murder outside his own church at night – in the pouring rain, for extra drama – it’s the beginning of a spate of slaughter where all the victims seem to be connected, presumably because they knew each other. As some are interested in spiritualism, you might anticipate that old standby the creepy séance is on the (tarot) cards, but no such luck, the film continues its plod to a conclusion best described as foregone. With all that said, for addicts there were the occasional bizarre items to keep alive a modicum of interest, but it was nothing special, more an imitator. Music by Stelvio Cipriani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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