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  Black Veil for Lisa, A Take my wife, please take my wife
Year: 1968
Director: Massimo Dallamano
Stars: John Mills, Luciana Paluzzi, Robert Hoffmann, Renate Kasché, Tullio Altamura, Carlo Hinterman, Enzo Fiermonte, Loris Bazzocchi, Jimmy il Fenomeno, Paola Natale, Mirella Pamphili, Vanna Polverosi, Rodolfo Licari, Bernardino Solitari, Carlo Spadoni
Genre: Horror, Sex, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: A black-gloved killer commits a string of murders seemingly connected to a drug ring operating in Hamberg, Germany. Dogged narcotics detective Inspector Franz Bulon (John Mills) is on the case but has other things on his mind. Chiefly his voluptuous young wife Lisa (Luciana Paluzzi) whom he suspects is having an affair. Lisa's consistent assurances to the contrary fail to pacify Bulon's paranoid mind. He takes to trailing her every move and eventually does not like what he finds. Meanwhile smooth-talking professional killer Max Lindt (Robert Hoffmann) blows his cool on realizing he left his lucky silver dollar behind at the scene of his last murder. Sure enough this vital clue leads Bulon right to Max's door. Yet to Max's surprise, rather than arrest him, a vengeful Bulon strikes a murderous deal...

Yes John Mills, among the most cosily British actors, made a lurid Italian giallo thriller. Not only that but with Massimo Dallamano, the cinematographer-turned-director who went on to helm the stylishly sleazy schoolgirls-in-peril classics What Have You Done to Solange? (1971) and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974). Mills - a solid, dependable lead who never gave a bad performance - is here suitably grim-faced and tortured in an atypical role, portraying a man riddled with doubt and suspicion. A Black Veil for Lisa (released in Italy as La morte non ha sesso, which translates as 'Death Has No Sex' (come again?)) really interweaves two stories in one: the hunt for a killer connected to organized crime and the story of a man whose paranoia leads to vengeance and murder. It is a novel if uneasy mix wherein Inspector Bulon wavers back and forth from tragic, sympathetic hero to brooding, hectoring would-be murderer.

With a steady if plodding pace this ranks among Dallamano's talkier films. Nonetheless he exhibits his customary keen grasp of suspense mechanics and psychological undertones and knows his way around a stylish image. Prowling P.O.V. shots create an ominous mood (aided by a soundtrack sporadically hissing Lisa's name) with slick imagery straight out of a pulp paperback cover, be it the killer's giallo-regulation shiny black leather gloves or Luciana Paluzzi's sensual entrance in a diaphanous nightgown. Despite flashes of giallo style the plot, co-written by Dallamano, Audrey Nohra, Vittoriano Petrilli and Giuseppe Belli (based on a story by Belli), is grounded in realism and strikes a tone midway between French psychological thrillers and the more sober examples of the German krimi. Unlike Dallamano's later What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, A Black Veil for Lisa leans a little too heavily towards dry police procedural to engage giallo fans expecting sleazy thrills and gore.

Midway through the film pulls a Hitchcockian reversal of expectations and turns into a variation on Dial M for Murder (1954). The third act strains credibility and features some faintly cringe-worthy romantic banter although a few steamy scenes may satiate fans of former Thunderball (1965) Bond girl Paluzzi or indeed tanned torso-ed Robert Hoffmann. Interestingly although Hoffmann, very much the poor man's Alain Delon, is established as a cool, calculating killer, his character ultimately proves as hapless and vulnerable as everyone else in the movie. Among the leads Paluzzi's Lisa is the hardest to fathom, either under-characterized or drawn with deliberate ambiguity as part of the film's cynical portrait of marriage as a prison. Suspicion and mistrust drive a wedge between a couple who to be honest seem incompatible from the outset. The lack of any sympathetic characters at all renders a certain inevitability to proceedings and the film grinds laboriously to a dour fade-out established in the opening scene. Music by Richard Markowitz including a fairly haunting theme although the original Italian version is scored by Gianfranco Reverberi.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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