When a British special agent is murdered in Lisbon, Portugal, the call goes out to leather-clad tough guy Inspector Michael Lawrence (Anthony Steffen). He arrives to find fellow agents and local cops alike baffled as to who might be responsible. Lawrence’s attempts to track down and interrogate anyone that crossed paths with dead agent are complicated by the killer’s tendency to bump all of them off. Before long Lawrence becomes the killer’s next target.
We tend to think of giallo horror-thrillers as an exclusively Italian genre. Yet many different European countries contributed to the cycle. Notably Spain with among others A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1973), the offbeat, quite excellent Morbo (1972), charmingly trashy Sexy Cat (1973) and gothic styled Murder Mansion (1972). These typically have a more garish quality to them. The decor is a little tackier, the Seventies fashions a little shaggier, and the plots more soap opera hysterical. However, Los Mil Ojos Del Asesino a.k.a. The Killer with a Thousand Eyes (a nonsensical title that has no bearing on the plot) is more interesting than most. Here Spanish filmmaker Juan Bosch fuses giallo tropes within the framework of a more action-centred Euro-crime thriller. At the time such films were starting to eclipse the giallo in popularity, albeit briefly.
Filmed in Portugal by a Spanish-Italian crew, Killer with a Thousand Eyes imports a lot of giallo regulars including Julian Ugarte, Edoardo Fajardo, Raf Baldassarre and leading man Anthony Steffen. The latter is here much more animated than usual. Witty and affable but with a ruthless streak that occasionally explodes into brutal violence, Inspector Lawrence is introduced harassing hippies in London. A scene calculated to evoke memories of Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection (1971). Dubbed with a Cockney accent, Steffen’s swaggering, sarcastic copper also seems to be channeling some of Michael Caine’s working class heroism. Right down to an uneasy relationship with his toffee-nosed superior in a nod to The Ipcress File (1965). Co-written by Bosch and Alberto De Stefanis, the intricate plot is riddled with the usual absurdities but fast-paced and compelling. It also breaks from the typical, wearyingly predictable giallo formula in refreshing, occasionally interesting ways. For once the murder victims are mostly male, although admittedly it also bumps off the only two women in the cast. Lawrence’s bumbling efforts to unravel a relatively elaborate conspiracy, dogged by criminals and crooked cops alike as well as a seemingly psychotic killer, makes for a taut, suspenseful narrative. Bosch, a veteran of spaghetti westerns who also made The Killer Wore Gloves (1974) with cult British actress-singer Gillian Hills, throws in a clunky but enthusiastic fight scene every five minutes along with some bizarre comedy centred on Lawrence’s inability to cook himself a meal. On the downside Marcello Giombini’s plinky-plonky electronic soundtrack is liable to induce headaches.