Returning home from an assignment overseas journalist Giorgio Pisani (Francis Matthews) discovers his wife Erica has died in childbirth. Their baby lies in intensive care. Devastated Giorgio draws no sympathy from his family of bourgeois assholes; save for pretty and kindly sister-in-law Dr. Lidia Franzi (Pascale Rivault). Unfortunately a sneak peak at Lidia’s case notes reveals Giorgio is sterile. Erica’s baby cannot be his. Being Italian, Giorgio copes with emotional turmoil the only way he knows how. He shags a sexy nurse. But the morning after that same nurse is brutally butchered by a knife-wielding maniac. Suspicion falls on Giorgio. Has grief pushed him over the edge? As more women fall prey to the vicious killer police discover they all had something in common.
To be honest they have two things in common. For some strange reason no-one remarks that all the victims are redheads. Anyway the big gimmick in Five Women for the Killer lands the titular murderer with a particular grudge against pregnant women. This nasty little plot twist, coupled with the film's brief, almost subliminal glimpses of the scalpel-wielding killer slicing victim's bellies and genitals, has spurred some giallo fans to embrace it as a gory favourite; even as others decry its overt misogyny. Stelvio Massi, cinematographer turned director better known for all-action poliziotteschi films like Emergency Squad (1974), The .44 Specialist (1976) and Fearless Fuzz (1978), is no Dario Argento. Admittedly his roving camera adds a mounting sense of menace while other eye-catching stylistic flourishes enliven some scenes (including a graphic if superfluous sex scene). Yet the murders are staged in a clumsy and crass fashion.
Between murders scenes consist largely of obnoxious rich folks being ghastly to each other with Massi's tendency to crash-zoom onto actors' faces enhancing the tacky daytime soap opera tone. Co-authored by Roberto Gianviti, Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino, the script makes no attempt to draw sympathy for any of its characters including ostensible 'hero' Giorgio who serves as one of the more obvious red herrings. Indeed the plot routinely ditches imported British lead Francis Matthews, veteran of many a Hammer horror (e.g. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)), to focus on the swarthy Police Commissioner (Howard Ross) and his idiot comedy relief sidekick interrogating suspects. Or a subplot with arrogant womanizing surgeon Aldo Betti (Giorgio Albertazzi) and his frankly weird tarot card-reading wife Elena (another redhead) that at least feeds back into the main story. While the killer's identity serves as a genuine surprise their motive only serves to underscore the film's patronizing contempt for women. As if to acknowledge that lapse the climax springs a double-twist, seemingly slamming the misogynistic attitudes of its male characters. Yet all too tellingly the film still fades out on the line: "You filthy whore."