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  Seven Murders for Scotland Yard Naschy did it!
Year: 1971
Director: José Luis Madrid
Stars: Jacinto Molina, Patricia Loran, Renzo Marignano, Orchidea de Santis, Andrés Resno, Irene Mir, Franco Borelli, Victor Iregua, Teresita Castizio, Carmen Roger, Palomba Moreno
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Not-so-swinging Seventies London is menaced by a murderer whose modus operandi mirrors that of the grandaddy of all serial slashers: Jack the Ripper! A string of wayward women of the night are found knifed to death with their internal organs removed with surgical precision. Pedro (Paul Nashy, a.k.a. Jacinto Molina), a glum, hard-drinking Spaniard and former trapeze artist grounded by a broken leg, visits his estranged wife-turned-prostitute only to find she has become the Ripper’s latest victim. Cast as prime suspect number one, in spite of his conspicuous gammy leg, Pedro goes on the run. Assigned to the case, dimwit Inspector Campbell (Renzo Marignano) of Scotland Yard pontificates cockamamie psychoanalytical theories while his smarmy posh schoolteacher friend Winston Avery (André Resno) is “intrigued by the sexual nature of the killings.”

Although married to the lovely Sandra (Orchidea de Santis), Winston seems infatuated with his young student Rosemary, whom he dissuades from dating a young rocker named Anthony Ramsay. That night, Ramsay calls on Rosemary at her boarding school. Winston discovers the intruder in the gym, standing over Rosemary’s dead body with a knife in his hand! A chase ensues wherein Ramsay is hit and killed by a speeding car. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Inspector Campbell clings to his theory that Pedro is the killer, especially when the Ripper taunts him with scary phone calls and a pre-Seven (1995) severed head in a box. Now desperate, Pedro reaches out to Lulu (Patricia Loran), a prostitute friend of his late wife, and sets out to uncover the killer himself.

This Spanish-Italian co-production, also known as Jack the Ripper of London, was the first of actor-screenwriter-Euro-horror icon Paul Naschy’s Hispanic variants on the giallo, followed by the even more eccentric A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1973). Lifting its “innocent man on the run” conceit from Alfred Hitchcock, the film actually prefigures Frenzy (1972) in making its hero a surly and somewhat unsympathetic figure prone to bouts of alcohol-fuelled misogyny and self-pity. The scuzzy Seventies London setting also anticipates Naschy’s fun monster mash Doctor Jekyll versus the Werewolf (1972). As always it is fun to see him skulking around Soho or bestriding Piccadilly Circus like a barrel-chested colossus, plus this marks a rare instance where he plays a proper Spanish character. As all real Naschy fans know, his stock character Waldemar Daninsky was a Polish werewolf, not a Spaniard as a result of the strict censorship under General Franco.

Things get off to an aptly moody and menacing start. As Big Ben chimes midnight the camera adopts the killer’s P.O.V. as he (or is it she?) wanders the seedy, rain-soaked, neon-drenched streets of Soho, eyeing sex shops and porno cinemas with almost palpable outrage. While the stalk and slash sequences prove suspenseful, the film plods lingering on lengthy scenes where various glum-but-glamorous women disrobe before being stabbed to death in gory closeup. The contrived screenplay, co-authored by Naschy, director José Luis Madrid and veteran Tito Carpi, akwardly intermingles subplots concerning Campbell’s unrequited love for Sandra with Avery’s obsession with catching Rosemary’s killer and Pedro’s ongoing attempts to elude the police, and throws more red herrings than a fish market.

While the presence of Orchidea de Santis, one of Italy’s more enduring sexploitation and Euro-horror stars, as a chic and notably intuitive character along with the winningly feisty Patricia Loran, seem to justify Naschy’s oft-repeated claim his female characters were strong women rather than scream queens, they still prove dishearteningly disposable. More typical of a Naschy screenplay is the film’s empathy with the downtrodden, with characters who often poignantly bemoan their wasted lives or thwarted romances. Admittedly our mystery murderer is all too easy to guess, but the revelation still satisfies as the hero realises he has been an unwitting pawn in someone else’s game. The perplexing climax sees an innocent man carted off to jail while the witness, whose life he just saved, refuses to help him. “As far as I’m concerned, in every man there lurks a murderer, there but for the grace of god”, says Inspector Campbell. What a tool. Music by one of the kings of easy listening Piero Piccioni, heavy on the jazz flute.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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