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  Girl in Room 2A, The Wanton women will be judged
Year: 1974
Director: William L. Rose
Stars: Daniela Giordano, Raf Vallone, John Scanlon, Angelo Infanti, Karin Schubert, Rosalba Neri, Brad Harris
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A young woman is kidnapped off the street and tortured to death by a sinister figure in a red mask and cloak. Her body is flung off a cliff to make it look like a suicide. Elsewhere, fresh out of jail after wrongful imprisonment drugs charges, glam but glum Margaret (Daniela Giordano) rents a room on the recommendation of a friend with kindly widow, Mrs. Grant. Violent dreams and strange bloodstains on the floor compel Margaret to team up with Jack (John Scanlon), who has his own doubts about his sister’s suicide after a supposedly failed love affair. Together the pair uncover the existence of a sinister cult, employing the red-masked killer, out to punish all wayward women.

Produced in Italy by globe hopping trash film mogul Dick Randall, The Girl in Room 2A is one of the very few giallo horror-thrillers directed by an American. That would be William L. Rose, a multi-talented writer, director, cinematographer and occasional actor whose exploitation efforts were largely soft-core porn, e.g. The Smut Peddler (1965) and 50,000 B.C. (Before Clothing) (1963) although he also penned another infamous Italian opus, Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks (1974) that Randall directed himself. Aspects of The Girl in Room 2A suggest Rose and Randall may have predicted the torture porn genre. Certain misogynistic plot quirks anticipate the likes of Hostel (2005) and Captivity (2007), while the villains use of a wildly off-kilter philosophy to justify their actions (“Laws are an arbitrary privilege. That is why there is evil") place this in a similar vein with British horror maestro Pete Walker’s far more grim House of Whipcord (1974), another film where self-righteous middle-aged folk set out to subdue supposedly wayward young women.

Sedate for the most part while the plot ambles on in pedestrian fashion, some sequences do dwell on protracted torture scenes and gruesomely gory killings. For all its undoubted misogyny however, the film is an oddly endearing hybrid of camp and strangely melancholy undertones. Euro-horror regular Daniela Giordano essays a heroine who is sombre and subdued even before her ordeal. Rose’s awkwardly structured story establishes there is something sinister going on and even identifies the perpetrators from the outset. Thereafter the sole mystery becomes the identity of our crimson cowled killer, unmasked at the finale in frankly ludicrous, albeit deliciously camp fashion. Giordano gives a spirited turn as a woman clinging to the last vestige of sanity and self-respect, but the film suffers from leaving most of the sleuthing to the tepid John Scanlon who is less believable as a two-fisted action hero than his co-star, Eurospy veteran Brad Harris, whom he threatens at one point. Maybe the filmmakers did not believe a woman could be both victim and detective.

Along with Giordano and Harris, the film includes a host of other familiar faces from the Euro-horror scene including future porn star Karin Schubert as another unlucky young woman to rent a room with Mrs. Grant, and most notably the great Rosalba Neri whose presence is always welcome, no matter how limited. Rose’s pacing is a shade too leisurely but does a fair job weaving a mounting sense of paranoia and unease before the insane and enjoyable last fifteen minutes. Strangely the score by Berto Pisano is at its most inappropriately laid back and groovy throughout the otherwise tense finale.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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