Who Saw Her Die? Review
Aldo Lado's gialli from the early seventies demonstrate a dramatic sureness of touch and a strong concern for what is becoming of the youth of that time. Namely, his films are concerned that an older and more established power base is living off the younger generation. Short Night of the Glass Dolls deals with a conspiracy of the powerful to live off the young, Night Train Murders considers the way the young can become victims of the poison of Fascism, and Who Saw Her Die is a story where privilege and wealth hides the truth about a serial killer of young girls. The eventual identity of the killer is a strong clue to the particular kind of social dominance Lado is interested in, even if the film's throwaway last line is intended to placate the targets of this critique.
Understandably, this film is often compared to Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now and Michael McKenzie's review of the R1 disc talks a little about this. For all my words above, I would tend to agree with his assessment that this film "is primarily a murder mystery told in a relatively conventional manner", but I do feel it is useful to note the similarities with Roeg's film rather than automatically promote it above this very effective movie. First of all this film was made before Roeg's, this film features the disappearance of a child and the resulting effect and impact of that loss on the estranged parents like Roeg's would. This movie forefronts Venice as part of the search for truth, it includes a tender love scene between the parents, again as does Don't Look Now. Now clearly, the source for Roeg's film is an updating of Daphne Du Maurier's story and I will admit to not having read that and not knowing if Lado had read it too, but the similarities are too many to ignore. Some may say that perhaps Roeg would not have concerned himself with a Italian genre film and that his film is more concerned with the supernatural and the spiritual, but Lado does apply himself to delivering a genre movie with a degree of intelligence and social comment that lifts his work way above fellow journeymen like Lenzi or Martino and consequently may have appeared on Roeg's radar.
The plot involves a good deal of maguffins and guilt is thrown in the direction of the morally corrupt at regular intervals. The shady art dealer played by Adolfo Celi, the perverted lawyer, and the man on crutches all serve their purpose and the film employs first person photography to force the viewer to share the perspective of the veiled killer. Everyone could have killed the child and the film's title is a plain accusation that the murders seem an impossible corruption - someone must have seen her die. The crimes can't be covered up and the grieving father will not take the blood money others have taken, he must know the truth.
The screenplay is a strong one and the mechanics of keeping the audience in the dark until the very end are well conceived and managed. The casting is quite impressive for such a film with Celi, Anita Strindberg, the ubiquitous Nicoletta Elmi, and faces familiar to giallo fans used to create the shifty suspects. The film is blessed by one of Ennio Morricone's best scores, a mixture of the childish singing that he would use intermittently in Argento's Animal trilogy and dizzying melodies that would add to the off kilter nature of the action. When we share the killer's veil and perspective, the score sounds like the boiling up of frenzy in the killer's mind.
Unlike many of the movies from the same genre, the moral tone is not compromised and the violence not fetishised. The setpiece stalkings may centre on the child's vulnerability but the narrative seems unwilling to linger on the killing or on the corpus delecti. Morricone's maddening score in these moments evokes a sense of evil and addiction, and the film is always squarely on the side of the children who are preyed upon by the seedy, corrupt adult world. Lado delivers a less elaborate film than his previous attempt at the genre and his authorial grip on the drama never slips making this a grown up movie rather than a juvenile exercise in cheap thrills.
Who Saw Her Die is a fine thriller from an under-rated director.
Already available in a fine edition from Anchor Bay in the states, Shameless deliver the film from a source which seems to be very similar to that edition. The framing and presumably print based imperfections seem to be the same when comparing the two discs, but the transfer has mild differences in terms of sharpness, lightness and colour balance. In the screen shots underneath you should notice that the flesh tones are warmer in this new treatment and that the characters' hair seems darker too. From the evidence of previous transfers done by BU/AB and their Shameless counterparts, it would seem a fair bet that less restoration has taken place than with the R1 disc. This then might account for why the Shameless disc seems softer as well.
If you already own the AB disc you probably don't need this new treatment as that seems marginally sharper and cleaner overall, but despite the limitations that Shameless face in bringing such cult movies to the limited uk market they have done very well here. The sound on this new disc features a little distortion especially in the choral singing in the soundtrack and odd pops and rumbling are present as well, I would reluctantly prefer the R1 edition again for quality.
The Shameless trailers offered here are listed in the extras side panel. There are no other extras.
A wonderful giallo and a sound transfer. Do yourself a favour and give this a rental at least, if only to tell me how much better Don't Look Now is.