The Bloodstained Shadow

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Professor Stefano returns to his childhood home many years after the murder of a young school girl. His brother, the town priest is receiving odd notes after he witnesses what he thinks is a murder. The local medium was the person murdered and he is one of many on a list of apparent suspects. When the local paedophile and town gentlemen is murdered then the priest and others motivations are in question.

The giallo as a film movement had its peak in the 1970s and was inspired directly by the Italian audiences desire for films that took on elements of popular Italian culture. Directors like Mario Bava and later Dario Argento began producing murder mystery films based around themes and stylistic devices from the yellow covered detective novels popular in Italy. As the period and genre developed it took on more and more darker, sadistic and sexual undertones. It began to merge elements of other genres that were becoming popular such as horror films and slasher films. Many have argued that in fact the giallo bore the slasher genre in its creation but the latter inspired the former more in later years. By the time this film was released the themes and stylistic devices had mutated into set piece gore drenched death scenes and even more sexualised violence on woman.

Tie optional

We have in this film all the associated elements from giallo legacy, a black gloved killer, the phantom ride or POV camera, women in peril and even the stalk and slash murders of later films. We also have the early period obsession with voyeurism that made so many films popular and compelling. Though this film is made very much to take on the genre legacy it also has some pieces of interest in its core.  A very skilled use of setting and mise en scene, build a world that is complex and darkly unnerving. The empty church, streets devoid of objects and Venice, all feel outside of reality. This might seem a little expected but actually stands out from the usual giallo drab. It also has the general components however that bring you down with a jolt. The script has a very general feel both in dialogue and in feel. Paced uneventfully in places, I sensed a thriller with a very standard core. The murder mystery that was to be brilliant and could have been become par expectation. The acting is on par as well and does little to escape the bounds of the more dull bounds of the genre.

A priest, a cop and a giallo walked on to set...

To reflect more however we can see that Bido is at once trying to craft a film that is an homage to the genre as a piece to live within it. Much of the film feels as if it is inspired by Argento and Bava. The color arrangement, POV camera and voyeurism are all direct rips.  But it is also just as much the way  a director like Bido is exploring the genres visual style. He introduces fast cuts that are outside the form and camera work that is well handled with zooms, also unfamiliar. We however always seem to come back to voyeurism.  The best work of the genre lived from this and some of the masters of film would later use it.  Hitchcock was the inspiration for much after the post war and here his influence is very telling. I was also struck by the  soundtrack that plays artfully and invigorates tension. Subtle bass notes, steps and wind balance a looming fear well enough to make some set pieces very unsettling.  Hitch would have loved the genre and this film no doubt…

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