CRAZY DESIRES OF A MURDERER
The classical period of the giallo film - that is, the time when gialli were being made with great skill and in great quantity - ended in 1975, leaving the giallo trapped in a miasma of marketplace saturation. It appeared that everything that could be done with the giallo had been done, sometimes more than once. Looking at the release schedules from 1970 to 1975, over 100 gialli were released. That level of saturation is frankly astounding. Were it not for the fact that the giallo film is remarkably malleable, suitable for a myriad of styles, both narratively and thematically, the form would have died rather quickly.
For the next few years, filmmakers were still churning out product that was both inventive and engaging - albeit in much fewer numbers. Films like ANIME PERSA, THE EYES BEHIND THE WALL, THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE, SEVEN NOTES IN BLACK and WATCH ME WHEN I KILL, all from 1977, were proving there was still some gas left in the tank. All of those films are notable in one way or another, all of them reminders that the giallo could adapt, could evolve, could escape the rut of quantity over quality. Unfortunately, the fewer films released, the more noticeable the failures were.
Filippo Walter Ratti's 1977 giallo CRAZY DESIRES OF A MURDERER is one of those failures. It is a lifeless, joyless affair, a film that feels like a compilation of subplots rather than a film with some kind of purpose. It has no solid narrative thread, no real sense of construction behind it's scripting. It's everywhere and nowhere at once, muddled and poorly paced.
A summation of the film's narrative would give no indication of the actual product. A young woman named Ileana has returned home from a trip to China with a few friends. Her father is a wheelchair-bound antiques expert coping with poor health. She has a brother who is kept in the basement of their expansive castle estate due to his fragile mental state, all thanks to the childhood trauma of having killed his mother's lover after catching them in bed together. Two of her companions are drug smuggling buffoons, one of whom owes quite a bit of money to a few thugs planning on killing him if he doesn't come up with "the stuff" in a couple of days. After a loud night of drinking and screwing, one of Ileana's friends turns up dead in her bedroom, her eyes cut out. A smarmy police inspector takes up residence in the castle with a few of his men. Suspicion is cast upon everyone. To make matters worse, someone has opened the tomb of Ileana's mother, stealing an expensive piece of jewelry. Who is behind all of this? Could it be one of Ileana's friends? Is it her brother, the mute taxidermist sheltered in the basement? Or could it be one of the two family servants? Is there some connection between the girl's death and the theft of the jewelry? Will the inspector figure it all out before the killer strikes again?
In theory, this should work. It's not terribly different from anything we've seen before in the genre, but Ratti seems confused as to what the central focus of the story should be. If this is really a murder mystery, why do we spend so much time with Pier-Luigi, watching him try to sort out his money troubles with the drug dealers? If the film is really about pissed off drug dealers, what's with the dead blonde in the bedroom? And if this is really a murder mystery, why is no one actively trying to solve it? I mean, we have an inspector in the film but he only shows up when Ratti and Co. decide it's time for someone to spend four to five minutes asking questions we never receive the answers to. The film can't seem to make up it's mind what it wants to focus on. It ricochets around the room switching it's focus so often it eventually stops focusing altogether and just becomes a parade of scenes that go nowhere, climaxing in a finale that sums everything up with a minimal of fuss and zero indication that it's coming.
CRAZY DESIRES OF A MURDERER has a few inspired moments. Ratti takes great delight in playing to the audience's expectations only to reverse them. The opening scene has the old man studying the design of several pieces of antique art only to be interrupted by someone with bloody hands. We expect the old man to have died, but he shows up a few scenes later very much alive. A brief heavy petting scene between two girls promises us an erotic lesbian make-out session - a staple in the giallo film - only to turn out to be part of a party game Ileana is playing with her friends. Perhaps the ending to the film is the final fake-out. We would have expected a quicker pace, a scene of action or suspense, but are instead given an ending that just happens, unexpectedly, out of the blue. But I doubt that. What I think really happened was that CRAZY DESIRES OF A MURDERER was rushed into production before it's script could be finished. It feels like a first draft or an expanded treatment.
While there's nothing wrong with the on-screen details - the actors are all decent, the score is well done, if a bit derivative, and the direction is adequate though perfunctory - the story the film is telling is simply too uninteresting and thin to be of any interest. It feels tired and it feels stale. It would take another couple of years for the giallo film to truly fade into oblivion but CRAZY DESIRES FOR A MURDERER was a sign that the end was indeed nigh.