DEATH FALLS LIGHTLY
Giorgio has just returned from a business trip to find his wife dead in their home, her throat slashed. Not knowing what to do, he visits his friend, a well-known judge. The judge calls on his lawyer to help Giorgio come up with an alibi. The solution to the problem begins with isolating Giorgio for a few days in an abandoned hotel while they sort out the details. Giorgio takes his girlfriend Liz along with him. They are locked inside the hotel with strict orders not to leave. There is no electricity, but there is water and food. The first night goes without incident. Giorgio and Liz make love, watch a film and talk. Giorgio has never told her what he does for a living and up until tonight she has been OK with that. But as the second day rolls around, they are both going a bit stir crazy. During an argument, Giorgio slaps Liz and, to make it up to her, tells her what he does for a living. He's a drug runner and the money he makes helps a few powerful politicians (like his friend, the judge) stage campaigns and buy favors. That's why they will help him out of the situation. If he goes down, he may talk.
But as night falls on the second day, something very strange begins to happen. Giorgio hears music playing in a room downstairs. Liz sees a shadow in the hall. There is talk between them of ghosts, but neither one believes in such nonsense. When Liz sees someone come into their room, Giorgio decides to walk the halls. What he finds is an older woman with her throat cut. As her ascends the steps in shock, someone hits him on the head. Recovering, Giorgio turns around to see an older man. He introduces himself. He's the owner of the hotel and the woman lying dead in the hallway is his wife. He killed her and now he wants Giorgio to help him hide the body.
That encompasses all but the last half hour of DEATH FALLS LIGHTLY, an almost giallo (more on that in a minute) that tries to be a thriller but just ends up boring the tears out of you. The bizarre thing about most third-tier gialli is that you want to stick around to find out what is really going on even if you don't care. I was not at all invested in this story. With only two characters for most of the film (and neither one is very likeable), it's hard to generate any real narrative to pull the story along. The characters of Giorgio and Liz don't do much outside of speak in expositionary tones. We get a lot of "I did this" and "I did that" as the first hour plays out. Because we're locked in a hotel with these characters, there isn't much for them to do except talk about their past. We find out that Giorgio was in the process of divorce. We find out that Liz has had nightmares about his wife catching them in bed together. We find out Liz doubts whether or not Giorgio loves her for something more than her looks. We find out Giorgio doesn't talk about his job because he doesn't know how Liz will react. We find out all this stuff about these two people and yet all we really want is for something to happen.
And when something finally does happen, we only have a half hour left. The events that transpire in the last half hour make us question virtually everything that is going on. Is Giorgio going mad? Is Liz going mad? Is the hotel haunted? Who are these strange women that show up? Is this all an elaborate game to drive Giorgio over the edge? That's a lot of things to work through in a half hour and director/co-writer Leopoldo Savona speeds through it all in a rather annoying way. We barely have time to digest one strange event before two more happen. Before we know it, the narrative is resolved and we are treated to a three or four minute recap where outside characters (the police inspector, etc.) explain everything that we just sped through. But to make matter worse, the explanation doesn't quite make sense either. You will hard pressed to find a giallo where the "why?" doesn't quite match the "how?". There are some elements of the narrative that are far fetched when they occur only to become even more ridiculously far fetched when they're explained. I was more confused by the logistics involved than I was by anything else in the story.
I referred to DEATH FALLS LIGHTLY as an "almost giallo" earlier and that would be how I would ultimately classify it. It was clearly marketed as a giallo film, but even though it is at its core a murder mystery, it lacks any feeling of a giallo. It feels more properly like a psychological thriller, the main thrust of which is whether or not our hero is really a villain. With a single location, less than 6 major characters and very little suspense within the brief running time, DEATH FALLS LIGHTLY is severely lacking in pulse pounding (or even interesting) material. I've read several reviews for this film online and nearly all of them list this film as "for enthusiasts only". Well, I'm a massive giallo enthusiast and the fact that I cannot recommend this film to anyone shows that even the giallo enthusiast has limitations for their fandom. DEATH FALLS LIGHTLY does not thrill and it certainly doesn't engage. It just lands with a thud.