PLAY MOTEL is one weird giallo. It doesn't even feel like a bonafide film, more like a television movie with some kinky sex thrown in. \ Hell, it barely feels like a giallo. It has all the earmarks of a thriller but it doesn't thrill. It has all the nudity and hardcore bits one would expect from a sleazy bit of Italian exploitation but it doesn't titillate. I'm having a hard time thinking of a word that describes it. Mediocre doesn't do it. Middling doesn't either. It's a film with no real staying power. It just does it's thing and leaves. Aside from the presence of the lovely Anna Maria Rizzoli, I don't know why anyone would watch it again. It's just... Damn it, I don't know.
This isn't one of the "black-gloved killer" giallo films. It's a pretty straight forward crime story. A wealthy man checks into Play Motel - which we gather is a place for men to take their lovers and for couples whose tastes border on the kinky to spend a few hours - with a hot blonde only to find out later that someone plans on blackmailing him with photographs of his sexual encounter. His estranged wife decides to take the photos to the cops and later stops by the hotel to check the place out. She discovers a room beside the one her husband used. It has a nifty two-way mirror inside, the perfect vantage spot to snap photos of the raunchy stuff going on next door. As she pauses to watch two people get it on, she is strangled by an unknown man. Her body turns up in the trunk of a car driven by Ray Lovelock and the aforementioned Rizzoli. Soon enough, Lovelock and Rizzoli are called upon by the police to help them crack the case.
So what is a thriller without any suspense? It's PLAY MOTEL, that's what. There are plenty of gialli that don't feature the requisite killer but they usually compensate by turning in a halfway decent mystery plot. PLAY MOTEL doesn't even bother. Sure, it's there. You have the bevvy of red herrings, the amateur detectives, women in peril, and blackmailers and double-crossers all over the place, but the film fails to actually do anything with these points of interest. It's on cruise control the entire time, never bothering to establish any kind of pace or tension. It feels flat and lifeless.
Then there is the inclusion of hardcore sex scenes in the film. Not just insert shots either, but full-blown (pun intended) sex scenes. This kind of pandering to the raincoat crowd is not unheard of in Italian cinema - far from it, actually - but in the giallo it is incredibly rare. It has a strange effect. First of all, the sex on display is third-rate porn at best. Lots of fumbling around with genitals and poorly filmed penetration shots do not make for an erotic experience - Rizzoli's nude photo shoot later on in the film is infinitely more satisfying - and the scenes are all scored with an obnoxious pop song that doubles as the film's opening theme music. It's almost comical. In fact, every time I heard the first bars of that music played, I immediately found myself wanting to hit the fast forward button. Stopping a murder mystery for a three or four minute needless and unexciting sex scene simply makes no sense, nor was it necessary.
The most tragic thing about PLAY MOTEL is that it wastes a great cast of recognizable genre regulars. Lovelock is perhaps best known to genre fans for his appearance in LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE; Antonella Antinori will be recognized by fans of Bianchi's BURIAL GROUNDS; I recognized Mario Cutini from THE TRUE STORY OF THE NUN OF MONZA and THE PORNO KILLERS; Enzo Fisichella of MALABIMBA and THE BIG ALLIGATOR RIVER; Marina Hedman of THE BEAST IN SPACE and IMAGES IN A CONVENT; and Patrizia Webley from SALON KITTY and MALABIMBA. Now granted that's not a lot of acting talent on display but between Rizzoli, Antinori, Hedman and Webley, that IS a lot of eye candy to ogle. So you would expect PLAY MOTEL to at least serve as a good, naked romp for male audience members. Sadly, this is one masturbatory fantasy that plays out better in screenshots than in action.
I don't think PLAY MOTEL is going to satisfy giallo fans. I'd be surprised if it satisfied anyone for that matter. It's such a forgettable film in every way.