THE KILLER WORE GLOVES
A Spanish-Italian co-production shot in London, Juan Bosch's THE KILLER WORE GLOVES sits in the bottom tier of giallo films. Dull and lifeless, it has no real narrative to speak of, just a series of tired plot contrivances, none of which are carried out to their full potential. When we think of gialli, we tend to think of head-scratching pretzels of narrative peppered with interesting characters buzzing about exotic locations. We think of bloody murders and kinky sex, jazzy scores and outlandish outfits. THE KILLER WORE GLOVES has none of that going on. Instead what we have are a few ordinary people meandering around drab London streets or in uninteresting apartments doing virtually nothing. By the time the plot picks up, the movie is fifteen minutes away from ending.
The basic plot of THE KILLER WORE GLOVES is this: Peggy is a lovely young artist living alone in London ever since her boyfriend, a journalist named Michael, went off to cover the Vietnam war. She is trying to get by but not doing a very good job at it. A publisher she regularly works for, a seedy man named Ronald, is more interested in her body than her work. She decides, on the advice of her friend Jackie, to rent out the upstairs room to a tenant, an ecology professor named John Lawford. Mr. Lawford is a strange man. He arrives one night with only one bag, claiming he left the rest of his luggage at the airport. Some time later, Peggy receives a phone call from Michael. He is panicked and desperate. He needs Peggy to meet him at some out-of-the-way airplane hanger. When Peggy shows up, she doesn't find Michael. In fact, all she finds is a gunman waiting. He opens fire but she manages to get away.
When Peggy arrives home, the place is crawling with police. There is a man's body on the sidewalk, it's face mangled from an obvious fall. Peggy enters her apartment to find Lawford gone. The police interrogate her. They believe the man fell from her balcony. The questioning is interrupted by a knock at the door. A man we've never seen before enters and introduces himself. He says his name is John Lawford. Peggy doesn't speak a word about the "other" John Lawford and doesn't tell the cops about the phone calls she's received from Michael. Later that night, Peggy finds a bag containing half a million dollars in her bathroom. Who is the money from? Is it really Michael calling her at all hours of the night? Who was the man impersonating Lawford?
Likely, by the time the killer makes his appearance and explains everything in one long James Bond baddie-style monologue, you won't even care.
THE KILLER WORE GLOVES suffers from lousy plotting. The whole film is front-loaded with most of the really interesting bits occurring well before the half-way point. The characters never really feel like part of the plot. Peggy, for example, doesn't seem to be contributing to the narrative at all. Things don't seem to be happening to her as much as they seen to be happening around her. She is largely inactive through most of the film, stumbling through scene after scene looking bewildered and confused. She only makes one proactive action during the entire film - an attempt at making Ronald confess to the crimes by blackmailing him with a cufflink of his she found at a murder scene - but that one scene, which runs for about five or six minutes, is quickly forgotten, the entire plot point brushed aside and never followed through. She is a completely impotent character and completely uninteresting to boot. Thankfully she is played by Gillian Hills, an incredibly lovely actress best known for appearing in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Antonioni's BLOW-UP and the unsung Hammer classic DEMONS OF THE MIND. So while she might be dull as dishwater, she is nevertheless engaging to watch.
There are a few decent suspense sequences on display here but they're surrounded by boring gibberish. It's a shame because there is a kernel of a decent story beneath all the hubbub. It feels like a first draft screenplay, meandering and listless without any clear line of vision. THE KILLER WORE GLOVES would have been a much better film had the narrative been smoothed out and the pacing issues been resolved - Bosch's other giallo from 1974, THE KILLER WITH 1,000 EYES, suffers from this problem as well. It also needed a more active protagonist, someone who feels like part of the story instead of inconsequential to it. One of the fundamental things you are taught in screen writing classes and seminars is the importance of having a character who is engaging with their surroundings, a character who is involved in the action. THE KILLER WORE GLOVES fails precisely because it never really allows it's characters room to breathe and move within the story. They feel like automatons, like aimless, wandering faces with no internal motivation. Without interesting characters, you don't have an interesting movie. It's true across the board. The giallo film is no exception and THE KILLER WORE GLOVES cannot survive this specific deficiency.