[review by Justin Kerswell]
Someone is butchering the unfaithful wives of an Italian town's jet-set in Roberto Montero's super sleazy early 70's giallo. The archetypal killer - sporting black leather gloves, black raincoat, black fedora (and a black stocking obscuring any telltale facial features) - spies on adulterous couples, snapping incriminating photographs of flashed breasts and sweaty embraces, which are subsequently left for the police to find (but always with the man's features scratched out) next to the bloody bodies of the slaughtered women.
Inspector Capuana (Farley Granger) is frustrated by his lack of progress after finding the first body, that of a General's wife, naked and slashed in a hotel bedroom. He complains to his wife that the wall of "total silence" from the swinging, high flying society ("Nowadays, the best of families operate without principles.") is seriously hampering the investigation. As seems normal in these things he resorts to rounding up the usual suspects, the town's 'undesirables' - prostitutes, homosexuals and hippies - before dismissing it as a complete waste of time, realising that the killer would more likely be lurking amongst the town's well-to-do.
However, whilst investigating the murder, another death occurs when a woman - seen having sex with a latin lothario who keeps his trousers on throughout (!) - is stalked by the killer and brutally slashed to death (in leering slow motion) on a remote beach at twighlight. When it is revealed that she too was an adulterous wife - with the damning photos left by her body reinforcing the link - Capuana realises that a pattern is emerging.
Barely concealed panic starts to spread amongst some of the town's rich wives, who, in response, gather for a nude pampering session at the local beauty parlour (!) and discuss the killings, "She may have lacked discretion, but she didn't warrant that awful end.", ponders one lady, as she has her nails buffed. However, musing about the evident dangers of infidelity doesn't stop them shedding their clothes at the earliest opportunity and jumping into bed with any Tom, Dick or Luigi. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the murders continue at an alarming rate ...
Yes, SO SWEET, SO DEAD is perfect example of sleazier depths (heights!) the giallo plumbed, but despite its high trash content a plodding police investigation and the conveyor belt of murders does lend the film a fairly pedestrian feel at times. Also, rather annoyingly, a character, the teenage daughter of a potential victim, is introduced (along with her boyfriend, during rather out-of-place teen romance scenes) and is made the story's dramatic focus after she witnesses the murder of a neighbour, but, after finding herself a potential victim vanishes from the film, frustratingly playing no part in its conclusion.
However, no film quite this lurid can fail to at least hold the viewer's attention throughout. Giallo fans will be hooked from the off as a montage of black leather gloves (with knife! with gun! with camera!) unravels under the opening credits, serenaded by a suitably Morriconesque theme tune (with breathlessly ethereal female vocals, natch). Fans of 70's kitsch will be in seventh-heaven, too, and will thrill to the groovy pads of the funky, swinging rich where the decadence extends to keeping live swans squawking in the ornamental pools. And fans of red herrings will delight, also, in a real humdinger in the bug-eyed mortician with a unhealthy interest in the bodies of the women he gets ready for burial; he literally squeals with glee after giving the seal of approval to the make-up he's applied to one busty cadaver, much to the Inspector's surprise! Whilst being questioned by the police, about why he doesn't have a 'live' girlfriend, he complains that, "Women loose interest after they find out about the corpses ...". And, when he's alone he fondles the bodies, cooing, "You're very pretty, almost prettier than when living!", but, whilst SO SWEET, SO DEAD wallows in some fairly explicit vices, luckily necrophilia isn't one of them!
Admittedly, perhaps, the film seems to lay itself wide open to the charge of blatant misogyny - nearly all the women in the film are adulterous, but whilst most of the men - many of who are also playing away from home - remain 'unpunished' by the moral avenger in the black fedora; this cynical streak is nowhere more evident than in the film's final cruel twist twist of the knife. Of course, this giallo was made in a completely different time, and whilst its heady brew of bloody breasts and flashing blades is sure to offend the sensibilities of the majority of modern audiences it will certainly appeal to fans of sleazy cinema everywhere. To boost this reputation the film was recut, hardcore porn inserts were added and it was subsequently released in the States in 1976 as PENETRATION (in addition to a multitude of 'soft' versions under different titles and varying running times).
Ultimately, SO SWEET, SO DEAD, despite being a cruder example of the
genre, works pretty well as a straight giallo (with a large side-serving of cheesy
sleaze). So, a little something for everyone!
BODYCOUNT 7 female:6 / male:1
1) Female found with throat slashed and multiple stab wounds
2) Female stabbed repeatedly in neck
3) Female stabbed to death
4) Male falls down a flight of stairs
5) Female stabbed to death
6) Female has throat slashed and repeatedly stabbed
7) Female slashed to death