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2 and a half stars

"Once the killing had started...
it could never stop!"

directed by: Antonio Bido
starring: Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini, Craig Hill, Attilo Duse Sciascia, Massimo Serato, Laura Nucci, Juliette Meyniel

(back of video blurb):

       " (can anyone help me out with this?)"

choice dialogue:

"You have found a hell, instead of the peace you seek so much!"

- cheery words between brothers

slash with panache?

       Antonio Bido's THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW was his follow up to the previous year's equally derivative, but on the same note, equally enjoyable giallo, THE CAT'S VICTIMS.

       A young university student, Stefano D'Arcangeli (Lino Capolicchio- star of Pupi Avati's near legendary HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS THAT LAUGH (1976)), returns home to visit his brother, Don Paolo (Craig Hill), who is a Catholic priest on Stefano and Sandra meet on the train to Venicethe small Venetian island of Murano. On the train to Venice he befriends as young woman called Stefania (Sandra Sellani- who is probably best known for her performance as Sara in Dario Argento's wonderful SUSPIRIA (1977)); who it turns out is travelling to the same small town as he is. Once there he is met, from the jetty, by his brother, and soon becomes embroiled in his affairs. Don Paolo is troubled by a local woman who holds seances in her home- "There is something frightening about her", he tells his brother. These seances (which turn out to be bogus) are attended by the town's most hated and feared inhabitants- a rich paedophile; a gambling addicted doctor; and a midwife who specialises in illegal abortions. The priest feels he cannot let these ungodly things carry on any longer in his Parish, but is frustrated by his lack of success- especially as some of the townsfolk have complained that their children have been interfered with by the rich Count (Massimo Serato); who just taunts Don Paolo's lack of ability to do anything.

Don Paolo witnesses a murder during the thunderstorm       One night, during an apocalyptic thunderstorm, Don Paolo, who is unable to sleep, sees a violent struggle ensue in the town's square- a Woman is being throttled by an assailant; neither of who's identities the Priest can make out through the driving rain. He summons Stefano and another townsman, but when they get into the square there is no sign of a murder. However, later a body is found, dragged some way from the square- that of the fake medium. Nobody has any idea the identity of the killer, but it seems to be very similar to the murder of a schoolgirl, who had been strangled some years before.

       Stefano suddenly begins to have flashbacks to the sight of a screaming little boy- seemingly set off by the murder; and Don Paolo receives a note, the first of many, which says "If one speaks of murder, yours will be next"- which indicates that the killer mistakenly believes that he would be able to identify them from that night. As Stefano worries for his brother's safety it becomes clear that this recent killing would not be the last, as someone starts to stalk and hunt down the small group of people which attended the dead woman's seances...

Bido makes good use of a desolate Venice in Winter       THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW is a very atmospheric film, which benefits from an intricate plot and evocative locations. Venice and its surrounding islands in Winter, whilst not as seemingly full of brooding menace as in Nicolas Roeg's sublime DON'T LOOK NOW (1973), were like a desolate wonderland of canals and shadowy walkways. Where, what people there are peer from their ancient windows with a look mixed with mistrust and fear. It's a location which well matches Bido's continuing fetishistic voyeurism of religious iconography and gothic grandeur.

       Whilst the plot twists and turns as much as you could wish for in a good giallo, the director, once again, proves himself an impersonator rather than an a originator (which is a shame, because Bido often hints at originality with impressive off-the-wall flourishes). The blue-print, again proves to be Dario Argento's hit giallo from 1975, DEEP RED. Like THE CAT'S The painting that may hold the key (left); and the flashback of a screaming child that haunts Stefano (right)VICTIMS much of the film's running time is made up with a burgeoning romance- hoping to recreate the spark which existed between David Hemmings and Daria Nicoldi. Here Stefano and Sandra predictably get it on and too much time is wasted on their love life- including an interminable speed boat cruise where Stefano looks like a dead ringer of Jarvis Cocker! Bido unashamedly further quotes Argento's film by employing a central plot device by where the identity of the killer may be hidden in a child like, if not in this case a child's, painting; also, the film's impressively urgent score is an effective pastiche of Goblin too (natch!). However, Argento isn't the only film maker to come under Bido's beady magpie eye, Sergio Martino seems to have been the inspiration for a fair bit too- a spot of eye violence to a doll is an especially heavy borrow from his violent 1973 giallo TORSO.

       In this atmosphere it may come as some surprise that THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW seemed to do a little bit of inspiring itself. Unless there is another movie I haven't seen which used this, Bido's film, specifically a revelation involving a typewriter, seems to have been the inspiration for a similar moment in the Jeff Bridges' thriller JAGGED EDGE (1985). No self respecting giallo can be without some display of eye violence- especially if it's directed towards a doll!

       When we are not being treated to the sight of Stefano and Sandra in bed, then Bido proves himself quite adept at conjuring some deft suspense through much of the film- although these scenes usually finish far too early, with a rude abruptness. Whilst his set pieces will never rival you-know-who, there are some very effective moments- especially the scenes involving a falling crucifix; and one along the canal ways involving the killer, a victim and two boats.

       All-in-all THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW is a fair giallo which, because of it's seductive sheen, looks better than it actually is. It's topped with an ending which is as slippery as all the previous plot twists put together, culminating in a climax which, somewhat unsurprisingly, takes it's cue from a scene in yet another film; albeit this time from that other master of suspense- Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958).

BODYCOUNT 7  bodycount!   female:4 / male:3

       1: Female strangled (in opening credits)
       2: Female strangled
       3: Male stabbed through chest with sword
       4: Female has face forced into lit fireplace
       5: Male crushed by river boat
       6: Female found with throat slit
       7: Male falls to his death