Shock, MA, 96 Mins
Italian horror maestro Dario Argento’s first film as writer/director from way back in 1969 takes several uncredited cues from Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi and yet the style is all Argento’s, and while it isn’t as wild and terrifying as his most celebrated works (Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebrae), this is still a pleasingly dated primer for anyone interested in the curiously Italian ‘giallo’ subgenre (and yes, why not Google it?).
Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante, who looks like a disturbing cross between Argento and Kevin Kline) is an American about to leave Rome with gal-pal Julia (Suzy Kendall) when he by chance witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery, and he’s unable to chase the leather-coated assailant when he’s trapped between two glass security doors. Forced to stay on until the case is solved, as this crime is the latest in a series that have shocked the community, Sam does some rather dangerous snooping of his own because (a standard Argento plot device perhaps influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up) he knows there’s something strange about what he saw, although he can’t quite put his finger on it. And if only he can remember before the gloved killer comes after him.
To the novice this might seem incoherent and even ludicrous in its logic, and yet that’s not the point with this sort of ‘gialloesque’ territory, where it’s all about the flashy filmmaking, Ennio Morricone’s unsettling score and the frightening setpieces, most of which here prove not quite as vicious as what Argento offered in later, looser times. And yet the sequence where a shrieking woman in a slinky nightie has her frilly knickers sliced off by the killer’s shiny knife was very strong stuff in 1969.