Subsequent to the success of his Il gatto dagli occhi di giada (Watch Me When I Kill) (1977), producers asked its director, Antonio Bido, to direct another giallo. Unfortunately, he did not have a script prepared, but a friend of his wife led him to a young talented writer. Bido found one of the young writer's short stories intriguing and thought it would make a good film. Bido wrote the script with Domenico Malan and Marisa Andalò (who would become his wife). Starring Lino Capolicchio, Stefania Casini, and Craig Hill, Bido's film is Solamente nero (The Bloodstained Shadow) (1978).Capolicchio is Stefano, a university professor from Rome, who is heading to Venice to see his brother, Don Paolo (Craig Hill), the priest of the local parish. (Although the film is set in Venice, Bido admits that he only shot one scene in the city. Solamente is actually filmed on the Venetian island of Murano.) Aboard the train, Stefano meets Sandra (Casini), also from Rome who is returning to the town of her childhood. Stefano meets Don Paolo who misses his younger brother and is also eager to share with Stefano the local gossip (almost letting slip information that Don Paolo learned in the confessional). Over dinner, Stefano sees an older woman dining alone. Don Paolo informs Stefano that the woman is a spiritualist who hosts seances for a select group of the locals. Stefano receives a sinister vibe from the woman. That evening, Stefano retires, along with Don Paolo in the rectory. Don Paolo is awakened by screams coming from the window. It is dark and rainy, and at his window, Don Paolo witnesses what he believes to be a murder, a strangling of a woman in the street. Don Paolo summons his assistant and Stefano to investigate the scene, but no corpse is found. The following morning a corpse is found across town, the body of the sinister spiritualist, strangled in the same manner as a young woman many years ago. The case of the young woman was never solved. Don Paolo begins to receive threatening and cryptic letters, and Stefano becomes sleuth--determined help his brother by learning what happened to the sinister spiritualist and also, the murder of the young woman years before.Adrian Luther-Smith in his essential Blood & Black Lace: The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies makes this very astute observation about Solamente nero: "Bido again takes his cue from Argento (a child-like painting holds the clue to the killer's identity, while [Stelvio] Cipriani's excellent score imitates Goblin's Suspiria score), Pupi Avati (the casting of Lino Capolicchio, the lead from La casa dalle finestre che ridono), and Fulci (echoes of Don't Torture a Duckling), but originality has never been the main point of Italian thrillers." Bido wanted to hire Goblin to score the film. Unfortunately, Cinevox (Goblin's record label) wanted the film's producers to pay for the score up front, which was contrary to the current custom in the Italian film industry where composers were paid from the film's receipts (or total gross). Claudio Simonetti, Goblin's front man, suggested Stelvio Cipriani for the score. Cipriani composed the music, but Goblin, subsequently freed from their Cinevox contract, arranged the music (according to Bido who credits the success of the excellent score in equal measure to both Cipriani and Goblin). Finally, just to coattail a little further upon Luther-Smith's observation, it should be noted the casting of Stefania Casini is notable, because she previously appeared in a very obscure, little-known film entitled Suspiria, shortly before The Bloodstained Shadow. Solamente Nero (The Bloodstained Shadow) is a very handsome production. The Murano setting of the film is essential not only to its atmosphere but its overall success. Bido, along with cinematographer Mario Vulpiani, was able to capture the isolation of a small town and its few inhabitants. The essential theme of Solamente is the dark, hidden secret of the town's past becoming exposed and revealing itself anew. So while amateur sleuth Stefano searches for present clues, he is uncovering important past ones (relating to the girl's death years before) and vice versa. Even if Bido would have been unsuccessful in tying his themes to his location, like Pupi Avati in La casa dalle finestre che ridono, Bido's authentic location would have created its own atmosphere. It is that beautiful and powerful. In a wonderful, signature giallo sequence, Casini's Sandra is being followed through the city's narrow alleyways and covered walkways. The stalker's point of view is focal, shot perfectly with handheld camera work. The claustrophobic feeling is inherent in the tight framework while the location only makes it more uncomfortable by being so genuine. Bido admits tension is essential to a thriller, and if he were to shoot one, today, there would be certain scenes that he would not include. Bido cites his love scene between Sandra and Stefano as the type of sequence that he would exclude. That scene is quite lovely, actually, and quite welcomed. I would disagree with Bido that this is the type of scene which slows the film's tension. For example, why Dario Argento was so adept at creating gialli was because his characters were focal in driving the narrative. It was through the eyes of the amateur sleuth which led the viewer through the plot. Whatever deficiencies existed in the plot, they were often overcome by a very close and obsessive main character. What the main character sees is more important than what is shown. David Hemmings in Profondo rosso (1975), one of Argento's masterpieces, is a perfect example. When The Bloodstained Shadow is away from Stefano and scenes are shown to further the plot (to give clues to the viewer), the tension is lessened. However, this is a minor quibble and may be an inherent flaw in plot-driven (or even mystery) cinema. Or it could be that Capolicchio and especially Casini are so very likable and watchable, their performances carry the film on equal footing with the narrative.As in any good giallo, the real relish is reserved for the murder sequences. These are the most memorable scenes of many gialli, and The Bloodstained Shadow does not disappoint. Bido admits "Argento was his teacher," and like Argento, there is a real dedication to the subtlety of an elaborate killing. Hiding the killer's identity is essential in the scene, and the creative fun comes from quick shots of black gloves lovingly gripping a knife or some black shoes walking in the same rhythm of its victim. Frequently, all the meticulous small shots come together in an over-the-top, excessive killing crescendo. In gialli, murder is an orchestra.
The Bloodstained Shadow is stylish and, above all, smart. I originally purchased the DVD as part of the Anchor Bay Entertainment Giallo Collection years ago. I believe that set and a subsequent single-disc release is now out of print; however label Blue Underground, re-released The Bloodstained Shadow in a single-disc, affordable edition. All objective facts, save the material from Luther-Smith, are taken from an interview with Antonio Bido included on the original Anchor Bay DVD of the film. Fans of the giallo will not be disappointed.