The Killer Wore Gloves (La muerte llama a las 10) (1974) is a slightly above-average Spanish giallo, taking as its chief influence Dario Argento’s “animal trilogy” of films: L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird With the Crystal Plummage) (1970); Il gato a nove code (Cat O’ Nine Tails) (1971); and 4 mosche di velluto grigio (Four Flies on Grey Velvet) (1971).
The Killer Wore Gloves begins in London at the
airport. Two gentlemen disembark from
the same plane, and one follows the other into the toilet. Each are carrying a black briefcase. One pulls a straight razor and murders the
other in a toilet stall. Cut to pretty
Peggy (Gillian Hills, who incidentally shares a resemblance with Marisa Mell)
who is en route to give her latest sketch to Ronald James (Stelio
Candelli). (Presumably James is an art
dealer or publisher and Peggy is an artist.
This tidbit was either not fleshed out, or I zoned out during the
exposition). In the street, Peggy
believes that she sees her husband, Michael, driving away. Michael has been mysteriously absent for the
last four months, supposedly is in Vietnam (as a journalist). Peggy gives chase but loses him. She calls her friend, Jackie (Silvia Solar),
and tells her that she saw Michael.
Jackie blows her off, and Roland tells Peggy the same. Despondent, Peggy goes home to her flat. She has the intention of renting the upstairs
room, since Michael has been gone so long and may not return. Enter John Kirk Lawford (Bruno Corazzari) who
arrives at Peggy’s flat carrying only a briefcase. Peggy rents the room to the stranger. That evening, she gets a frantic call from
Michael asking to meet her immediately.
She goes to the location only to be fired upon by a mysterious
stranger. She escapes, and at her
apartment complex, Lawford lays dead in the street. The police believe that it was suicide, a
jump from Peggy’s terrace. While the
police are engaging in routine questioning of Peggy, enter John Kirk Lawford (Angel
del Pozo). This new Lawford has arrived
to rent the flat, and Peggy, despite the suspicious circumstances with the two
Lawfords, rents the room to the man…
Juan Bosch directed The
Killer Wore Gloves whose work I am only familiar with Exorcismo (1975, starring Paul Naschy). The English-language title is pedestrian
(Google translates the Spanish title as Death
Knocks at 10); and it is almost like naming a horror film The Slasher Wore a Hockey Mask. The title is sort of fitting, however, as the
film is a stripped-down, focused film, claustrophobic at times, with Peggy’s
character at front and center. The kill
scene in the toilet and a later murder of Shirley (Orchidea de Santis), a lover
of Ronald are evocative of Argento’s work.
The toilet murder has the camera fixated upon compositions such as the
footsteps of the killer, his black gloves and their meticulous movements, and
finally, a close-up upon the straight razor and the flash of the blade before
the kill. Shirley’s death is seen from
the killer’s point-of-view, and the camera becomes frenetic when he lunges for
the kill. He uses a curved knife to
disembowel her. Peggy’s upstairs
neighbor, Mr. Lewis (Carlos Otero), is an eccentric musician who has a fondness
for cats and he gets strangled while playing his bass. The scene is intercut with flickering lights
and shadows and quick cuts of the reaction shot of his cat. These giallo murder scenes are unoriginal and
familiar yet they are particularly well-rendered.
Dario Argento was not reticent in exploring various
subcultures in his earlier trilogy. He
was especially interested in the youth subculture, particularly its artists. The
Killer Wore Gloves hints at these worlds but never goes there. The primary location of the film is Peggy’s
apartment, and save the murder scenes, the resultant feel of the film is
static. Argento gave his cinematic
worlds life, whereas Bosch used a more paint-by-numbers formula, saving any
panache for his giallo murders. Perhaps
a comparison of gialli against Argento’s work is unfair, as he really has no
equal in the genre. As evocative of his
work as The Killer Wore Gloves is, I
do believe this comparison has merit. On
the plus side, Marcello Giombini’s score is very good, and the pacing is
excellent: no scene wears out its
welcome. The scenes may be at times
monotonous but they are rarely boring.
Pretty Gillian Hills as Peggy gives a good performance which is of
especial note as she has to carry almost the entire film. The supporting cast are adequate in their
roles. The Killer Wore Gloves is not completely strong in any
area, but neither is it truly weak in any to its detriment. An obscurity for the real giallo fan.