Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Killer Wore Gloves (La muerte llama a las 10) (1974)

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.

1 comment:

Alex B. said...

Haven´t seen any Juan Bosch films and never heard of this title before.
Nice writeup!