While it is not anemic, the first murder of El asesino está entre los trece does not occur until the end of the second act. Several signature features of the giallo are present: black gloves, razor blades, and the first-person point-of-view of the killer. The murders are not graphic, and the love scenes are tame. The camera cuts away when a bra is unstrapped or when a blade enters into someone’s flesh, usually. With the sensational elements considerably toned down, El asesino está entre los trece feels like Renoir-lite: the values of the middle class are exposed, and because of their values, the middle class do themselves in, rather than the maniacal killer the title suggests.Shepard plays Lisa Mandel, a recently-widowed wealthy woman who invites the group to her secluded home in the countryside. Her husband died a couple of years ago in a plane crash, its jet he was piloting. Barbiturates were found in his system with a non-lethal dose enough to make him fall asleep. Lisa believes the killer visited him slightly before he took off and drugged him. That person is among her group of invitees, and she reveals this information to them during the first evening’s formal dinner. Every single one of them had an opportunity to kill her husband. Lisa has invited the group to discover each’s motive and reveal the killer during their stay. Even Lisa’s cousin, Francis (Poncela), and her aunt with whom she lives cannot be ruled out as suspects. A mild case of paranoia sets in among the guests and slightly hampers their fun.Tension and dread is sorely lacking in El asesino está entre los trece and this is its chief flaw. A murder mystery, intuitively, should focus on murder or mystery, but they are almost wholly absent from the first two acts of the film. Andreu plays Harry Stephen, a very flirtatious playboy. His aim, apparently, is to seduce every single woman that the film presents. The lovely, little maid, Elena (Rosa de Alba) is his only successful seduction. First, he encounters her in his room and showers her with flatteries. During their second meeting, he dares a kiss. Finally, he attempts to fuck her in his bedroom, but Elena, by this time totally infatuated with him, suggests a clandestine rendezvous in the pool house. They meet at the midnight hour and fuck in the pool house. At the conclusion, Elena asks, “Will you take me with you when you leave?” Andreu, as Harry Stephen, suggests that they slow down. Naschy, incidentally, plays the jealous handyman who is having a relationship with Elena. (He has a love scene with Rosa de Alba, and I am sure he thanked his director, Javier Aguirre.) Not only do these scenes feel as if they are out of The Rules of the Game (1939), but they occupy a substantial portion of the film’s ninety-minute runtime. Also, no one’s personality, or boo-gee status, really reveals anything that he or she may be the killer. This is a fantastic cast, and I do enjoy watching them work. However, I kind of wanted a murder mystery, and El asesino está entre los trece, on the whole, does not deliver. I do not think that I am asking for too much.The music by Alfonso Santisteban is wonderful. The acting by all of the participants is excellent. The direction is competent. Unfortunately, the screenplay, by Aguirre and Alberto S. Insúa, is dull and antiquated. El asesino está entre los trece does have its charms as a curiosity of 70s, Spanish genre cinema, but these charms are only for us, the diehard fans, who could still find better to behold.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
El asesino está entre los trece (The Killer is Among the Thirteen) (1973)
El asesino está entre los trece (The Killer is Among the Thirteen) (1973) plays like a Who’s Who of Spanish 70s genre cinema: Patty Shepard, Jack Taylor, Dyanik Zurakowska, Eusebio Poncela, and Simón Andreu, for example, head the cast; while Paul Naschy delivers an extended cameo with future superstar Carmen Maura featured in an early role. This cast plays a group of leisure, invited for a weekend sojourn by Shepard, with highballs, inane conversation, extravagant dinners, and possible evening bed-hopping on the agenda. As the title would indicate, this representative class of the boo-gee has a sinister character amongst their number who plans on reducing it before the weekend is out.