The Fifth Cord 1971 ***


The title doesn’t make any sense, even if it sounds better than Evil Fingers and Silent Killer, the other two titles given to Luigi Bazzoni’s giallo thriller from 1971. Based on a book by DM Devine. Franco Nero dons his trademark shades and raincoat as alcoholic journalist Andrea Bild, who finds himself the police’s main suspect during a series of slayings. His troubled personal life under the microscope, he sets about working out who the killer really is, with a set of tense but not particularly violent set pieces to counterpoint his investigation. The Fifth Cord looks fantastic due to rather grand locations and great photography by Vittorio Storaro; if you’re not a giallo fan, The Fifth Cord is an ideal taster for the genre. Beware,  the you tube version is missing the last ten minutes.

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin 1971 ***


Writer/director Lucio Fulci delivers a thriller as weird and wonderful as the title suggests with this convoluted who-dunnit with psychedelic inserts. Filmed with a druggy ennui that sits oddly with quaint London settings like the Alexandra Palace, Stanley Baker plays Inspector Colvin, who doggedly investigates Carol Hammond (Florida Bolkan) when she becomes prime suspect in a murder case. Surreal aspects include a giant swan and a sculpture made out of living dogs, but the narrative delivers plenty of tension and surprises, leading to a conclusion that shows Balkan at her most iconic. The funked-out score is by Ennio Morricone.

The Mission 1986 ***

the mission

Robert “A Man For All Seasons” Bolt constructed a powerful screenplay for this big-budget drama in 1986, set in the world of colonial Jesuits priests. Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro are the central characters, debating the merits of their religious work as the find themselves questioning the role of the church in South America. Liam Neeson and Aiden Quinn support, and even if the action isn’t quite an expansive as the locations might suggest, Roland Joffe’s film is a thought-provoking epic, a serious consideration of the role of civilized society, garnished with one of Ennio Morricone’s best scores.

Revolver 1972 ***


One of Ennio Morricone’s greatest themes, lifted by Tarantino for his Inglorious Bastards film, and some sumptuous photography set a classy mood for this terse thriller from Sergio Sollima, also known by the more lurid title Blood In The Streets. Oliver Reed plays Vito, a prison warden whose wife is kidnapped. The deal is for Vito to exchange  criminal Milo (Fabio Testi) for his wife, but Vito strikes back by kidnapping Milo for himself. Revolver is an original plot idea and lots of sweaty tension; the action is sparse, but the plotting and two muscular central performances make this a minor classic.

Danger Diabolik 1967 *****


Cult director Mario Bava brought this delightful comic-book spoof on time and under budget for Dino de Laurentis, but promptly turned down the chance to make a sequel. It’s a pity, since this 1967 romp features elaborate costumes, sets and action to rival the James Bond franchise, with John Phillip Law and Marissa Mell as master criminal Diabolik and his moll. Terry Thomas is on hand for comedy relief, but the size and scale of Diabolik’s plan make for uproarious entertainment. The criminal’s lair is show-stoppingly ingenious in conception, as are the gadgets, parties and the Ennio Morricone score. The Beastie Boys stole the look for one of their retro videos, but Danger Diabolik’s machine-gun delivery makes it an ideal introduction to Bava’s virtuosity.