A war photographer named Michael returns to London only to vanish mysteriously, perplexing his pretty girlfriend Peggy Foster (Gillian Hills). Peggy's snarky, indeed downright bitchy friend Jackie (Silvia Solar) proves no help but hints Michael might be vexed she rented their flat to creepy lodger John Kirk Lawford (Bruno Corazzari). A cryptic phone-call from Michael lures Peggy to a deserted aircraft hanger where she is shot at by an unknown killer in black leather. After a narrow escape she returns home to find the police gathered around John's bloody corpse with the killer still at large. Whereupon the real John Kirk Lawford (Angel del Pozo) appears on the scene to take up residence at Peggy's flat, outing the dead man as an impostor. More murders occur rendering poor Peggy almost as confused and dumbfounded as the audience...
Also known by the charming alternate title Hot Lips of the Killer (which one presumes is meant to divert attention to pouty Peggy, given the real culprit has conspicuously less attractive lips), this obscure, London-set, Spanish-Italian giallo would be entirely unremarkable were it not headlined by bonafide cult star Gillian Hills. The strawberry blonde British actress and singer had a fascinating career. From essaying the title role in British teensploitation classic Beat Girl (1959) at age fifteen, Hills went on to a chart-topping career in French pop, a role in cult children's television fantasy The Owl Service, cameos romping in memorable three-ways in both Blow-Up (1966) - alongside Jane Birkin (steady, lads) - and A Clockwork Orange (1971), and a strong role in underrated Hammer horror Demons of the Mind (1972). In later years Hills' artistic talent begat a third career as an illustrator of paperback covers, drawing among others those for Peter Benchley's The Deep and Virginia Andrews' Flowers in the Attic. Many publishers cited her covers as a significant factor in making bestsellers of both. Today Hills' intelligence and keen wit are readily discernible from her website which, among others, includes shrewd insights into those films she made with Stanley Kubrick and Michelangelo Antonioni, while a performance of one of her classic French hits: 'Zou Bisou Bisou' by Jessica Paré on Mad Men revived interest in her music career.
If only The Killer Wears Gloves were as fascinating as its leading lady. Alas, it is a dreary, unremarkable murder mystery weighed down with clumsy red herrings and laboured comic relief. The latter centres largely around the sitcom antics of henpecked landlord Anthony (Goyo Lebrero) and his battleaxe of a wife (Irene D'Astrea). A running gag where they mistakenly think Peggy is pregnant falls as flat as director Juan Bosch's attempts to weave an air of mystery around an impenetrable storyline, but does yield one classic diatribe about artificial insemination: "You're screwed by a geezer in a freezer!" Along with this dodgy duo straight out of an episode of Man About the House the film flings a flamboyantly gay neighbour (Carlos Otero) into the mix and a would-be hilarious moment when Peggy accidentally shoots his beloved cat! Unintentional cat murder aside, Gillian Hills is a beguiling presence with her delightful cut-glass accent and Seventies cover girl leather outfits. Sadly the plot reduces her to squealing, pouting and disrobing for no clear reason beyond Bosch relying on titillation to keep the audience awake. Of course when it comes to exploitation cinema, the best kind of nudity is gratuitous nudity so alongside our fetching lead, Euro-horror and sexploitation regular Orchidea de Santis adds more in a brief role as a decorative victim.
While the puzzle-like plot is no more convoluted nor borderline incoherent than the next giallo, what The Killer Wears Gloves lacks is a clear sense of style. Juan Bosch - more active in paella westerns, though he also made Exorcismo (1974) with Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy a.k.a. Jacinto Molina - stages suspense sequences competently. But despite his use of subliminal edits, distorted lenses and slow-motion the murder set-pieces prove pedestrian. Given the poor quality of most widely available prints it is hard to gage whatever merits the cinematography by Julio Peres de Rojas may have originally had but its murky, greeny-brown tones unintentionally befit the dreary atmosphere of not-so-swinging Seventies London. Although Peggy pleasingly grows into a more assertive, proactive protagonist as the plot progresses, exhibiting increasing degrees of cleverness and courage in some tight spots, the plot conspires to repeatedly have these shifty, smarmy guys steamroller their way into her life to boss her around. There is really no role for glowering Spanish actor Angel del Pozo's nondescript character to play in this story, especially given he shares zero chemistry with his leading lady. Yet the film still has him manhandle his way into a romantic clinch with Gillian Hills at the finale, exhibiting a faintly creepy sense of entitlement as he helps himself to both the heroine and her money. Along with Gillian, Marcello Giombini's jazzy score ranks among the film's few merits.