Four years ago, a little girl was playing in the winter landscape with her nanny, and all seemed well until she slid into the nearby forest on her sledge, which was the last time the nanny, or anyone, saw her alive as she was murdered and buried in the snow. Now, in 1972, sculptor Franco Serpieri (George Lazenby) lives in Venice away from his estranged wife, but today is at the airport to welcome his young daughter Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi) who is going to spend a vacation with him away from her London home. However, the city might not be as safe as Franco thinks it is, especially as Roberta bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead girl of those years back...
Who Saw Her Die?, or Chi l'ha vista morire? as it was known in its native Italy, marked only George Lazenby's third big screen appearance after his fame-inducing turn as James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and his fame-destroying turn in pet project Universal Soldier, and he did not look well at all. He had purportedly lost weight for the role, but on this evidence he had gone too far as he looked about ten years older than his James Bond with a haggard appearance offset by a porn star moustache; it's almost painful to see him like this. So while that is distracting, it wouldn't be too much of a burden of the mystery was up to scratch.
And for the first half hour there's a definite suspense to director Aldo Lado's giallo, as Roberta (played by one of the most recognisable child actresses in Italian horror of that decade) blithely wanders around Venice, sometimes at night on her own, and Franco doesn't seem to believe there's anything wrong with that. Yet by the way we keep seeing point of view shots of her from under a veil, it's obvious to us that there is someone stalking her, although there are so many of these shots that you have to wonder, hey, didn't anyone notice this sinister figure skulking around all the time? Apparently not, as about half an hour in Roberta has been murdered and nobody knows who the killer is.
Now, at this point the tension should have gone into overdrive as Franco obsessively searches Venice for any clue as to the identity of the murderer, having no faith in the Italian police, naturally. But what happens is that tedium sets in as a selection of red herrings are thrown up and dispatched with over the course of the last two thirds, and you begin to stop caring whether Lazenby can negotiate the tired plot twists at all. Lado was experienced in this genre, but aside from a superficial similarity to the classic horror Don't Look Now, which this threatens to anticipate for a while but never really does, inspiration appears to have deserted him with this dreary effort.
It's a pity, as the mood of impending tragedy during the build up to the daughter's death has a genuine sense of loss to it, but after that all you are offered is a plot of intrigue in the art world with a few murders edited in, so that every time Franco thinks he has this sussed, his main suspect is bumped off. The location of Venice will always be a cinematic one, and that's no less true here with the area's atmosphere and distinctive look providing perhaps the best reason for sticking with this. Well, that and finding out who the villain is, although by the climax their name might as well have been picked out of a hat for all the resonance it has. It's no help that their motive is muffled when the explanation arrives, so you might even end the film none the wiser about what was really going on. In spite of its subject matter, the film doesn't dwell on violence, and with a few updates could easily play, remade, as a Sunday night TV mystery. Music by Ennio Morricone, heavy on the creepy children's choir.