While waiting for her boyfriend in Rome, glamorous photographer Kitty (Susan Scott) spies a woman being knifed to death by a maniac wearing (can you guess, giallo fans?) a black leather trenchcoat and hat and who walks with a cane. Unfortunately, Kitty’s coin-operated telescope blacks out before she can see the killer’s face while passers-by prove unhelpful, boyfriend Alberto (Robert Hoffman) behaves suspiciously and the cloddish cops seem disinterested at best. But when the corpse is recovered and the chestnut vendor who also saw the event is razored to death, dim bulb Inspector Merughi (Jorge Martin) targets Alberto as prime suspect. Gutsy journalist Lydia Aright (Anuska Berova) juggles her strained sex life with impotent composer Marco (Simón Andreu) and frosty relations with spiteful sister Sylvia (also Borova) whilst attempting to track down other witnesses. Also on the trail for clues is Alberto, determined to prove his innocence, but the killer with the cane is one step ahead of them all.
Another vehicle for giallo goddess Susan Scott, the woman who can’t stay away from trouble or keep her clothes on for very long, bless her. Following Death Walks on High Heels (1971) and Death Walks At Midnight (1972) - both tailor-made for Scott by her director husband Luciano Ercoli - Death Carries a Cane (can you see a pattern emerging here?) spins an outrageously contrived murder mystery. Throughout the unfolding narrative Maurizio Pradeaux throws subtlety to the wind and zooms in on blatant red herrings: Gasp! Alberto has the same black hat! Zounds! Sylvia walks with a cane! Eek! Richard (perennial shifty bloke Luciano Rossi) is shopping for a new straight razor!
Yet while the plot is often ridiculous - notably when Kitty volunteers as bait to draw out the killer by going undercover as a streetwalker - the twin strands are somewhat skilfully intertwined. The murders themselves are suitably suspenseful with the chase through the greenhouse providing a suitably nightmarish denouement and the film is rich in the genre’s usual, disreputable pleasures: groovy Seventies fashions and gratuitous gore and nudity. An abundance of sex scenes are woven into the plot, reaching beyond the ever-insatiable Scott to include virtually the entire female cast but remarkably do contribute something to the story besides titilation, and that includes the pink-tinged lesbian love flashback. The film is sullied by the usual casual sexism as when Alberto remarks photography “is the only thing Kitty does well besides make love” and later eases her suspicions by growling “you better cut that jazz and get into bed.” Dopey Inspector Merughi proves even more callous when he remarks a murdered witness is on her way to the station “in a meat wagon.”
Counterbalancing this misogyny is the presentation of several notable female characters as vivacious and capable, while the film further includes a sympathetic lesbian who doesn’t have to suffer for her sexual preferences. Of course Kitty may solve the mystery but still spends the finale screaming for her boyfriend’s help, so let’s not get carried away with the praise. Truth be told, the cluttered plot gives Scott less screen time than usual but Anuska Berova registers strongly in her dual roles, making it a shame this appears to be her only film.