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  My Dear Killer who could kill a child?
Year: 1971
Director: Tonino Valerii
Stars: George Hilton, Salvo Radone, William Berger, Patty Shepard, Tulio Valli, Dana Ghia, Marilù Tolo, Helga Line, Manolo Zarzo, Piero Lulli, Dante Maggio, Alfredo Mayo, Corrado Gaipa
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: In one of the most memorable opening scenes of any giallo, a man is hoisted into the air and messily decapitated by a mechanical dredger. My Dear Killer segues into a haunting lullaby theme by maestro Ennio Morricone before introducing Inspector Luca Peretti (giallo regular George Hilton). Peretti discovers the victim, Paradisi (Corrado Gaipa) worked for the insurance company handling the infamous ‘Maroni Case’ - where little Stefania Maroni was kidnapped, her wealthy father set out to pay the ransom and was found dead alongside his daughter a few days later. The kidnappers were never brought to justice. Peretti follows a trail of clues that leads to Paradisi’s mistress (Helga Line), Stefania’s schoolteacher (Patty Shepard), and the shifty, surviving members of the Maroni family, but a ruthless killer is close behind, viciously eliminating all witnesses.

Despite a multi-authored screenplay, this giallo is among the most thoughtful, coherent and well written of its kind. My Dear Killer delivers the gore, nudity and suspense fans expect from the genre, but also assembles a compelling, often poignant story. The slow pace and occasional scenes of domestic rows between Peretti and his wife (Marilu Tolo - onetime girlfriend of Dario Argento) may turn off less patient horror fans, but provide space for the mystery to build and add welcome layers of subtext. While the Perettis struggle to conceive a child, the Inspector grows unnerved by a world that would so ruthlessly exploit an innocent girl, especially when suspicion falls on the Maroni’s old family friend (Alfredo Mayo), an artist who may be a paedophile. “You know how artists are”, says one character, a remark that underlines the struggle between conservative suspicions and libertarian freedoms within the giallo genre.

The key statement here is: “Nobody ever knows anything.” Peretti finds his investigation hindered not just by the devious killer, who proves particularly brazen and nasty, but by an all too believable succession of indifferent cops, bureaucratic red tape and confused witnesses. After the killer strangles one victim in broad daylight, Peretti questions three witnesses and gets three different descriptions. As Peretti uncovers a series of complex family feuds, lies and cover-ups, he winds up leading the killer to his victims. Tonino Valerii makes good use of the widescreen frame, particularly during a flashback to Stefania’s kidnapping and a lengthy stalking and bloody murder of a woman with a power saw. Impressively staged and disturbing, shot from the killer’s point of view. “They’re sending the pieces along for autopsy”, wisecracks one callous cop. Valerii was a protégé of Sergio Leone and later co-directed the memorable comedy-western My Name is Nobody (1973).

This was a Spanish-Italian co-production, which explains the presence of actresses normally associated with Hispanic horror: Helga Line (Horror Express (1972)) and Patty Shepard (Werewolf Shadow (1971)). Interestingly, the crucial race to stop killer does not involve an imperilled babe, but a brave, old woman who holds a vital clue. This idiosyncratic invention extends to having the final revelation provided by the murdered child herself, an act that lends a heartrending poignancy to the closing shot.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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