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  Skin Under the Claws, The Baboon brained giallo
Year: 1975
Director: Alessandro Santini
Stars: Gordon Mitchell, Geneviève Audray, Tino Boriani, Ettore Ribotta, Augustino De Simone, Renzo Borelli, Mirella Rossi, Franco Rossi, Ada Pometti
Genre: Horror, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  1 (from 1 vote)
Review: Of all the American bodybuilder-turned-stars of Italian sword and sandal films Gordon Mitchell had the craziest post-peplum career. From small parts in Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) and Fellini Satyricon (1969) to unhinged oddities like Diamond Connection (1982), Porno-Erotic Western (1979) and Frankenstein '80 (1973), Mitchell's filmography is bat-shit crazy though he made a fortune renting wild west sets to filmmakers during the Spaghetti western craze. Here, the craggy-faced muscleman plays mad scientist Professor Helmut, introduced ranting about his genius to colleagues Dr. Silvia Pieri (Geneviève Audray) and Dr. Gianni Dani (Tino Boriani). They are too busy flirting in an oh-so-chic-and-Italian way to heed Helmut's claim to have found a way to cheat death thanks to experiments involving baboon brain transplants and reanimated corpses.

Thereafter an unseen man in black (gosh, who could he be?) picks up a chatty prostitute whom, an inept jump-cut later, we next see writhing naked in bloody agony. Chain-smoking Police Commissioner Rinaldi (Ettore Ribotta) is on the case and finds traces of decomposed skin under the victim's fingernails (not claws). As more 'loose' women are raped and killed a forensic scientist startles Rinaldi with his theory the culprit is a walking corpse! Ah, but never mind that. Let's spend more time with Gianni and Silvia while they dine at a restaurant, walk on the beach, dance the night away or share endless fireside chats about art, cars, life, death, love, food, clothes, yak-yak-yak-yak-yak.

An inane romantic drama posing as a hybrid mad scientist horror-cum-giallo, The Skin Under the Claws lacks the resources to do anything worthwhile with its Frankenstein-like concept. Gordon Mitchell, barely in the film in the first place, makes an early exit as Professor Helmut dies off-screen and an autopsy finds his internal organs missing. All the murders occur off-screen as do all the major plot developments (such as they are) while writer-director Alessandro Santini plays the police investigation for bizarre comedy. With the sole witness a rambling drunk and victims' friends inexplicably unable to reveal anything about the deceased it is no wonder snarling Commissioner Rinaldi grows increasingly hot under the collar. In this instance the familiar giallo modus operandi of evading answers until the shock finale proves especially bewildering and frustrating as Santini pads the plot with vacuous characters indulging in endless, inane chatter ("With all my modernity, my refusal to conform, I feel I am being old fashioned and profoundly romantic" - oh do shut up, Silvia!)

Grade-Z production values and ghastly direction render the film's feeble attempts at suspense, pacing, character development and even basic storytelling utterly inept with Francesco Sattuchi's groove-tastic acid jazz score the only notable aspect. Santini ensures a woman disrobes every few scenes to frankly unspectacular effect as, at the risk of sounding unkind, this features the least glamorous cast of any giallo. Smarmy Gianni and gaunt, toothy Silvia are especially uninteresting characters but the film keeps locking us in a room with them anyway before an abrupt if mildly novel twist ending that would pack more emotional punch were we actually invested in their relationship. Prior to that we also have perhaps the least shocking shock twist of all time after which the killer settles next to Silvia on the couch to watch videos of her own ordeal. It would have been crueler to make her watch Skin Under the Claws on a continuous loop.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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