Within the first minutes of Who Saw Her Die?, A young girl is murdered at the hands of an unidentifiable woman dressed in black with a veil covering her face. Flash forward four years and we see the young Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi of Baron Blood and Deep Red fame) arriving from London to visit her father, Franco (George Lazenby), a local sculptor. Eventually, she too is stalked by a veiled woman dressed in black and subsequently murdered, her body found floating in the canal. After learning their daughter may be the victim of an active serial killer, Franco and his estranged wife, Elizabeth (Anita Strindberg), begin their own investigation. What they uncover is a conspiracy involving the upper echelon of Venice, and a killer who has a taste for young red-heads who has begun removing anyone making attempts at revealing their identity.
Aldo Lado‘s second entry into the giallo library is a film that in many ways rivals other more well known films of the genre. When dealing with the murder of children, or pedophilia, a film can easily travel down the route of sleaze and can quite often have too much of an exploitive feel to it – leaving the viewer feeling dirty while watching. Aldo Lado sidesteps all of this and is able to craft a classy film regardless of the subject matter. While the giallo pre-requisites are all here (murders, sex, nudity, flash backs, the black glove) Aldo went a bit further than one expects with these types of films by putting more effort into character development. Giallo are known for many things, but character development and great acting are not usually what one normally expects, but Aldo gets a decent performance out of the cast, in particular Lazenby and Strinberg. George Lazenby is in stark contrast to his previous Agent 007 outing, and as Franco, is shockingly skinny and gaunt. Whether this is because of his personal life at the time (things were not going to well for Lazenby at the time) or not, it works in his favor, and ultimately the movie in general. His physical appearance helps sell his character being an artist, and later makes him seem more vulnerable when dealing with the loss of his child.
Lazenby plays the role of a loving father fairly straightforward but still comes off convincing, especially in the way Aldo shoots the early scenes between him and his daughter interacting. Even when the time comes for his role to switch to a grieving father, it may come off a little less convincing, but considering his characters circumstances it actually becomes more realistic as it seems as if Franco is using his grief as fuel to push him forward, even when it is very apparent he is in over his head and his own life is in danger. This entire first portion of the film moves at a nice pace and avoids any stumbling blocks, but does bog down a bit during Franco’s investigation. The typical red herrings are shown as well as multiple visits to the same potential subjects all of which slow things down a tad, but never to the extent in which you are looking at your watch. But Aldo gets things moving again in the last act and kicks things back into high gear all the way to the end of the film.
Helping to keep this film in the top tier of giallos, and echoing the overall theme of the film, Franco Di Giacomo‘s cinematography shows two sides of Venice. While it may be impossible to shoot a movie in Venice and not have it look spectacular, Who Saw Her Die? does display beautiful, postcard worthy shots of the city but also turns it lens on some of Venice’s more sinister environments that many tourists never see. With its dark alleys, long, forboding stairways, fog enshrouded canals and abandoned buildings; like the characters in the film, even Venice has a dark side and Giacomo does a superb job in showing it. The music Ennio Morricone creates for the film is an extremely memorable one, even if it is only two pieces used throughout the film. Using a boy’s choir, the score is used to varying degrees of success to make a soundtrack that is hard to forget even if gets a little too loud and the killer’s theme can be bit jarring and overused.
The film may be considered a bit tame when compared to other giallo, as there is no extreme sex or graphic violence, Aldo demonstrates the decision to do so works well. Tacking on too much of either on top of the subject matter could have turned this film into sleazy exploitation (and probably more popular). As usual with any giallo, this film may not be for everyone, but if you are a fan of the genre check out this entertaining film if for nothing more than to see how classy a giallo can be.
Also, note the final line of the film. Director choice or the censors?