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A stab in the dark

Even if you're not a devotee of Italian giallo cinema, you may have picked up on the movie grapevine that the genre has a reputation for being, shall we say, a tad misogynistic. If this has not occurred to you before then a title like Strip Nude for Your Killer [Nude per l'assassino] should remove all doubt. Get your clothes off and then I'm going to murder you, and that's an order. Do it, woman, or else. Or else what, exactly? If you're asking that then you've definitely not seen much giallo. The difference here is that the victims, though often short on clothing at time of death, are not all women and the killer is of indeterminate gender. So does that mean this most luridly titled giallo is actually not misogynistic? In a pig's eye.

It kicks off with an abortion that goes bad when the fashion model patient dies of cardiac arrest. The doc panics and gives photographer Carlo a call (we're left to assume it was he who arranged the whole thing), and the two men haul the girl's body across town and plonk it in her bathtub. There, she must have died at home, and as long as the coroner doesn't take too close a look they should be fine. And this being a giallo film, the police are idiots and no-one suspects a thing. The doctor soon gets to taste sweet justice, however, when he is stabbed to death on his way home by a leather-clad figure wearing motorcycle helmet. Coincidence? Could be. But probably not.

We next catch sight of our Carlo, whose conscience doesn't appear the least bit troubled by his actions, when he spies good looking, bikini-dressed Lucia at his health club and immediately trots after her taking pictures of her rump. You could be a model, he tells her, and in no time at all has persuaded her to strip off in the sauna so that he can photograph her body and then jump on it, which she happily agrees to. Did I mention that this might be a tad sexist?

Still, Carlo's as good as his word and drags Lucia along to his comically named workplace, Albatross Studios, and introduces her to boss lady Gisella Montani, who likes her enough to also sleep with her. It's a tough business, fashion photography. Pretty soon it gets tougher when the heavy-breathing, black-clad killer starts targeting studio employees. First to go is Mario, a camp, middle-aged assistant photographer who appears to have been on friendly terms with his murderer. Ooo, who could it be? Next up is Lucia. She's nude before the killer gets there because Gisella's only just hopped out of her bed. This time the killer taunts her with the sound of running water and us with flash frames of...well, what exactly? A girl in a bath? Is this a clue? Maybe...

Carlo, meanwhile, has hooked up with pretty art director Magda and gets into an argument with Gisella over what each of them are not telling the police about the other. Is Carlo the killer? We're certainly being encouraged to think so. A little too forcefully if the truth be told. What about Gisella? Maybe there's a reason she's pissed off all the time. And what about Gisella's lecherous husband, the one who comes on to model Doris but bursts into tears when she agrees to bang him and ends up instead with a blow-up doll? No, he's too big to fit into that motorcycle get-up, and not long after he strips nude he's also killed. The bodies start piling up, and despite all the victims being connected to the studio, the police are baffled. Or at least we assume they are from the nonsense that comes out of the lead investigator's mouth.

Oh yeah, the dubbing. Us giallo horror fans have long ago got used to watching mouths do one thing while the soundtrack does another. It comes with the territory, or at least it used to before multilingual DVDs gave us the choice. If the dub is a half-decent one you let it go. If it draws attention to itself then it's time to say something. Well, I think it's talk time.

We all know that subtitling is preferable to dubbing on a film whose spoken language is not our own. It's not just to do with what the actors say, but how they say it. These people were directed to deliver specific words in a specific way, and redubbing their voices in another language usually messes with both. Lines are changed to fit the mouth movements and the length of time that a character speaks, the voices are often those of voice artists rather than screen actors of similar experience, and the dub itself is usually overseen by people who had nothing to do with the original production. Artistic integrity aside, this process, if badly handled, can easily turn workable scripts and performances into laughable rubbish. Watch a dubbed film and you cannot seriously judge either.

On that basis, let's blame the dub. We have to blame someone, and unless I hear the actors speaking with their own voices and see a decent translation pop up at the bottom of screen, that works for me. This is a murder mystery, and there are a lot of questions asked and opinions offered, and many of them – at least in the English language dub – will have you wincing. Even by giallo movie standards, the cops here are dumb and ultimately surplus to requirements, disappearing completely before the end and having no part in the resolution or its aftermath. My favourite bit sees them competing with Gisella to see who is the most socially unaware following the death of Mario, a man who dresses and talks like Quentin Crisp in his heyday. He's obviously not dropping enough clues for his boss, who tells Inspector Stupid that "Mario gave the impression of not being at all interested in women," something she's worked out from his failure to hit on any of the models. Inspector Stupid looks almost offended. "He was a homosexual?" he asks, all stony faced. I'm amazed this guy was even aware he was involved in a murder investigation.

The dub, however, can only take part of the blame for the spectacularly clunky attempts to dress Carlo up as the prime red herring. No sooner has Magda asked how he got to know Lucia than his hands are round her throat and he's spitting out warnings of the consequences of her nosiness. Does she run screaming from the room? Does she hell. Seconds later the two are chatting away cheerily like it never happened. Did I mention...? Oh forget it. Accusations of misogyny are part and parcel of the giallo genre, but Strip Nude wears it like a badge of honour. Carlo in particular is a man in need to a sharp kick to the goolies, a serial seducer whose attitude to women is summed up when he wakes up the morning after giving Magda a seeing to and demands milk in his coffee. When she can't deliver he lets her off, just this once, as it's her first time (it's also her bloody flat), but warns her that she'd better not let it happen again. I was actually surprised he didn't end the sentence with "you bitch."

Sympathy figures are in short supply. The models are dopey and compliant, Gisella is permanently tetchy, her husband is a sleazy lecher, and Carlo is a self-satisfied dick. Guessing the killer's identity is made easier by the obviousness of his or her gender and the fact that he or she has killed or attacked everyone else by the time they are unmasked.

Does all this matter? Not a lot. Much of it is par for the giallo course, including a sometimes cheesy music score. In delivering on expectations, the film does well on the casual nature of its plentiful nudity – no Swedish plumbers here – and does a reasonable job on the build-up to the killings, the camera following the victim-to-be as they nervously investigate the sounds that betray the murderer's presence (that two of the houses are clearly the same set is something we'll let pass). The killings themselves are a bit of a let-down, at least by genre standards, all stabbing motions and post-murder blood, with hardly a make-up effect to be seen. The pace is brisk, and there's a through-the-windscreen drive across town without stopping for traffic that's almost a short film in it's own right. But the story only really surprises when it ignores its own logic, and there are plot holes large enough to herd buffalo though.

Strip Nude for Your Killer plays it by the giallo numbers and lacks the stylistic flourishes and taste-busting excesses that distinguish the genre's finer works. It's well enough made, but the sometimes comically poor dubbed dialogue and delivery robs the performances of any class they may have had in the original Italian. In the end, you're more likely to remember the film for Carlo's lairy sexism than for it's story or its set-pieces. He saves his worst for last, a final behavioural aberration that has naff all to do with the plot and appears to have been included just to drop a few jaws in disbelief.

sound and vision

A generally clean and robust anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer that gets seriously grainy in a few of the night shots and flickers a bit towards the end, but is otherwise in fine shape. Colours are strong when they need to be (the orange lighting in the night club), and detail drifts between slightly soft and pleasingly crisp. A few glitches and the odd burst of dust aside, this is a very good transfer.

A clean, reasonably clear Dolby 2.0 mono soundtrack with no noise or distortion.

extra features

Theatrical Trailer (1:24)
A formless collection of snippets. As on some previous Shameless discs, I'm not completely convinced this is the original trailer.


Not my favourite Shameless release, Strip Nude for Your Killer has an ask-for-it title and a typical giallo structure, but has nothing to really make it stand out from the crowd. It does have the most annoying central character I've seen in a film all year, but how much of this is down to the English dub is hard to say. The presentation is fine, however, so if the film floats your boat then the disc delivers.

Strip Nude for Your Killer
[Nude per l'assassino]

Italy 1975
98 mins
Andrea Bianchi
Edwige Fenech
Nino Castelnuovo
Femi Benussi
Solvi Stubing

DVD details
region 2
2.35:1 anamorphic
Dolby 2.0 mono
subtitles .

release date
27 October 2008
review posted
28 October 2008

See all of Gort's reviews