Italian director Lucio Fulci’s dusty giallo thriller from 1977 – also known as Murder to the Tune of the Seven Black Notes – has been retrieved from the shelf of some rights holder’s back catalogue and spruced up for rerelease. That gives us all a chance to appreciate, either anew or for the first time, its glorious deployment of tacky camera zooms, lurid colours and dubbed dialogue – the latter being a particularly evocative hallmark of 1970s Italian cinema, just a fraction out of sync with the actors’ lip movements. And like many other so-called classics from the giallo cupboard, the script is cheesy tosh with a nasty taste for violence against women; you have to put it down as par for the course given the time it was made. However, the clothes, interior design and general film-making flair are divine.
American-Brazilian model turned actor Jennifer O’Neill – a CoverGirl cover girl for years – looks consistently soignée throughout, in 50 shades of taupe plus pearls and gold baubles as Virginia, a woman burdened with the gift of second sight. As a child, she was aware that her mother was falling off a cliff at the very moment it happened, even if mum happened to be falling off a cliff in Dover while Virginia was in Florence. In the film’s mid-70s present, Virginia is newly married to a wealthy Italian businessman named Francesco (Gianni Garko), a smoothie who seems a little too good to be true. The newlyweds’ happiness is blighted by the fact that Virginia keeps having psychic visions of a murder scene, which turns out to be in Francesco’s family villa where – oops! – a young woman’s corpse is bricked up behind a wall. A paranormal detective (Marc Porel) offers Virginia advice, as does Francesco’s equally suspicious-looking sister Gloria (B-movie legend Ida Galli), who has an even more fabulous wardrobe full of sleek outfits she coordinates with her many intricate hairdos. When the blood finally starts to flow it is the most lurid shade of red, a bit orange-y like the pulp of a sanguinello orange.
If the “seven black notes” that play a crucial role in the story sound familiar, that’s because Quentin Tarantino included them in Kill Bill Vol 1. Indeed, the electronic-tinged score by composer Fabio Frizzi holds up just as well the tailoring.