02nd Apr2015

‘Giallo Double Feature’ Blu-ray Review (Illusions UNLTD / Ascot Elite)

by Mondo Squallido


(La morte ha fatto l’uovo a.k.a Death Laid an Egg, A Curious Way to Love & Plucked)

1968, dir: Giulio Questi


Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Great Silence) stars as Marco, a wealthy man who runs a high-tech chicken farm (living the dream right there!) with his wife Anna, played by Gina Lollabrigadia (Beat the Devil). When not taking care of business, Marco has a nasty little habit. He likes to murder prostitutes. Yep, a guy who breeds chickens with no bones or heads for a living needs some sort of distraction right? Not only that, but he also has a thing for his lovely young and nubile secretary Gabrielle, played by Ewa Aulin (Death Smiles at Murder). She lives with the married couple in their grandiose estate. Unsurprisingly, Anna is rather suspicious of her husband and his hobbies. Uncertainty in relationships becomes a running theme with pretty much every character in the film having their own secrets and agendas. From Marco’s sick little hobby and his plans for Anna and Gabrielle, to disgruntled farm workers and Mandaini, a marketing expert played by Jean Sobieski (Italian Secret Service), who has more than just abstract marketing campaigns on his mind. Everyone is as guilty as something as they are suspicious. Who will come out on top? Who plans what? Will Marco’s sick little secret be revealed? One thing is for certain, no man, woman, chicken or dog (you heard me right!) is safe!


In Questi’s world, everyone is clearly mad. From the opening sequence depicting several unrelated  characters (to the main film that is) doing bizarre things, right until the end of the film. Everyone is capable of the doing their worst to get what they want. What we have here is a story filled with lust, greed and violence. The film plays out more like a piece of pop art cinema rather than a ‘conventional’ gialli. That being said, there are some clear elements and motifs of the gialli. A surreal and often dreamlike experience is in store for you. This is helped by some wonderful and inventive cinematography by Dario De Palma (The Clowns) and a jarring, often unsettling score from Bruno Maderna (The Temptress), a talent who unfortunately passed away in 1973 before his career really took off. Those aesthetic elements combine to make a truly one of a kind film. Not only that, be warned that the film does contain some rather odd and disturbing imagery relating to the chickens on the farm, real footage combined with the obscene, yet realistic looking new species of chickens are very powerful, but completely relevant and adds to the film. Although the film oozing with style, it’s also full of substance. A solid story that is at times complex, but rarely overly confusing or contrived. Franco Arcalli (Once Upon a Time in America) has penned a very solid thriller indeed. There is never a dull moment and it’s just so damn entertaining from start to finish. It’s a great thriller with equally great performances from everyone involved. The film could also be read as a satire or attack on the rich and big business, let’s not forget that is from an era (and genre) that was often filled with socially conscious cinema. Combine all of that with a twist and finale that you won’t forget too soon. I’m really in the mood for some KFC right now!


(Yellow: le cugine)

1969, dir: Gianfranco Baldanello


Lisa Seagram (The Carpetbaggers) stars as a lonely, yet beautiful spinster named Marta. She has just recently buried her grandfather after devoting her life to his care. To make matters worse, he left his wealth and estate to Marta’s younger cousin Valentina, played by the lovely Caterina Barbero (The Gestapo’s Last Orgy). Valentina is the complete polar opposite of her cousin. She is a fun loving free spirit. After the funeral, Valentina and her husband Pierre, played by Maurizio Bonuglia (The Perfume of the Lady in Black) drop by the estate to begin their new life of luxury. Things are going swimmingly for the young couple until Marta’s ever growing sexual frustration gets the best of her (a super sexy sitar house party will do that to you!) and the next day she finds herself in the arms of Pierre. Unfortunately for Marta, Valentina snaps a photo and seemingly couldn’t be happier… Until she is killed in an apparent accident! Was it actually an accident or was there foul play involved? Could it be the money loving gold-digger husband? The sexually repressed cousin who is doing what she can to maintain her wholesome and virtuous name? Maybe it’s even one of the many disgruntled housekeepers? Don’t worry, we have one of those pesky detectives played by Renato De Carmine (The Return of White Fang) on hand to his best to work it all out!


What we have here is a fairly solid thriller. A story filled once again with lust and greed. There are a few twists and turns here and there that aren’t too obvious nor are they absurd. Not only that, but themes of the psychosexual type are touched upon. In a way, the film is similar to the previous title as it also shows what some people are capable of doing to get what they want. The film is nicely shot for the most part by Luciano Trasatti (Count Dracula), especially in the exterior scenes. On scoring duty is Coriolano Gori (Massacre Time) with a smooth, flowing and sometimes funky effort that works wonderfully with the imagery. All in all, a decent thriller that has its moments and is entertaining for the most part. Some parts drag, but even though Bruno Mattei (Hell of the Living Dead) is on editing duty, the film is still has coherent pace (love you really Bruno!). I also won’t complain that for the majority of her screen time, Valentina gives us sleazehounds what we want. That being said, Marta is the centre of attention in my book if we are going to be shallow! I will say that this is probably the weakest of the two films. It’s not awful by any stretch of the imagination, I feel it just lacked where Death Laid an Egg shined.

Overall, this is a fantastic release for giallo fans new and old. Yes, these may be earlier efforts in the genre, but they’re still very entertaining thrillers that helped paved the way for the likes of Argento and Martino who became just a couple of the masters of the genre. It’s great that both these films are now widely available, especially the latter film which to my knowledge hasn’t seen a major home release until now. In terms of the transfer, both films look and sound wonderful. Death Laid an Egg fairs better than the two mainly for the imagery of the film and for the fact that there is clear print damage to Yellow: le cugine. Is it worth picking up the Blu-Ray for sound and image quality? I’d definitely say so! Both films are presented in German with English subtitles. In terms of special features you get photo galleries for both films, the original Italian print of Death Laid an Egg that includes English subs, a short video showing differences between both versions, a video looking at the restoration of Yellow: le cugine, a trailer for Death Laid an Egg and liner notes (in German) by writer and film historian, Christian Kessler. This is an essential release for fans of the genre and one of the best releases of the year so far.

The Giallo Double Feature is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Illusions UNLTD / Ascot Elite.


Comments are closed.