Venice in Film : Solamente Nero

This is another Venetian giallo, this time from 1978, which went under the (frankly rubbish) title of The Bloodstained Shadow in English-speaking countries. Spoiler : although there may be plenty of shadows in this film, none of them are bloodstained.

Nevertheless, this is actually a pretty stylish film and a fine example of the genre. The plot is a simple one : Stefano, a young college student, returns to Murano to visit his brother, Paolo, a local priest. Over lunch (a very Venetian meal of quails and polenta), Don Paolo tells him all about some of the more dubious members of his congregation. Members who soon start to die, in increasingly unpleasant ways. Stefano and Don Paolo work to uncover the mystery before they, too, become victims.

There are, as I said, plenty of shadows in this film, and one of them is the mighty shadow of Profondo Rosso, released to enormous commercial success three years earlier. Like Argento’s film, Solamente Nero uses a medium as a primary character, casts one of the grande signore of Italian cinema in something of a comeback role (Laura Nucci instead of Argento’s Clara Calamai), and plays very much with the concept of false memory.

Amongst the actors, Lino Capolicchio was apparently almost cast in Profondo Rosso but had to drop out following a car crash. Stefania Casini had recently appeared in Suspiria. Craig Hill, who had a long career in spaghetti westerns, makes a surprisingly convincing priest. The score, although composed by the great Stelvio Cipriani, also features contributions by Argento’s favourite collaborators Goblin (uncredited, due to a contractual dispute with their record company).

It isn’t the equal of Profondo Rosso, but that’s a very high bar. It’s very stylishly directed by Antonio Bido who makes good use of the Venetian locations, using a muted palette of pale greens, blues and greys. There are a number of effective jump scares and the murders are actually quite brilliantly filmed. Bido didn’t go on to have much of a career and, on this evidence, that’s a great shame.

If you feel inclined to seek it out, do try and get the Italian version – dubbing is always a problem with films of this genre as there would typically be an American/British actor involved in the hope of selling them abroad. This one isn’t particularly well dubbed and I found the accents distracting.

Should you see it? Well, yes, I think so, but with my usual caveat – it’s not a particularly violent film but the murders are pretty nasty so if that’s not your thing you may prefer to stay away. Otherwise, if giallo’s your game, I can highly recommend this.

And long-term giallo fans will be pleased to note the obligatory J&B whisky bottle in one scene…!

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