See Naples and Die

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GIALLO NAPOLETANA isn’t a giallo in the usual, Dario Argento sense, being more interested in detective mystery than drawn-out setpiece assassinations — all of the murders are committed by defenestration and seen from outside, so they’re unusually brief. It’s also as much of a comedy as a thriller, with Marcello Mastroianni as a humble mandolinist, legs disabled by polio, who has to contend with his gambling-addict father, played by popular Italian comic Peppino de Felippo (like many comedians from Italy, very much a local/acquired taste), before getting embroiled with gangsters, the police, and a serial killer.

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I guessed during the movie that it might be adapted from a book, but it isn’t: it does however have a separate credit for story, which ties in which the strange disconnect I was feeling as I watched: the tone is just OFF. Mastroianni is playing a low-status loser, like Jim Rockford, pushed around by all the other characters, so we’re sympathetic, but the movie seems to want us to laugh AT him, or at his Job-like travails. Mastroianni does his best with a typically spirited turn, topped off with a ludicrous hairstyle.

There’s also tacky jokes about the insane asylum where some of the action takes us, though this wasn’t as bad as I feared, and then the story turns out to have an unexpected Holocaust connection, which jars so badly with the would-be jaunty manner of the movie that I would probably have bailed on it in disgust if it wasn’t virtually over by that point.

On paper, the best joke may be the way everybody keeps falling from windows/high places, but this plays out in a slightly weary way. The very last moments before the final freeze-frame are laugh-out-loud funny, which is saying something because by then we were feeling pretty hostile to the movie. one the whole, a serious giallo from this director — Sergio Corbucci of DJANGO and THE BIG SILENCE fame — would have been a more attractive proposition.

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This is a shame because the movie looks quite nice, despite it being almost the eighties, and its twisty narrative unfolds in a genuinely intriguing way — you have to find out what happens next, or Fiona and I did. Plus you get Ornella Muti, Michel Piccoli, and Capucine (but the movie wastes her beauty and comic talent).

So, only occasionally funny, not a proper giallo, likely to leave a bad taste in your mouth… but perhaps worth seeing as a lesson in slick mystery plotting. And also it’s a Christmas movie! Watch it in a month and feel bad.

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2 Responses to “See Naples and Die”

  1. The one she’ll be remember for, definitely.

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