Wednesday, October 27, 2010

31 Days Of Horror: Day 27: The Unseen #47: The Fifth Cord

Why’d I Buy It?: Given to me during the closing days of the great Insomniac.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: No real reason. I decided to give The Fifth Cord a shot because even if Hugo Stiglitz ain’t doing it this year, “There’s always room for Giallo!” (Har Har). I don’t really know. I’d always heard that The Fifth Cord was kind of a seminal Giallo film. Containing all the elements of the genre….

How Was It?: True to form does assemble most of the things that you think of when you think of Giallo. Black gloves, eurosleaze, intricate plots which hinge on odd gimmicky details (in this case The Zodiac), brutal murders, sex, stylistic excess, creepy women of a certain age, Franco Nero.

Unfortunately the only genre typical element it leaves out of the mix is the fun.

I have to admit I’m a bit disappointed with The Fifth Cord. Call it over build up, but I expected a lot from the film. Instead I found the murderous set pieces underwhelming, the cast almost perversely unlikable and unengaging and the mystery sailing beyond merely incomprehensible, as in most (bad) gialli, and instead falling into the giddy reaches of flat out apathetic gibberish. With an ending guaranteed to make you go “Wah?”

The story follows Nero, as a drunken newspaper writer assigned to cover a string of brutal murders across the city. Things quickly go pear shaped when it turns out that all the victims where at a party Nero attended earlier. And in true Gialli fashion he’s being set up for the kill.

Franco Nero who is normally a guaranteed great time at the movies, gives the most tremendously charisma free performance I’ve ever seen him give. Playing an alcoholic, woman beating, asshole. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting a dark anti hero at the center of your film but the movie expects us to view him as unabashedly heroic. He stumbles through the film in a stupor like an Italian Tommy Wiseau.

The film looks beautiful, which is kind of what tends to happen when you have Vittorio Storaro shooting your film. (Also in the film's plus column a score by Ennio Morricone. The film has nothing if not a top notch crew)

But even then much celebrated decadent look of the picture proves to be a hindrance at times; no real life creeps into the movie even when it’s at its most vicious. It’s hard to be that upset when viewing a murder when instead of thinking something along the lines of “Oh no they’re dying.” All you can think of is how relentlessly formal the shot you’re looking at is. (Truth in criticism there is one spectacular suspense piece shot almost entirely from floor level that does deserve mad props).

But Gialli depends on more then exotic euro sleaze. There’s a certain fleetness, both in style and narrative that makes a fan of the subgenre forgive the expected occasional blasts of nonsensical incomprehensibility. And at the end of the day The Fifth Cord just doesn’t have that, nor the rooting interest in the cast that the genre thrives on.


Budd said...

and you are a winner!

Bryce Wilson said...

Thanks Budd. That's very generous of you.

Neil Fulwood said...

I've toyed on and off with buying this one on import (very very few gialli have Region 2 releases, so I have to order in the titles I want from American distributors); this review makes me glad I didn't stump up for it!

Biba Pickles said...

I want those sunglasses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Neil: It's really nothing to write home about. Though one again, I wouldn't really dissuade anyone from seeing it. Particularly a genre enthusiast such as yourself.

A blind buy would definitely be spotty.

@ Biba: So do I.