In a sleepy backwater village 30 (or 32) kilometres from Rome, someone is murdering young models. We know it's a man because we can see a brief glimpse of a male face in the opening murder scene, which sees a young woman run screaming through some woods with full-on bap flap while the killer traipses behind her, only for her to inexplicably stop running when she comes within sight of a busy road. Anyway, that's too much detail for a synopsis, so let's push on. Another young model who'd been posing for wheelchair-bound weirdo (these things are not related) Parisi, a photographer who can somehow afford to rent what is clearly meant to be a palatial country house, is murdered-the killer's fifth victim. This model's boyfriend Giorgio, who declined to rescue her from automobile trouble on the night of her murder because he was cock-deep in another lady, decides to travel the 30/32km to investigate her final movements. A bickering couple, Lucia and Antonio, have recently taken up positions as servants in the country house, which is also home to Parisi's wife and niece (who have a bit of a semi-incestuous thing going on [they're not blood relatives, so it's broadly fine apart from the rape aspect]) and is frequently visited by local doctor Dalla. Anyway, Giorgio arrives at the house and thinks about investigating the murder of his gf, and thinks about trying to shag the maid or the niece, and then it turns out that there's another person investigating the murders but even that doesn't matter because the murderer is uncovered by yet another character who uses an invention that doesn't exist.
Yeesh. This is a bad film, but it's certainly not unenjoyable. I'm not going to use the dreaded 'So bad it's good' phrase, but this is not a good film, and its failings do somewhat work in its favour. That's as close to the dreaded phrase as I'll get when discussing a film which isn't The Room. Most of those elements which provide pleasure in traditionally good gialli - the set pieces, the twisty narratives - are MIA. Even narrative illogicality, something of a hallmark of the genre, isn't really present, simply because there basically is no narrative - I've described the set up above, which takes maybe thirty minutes to come together and is followed by almost an hour of Absolutely No Further Developments.
Giorgio is probably the least sympathetic leading character in giallo history (think Nino Castelnuovo in Strip Nude and strip the character metaphorically nude of anything resembling standard human emotions), which is notable at least. His callous dismissal of his girlfriend (or girl friend, possibly)'s request for help on the night of her death doesn't seem to have led to a single second of remorse. He conducts his extremely half-assed investigation not to provide any sense of closure for her or her memory, but rather in the hope of landing a scoop which will advance him in the field of journalism. Unfortunately, despite his lazy, skirt-chasing ways, it seems as if he may indeed have gotten his scoop come the end of the film.
His position as chief investigator is usurped right at the death (after the final death) by another character, who reveals themselves to have been working as a PI all along. The only problem here is that this character has also achieved precisely nothing - they found out some pertinent backstory which somewhat fleshes out the killer's motivations, but did they use this info to ensnare the guilty party? Did they fuck! No, the killer is unmasked through the use of a machine which can 'photograph thoughts', with the proof of guilt supposedly being the killer imagining a young woman with her clothes off. (Probably just as well this machine doesn't exist in real life...) The machine itself is just as batshit as the concept - the camera is hidden in a weird face statue thing with coloured lights for eyes. Not something you'd see every day in a giallo, that's for sure.*
The mystery angle is pretty poor as well - within seconds of the killer first appearing I'd written down something they'd said, followed by "guilty!" It's debatable if there was an attempt to hide the character in plain sight by suggesting their guilt right off the bat with the hope that we'd thus dismiss them as potential suspects - I suspect this theory gives the filmmakers entirely too much credit, even though if that indeed was what they were trying, it's an abject failure. But hey - better to be an abject failure than just boringly miss the mark.
The direction of the murder scenes does, sadly, boringly miss the mark (unless all you want are tits covered in blood). The effects work isn't terrible, but there's little imagination or flair in the staging. Some of the conversation scenes are also poorly directed - a lengthy dinner table scene halfway through sees much of the dialogue either taking place offscreen or being spoken by characters who have their back to the camera. Several scenes, this among them, were covered by a high angle master shot (not a bad idea, and something I did myself in my own giallo), which is a good way of maximising space (and this is badly needed in order to sell the illusion that the main location is a big country house) but there either wasn't the time, money or inclination to get sufficient coverage to make the scenes flow.
Finally, those of you who love a good poliziotteschi/giallo hybrid and whose appetites have been whetted by the title should stand down, as the fuzz only make a single, fleeting appearance at the end of the film. The film was shot under the title 'The Cabbage Patch', which is fairly appropriate in terms of suggesting just how odd and off-kilter the end product is, but its delayed release (shot in 1972, released in 75) at the height of the eurocrime boom no doubt led to the wholly unsuitable title with which it was saddled. Staying on the cabbage patch for a moment, I'll close by saying that Helia Colombo is clearly a fan of the genre, and has studiously run through a checklist of giallo tropes which characterised the great and the good early 70s films. However, there's one ingredient which Maestros Argento, Martino and Fulci had in spades which Helia C was singularly unable to call upon: talent. You can tick all the boxes you want, but unless you’re somewhat able to think outside them, and possess a modicum of directorial talent, you’re probably not going to make a great film.
*Saying that, it's something that you've kind of seen before. Well, not quite, but Helia C has clearly been watching the latter two entries of a certain animal trilogy.