Un silencio de tumba was adapted from the book you see to the left. (This was unusual for Franco, who often attempted to imbue his films with the respectability of the literary adaptation by citing non-existent works by 'David Khunne' in the credits [fans of a certain recent Irish giallo may be wondering where they've heard that name, and credit, before.]) I haven't read the book, but, from what I've heard about it, Franco's script actually improves upon the novel. Anyone familiar with Franco's early 70s output may scoff at the notion of there having been an actual script-he averaged 8 or 9 films a year at this time-but Dorado Films' Blu ray release includes the scripted ending as an extra. It's striking just how detailed-and traditional in form-the script is, even referring to a shot list. It's also striking just how much more effective the scripted ending would have been. The fact that aural and visual inserts which set up the discarded ending do exist throughout the finished film suggests that the change happened relatively late in the day. And this, in many ways, is what makes it a Franco film.
There's no nudity, no surrealistic imagery beyond a disembodied eye occasionally seen in extreme close-up (a hangover from that original ending) and the plot is standard giallo fare, but the execution is classic Franco. You don't make nearly 200 films by approaching each one with Kubrickian levels of focus, and its often been said of Franco that he lost interest in projects as soon as a newer idea supplanted it in his affections. And Franco clearly had a lot of ideas.
The easiest way to rush through a film is to cut down on that pesky shot list, and film scenes in their entirety from a fixed position, reframing when appropriate. In Franco's case, this usually means zooming, often when inappropriate (not necessarily here though, there are no vaginas into which to zoom). Mario Bava's quite-similar 5 Dolls for an August Moon similarly uses zooms and reframings to rush through a condensed shooting schedule, but Franco ain't no Bava (and, equally, Bava ain't no Franco).
5 Dolls isn't your typical giallo in execution, though, and is more of a fun romp than a terrifying thriller. As is the similarly-shot Bay of Blood. Because, simply put, it's very hard to generate tension without camera movement and editing. And a good old-fashioned thriller, though, which Un silencio is attempting to be, needs tension. There are occasional moments which do create an effective ambience, helped hugely by Franco's traditionally strong location scouting and atonal soundtrack, but, ultimately, Franco's heart wasn't quite in the project. The surprising aspect of this is that it was the first production of his Manacoa Films company, no doubt as such chosen due to the international popularity of the giallo, and he presumably had his own money on the line. But that temperament was as restless as his early 70s camera.
In basic terms, a tracking shot moves the viewer through space. A zoom, though, is different. It condenses space, and, certainly in Franco's work, can both condense and stretch time. Think of any number of sequences from The Female Vampire, with Lina Romay rolling around on a bed, with and without a companion, with the camera seemingly having all the time in the world to hone in on various parts of her flesh without risk of having missing anything when it next zooms out to take in the whole picture. Time in Franco's films does not follow standard rules, and whole sequences can take place in a kind of temporal limbo (see Stephen Thrower's amazingly brilliant book 'Murderous Passions' for more on this). And, when it comes down to it, someone who loves to suspend time and poke around his own erotic fantasies isn't really cut out for shooting a traditional giallo, which demands taut and surefire directorial control.
I certainly didn't dislike this film as much as Thrower did. Dorado's Blu ray looks pretty good-and I really like Franco's proclivity for slightly overexposing his outdoor scenes-and there are far worse gialli out there. However, Franco's lack of interest/ability with regard to generating tension combined with the very few on-camera kills (the focus is on the body-finding aftermath, another area of common ground with 5 Dolls), and his refusal to throw off the shackles and cut loose with style and mood result in a pretty anodyne offering from this most idiosyncratic of artists.