Say what you will about the Italian giallo
thriller-horror genre, but its characters sure knew how to accessorize. They
always knew how to kill in style, rocking their patented leather gloves, wide-brimmed
hats, leather belts, shiny rain coats, and fetish-friendly boots and pumps.
Many of those things are also useful for concealing one’s identity, so the
killer, who may or may not be a child abducted fifteen years ago, dons the
classic giallo wardrobe in director-editor-cinematographer-composer Luciano
Onetti’s Francesca, which is now
available in a DVD/BluRay collector’s set, from Unearthed Films, just in time
Someone is killing the morally
questionable citizens of Rome, leaving behind heavy passages from Dante’s Divine Comedy and antique coins on their
eyes, presumably to pay their passage to Hell. Inspector Bruno Moretti and Det.
Benito Succo are on the case, but their investigatory methods mainly seem to
involve shooting pool and drinking J&B whiskey (a name brand staple of
1970s Giallos). Despite these efforts, the killer continues to elude them.
On the anniversary of Francesca Visconti’s
abduction, Moretti visits her wheelchair-bound poet-dramatist father Visconti,
ostensibly to glean some insights into Dante’s vision of justice, but really to
ask about his long missing daughter. For reasons never really established
(aside from this being a giallo), Moretti suspects the two cases might be
In terms of cinematography and art
direction, Francesca looks like it
was pulled out of a giallo time capsule sealed in the seventies. Every visual
detail is lovingly crafted. However, the picture’s incredible look cannot mask
the shortcomings of the Italian-Argentine Onetti Brothers’ screenplay (helmer Luciano
and producer Nicolás), which is thin even by the standards of the sub-genre. It
also telegraphs the primary villain way in advance (although there are a few
surprises regarding murky secondary figures in the third act).
Arguably, Francesca represents a weird acting challenge, since the cast
presumably knew they would be awkwardly redubbed in Italian, deliberately on
purpose. With that in mind, probably Gustavo Dalessanro displays the most
intriguing screen presence as the slightly compromised Det. Succo.
As a feat of lurid cinematography, Francesca is quite a remarkable
accomplishment. L. Onetti’s dark, proggy score (included as a CD in the 3-disk
set) also suits the sub-genre to a tee. Yet, as a neo-retro-giallo narrative,
the affectionate Astron-6 spoof The Editor
is ironically more engaging. This is definitely a case of style favored over
substance. Viewers should note there is a stinger, but it features some of the
film’s most disturbing violent images, so watch according to your tastes.
Recommended for hardcore giallo enthusiasts who will not object to its
excesses, Francesca is now available for
home viewing, from Unearthed Films and distributor MVD.
Labels: DVD, Giallo films, Horror Movies