Directed by Dino Tavella
Screenplay by Dino Tavella
Story by Antonio Walter
Produced by Walter Manley & Christian Marvel
Cinematography by Mario Parapetti
Music by Marcello Gigante
Cast: Maureen Brown, Luigi Marturano, Luciano Gasper & Anita Todesco
1.66:1/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Alpha Video DVD
You know, there's just something about a black and white film. Especially when said film contains a scene in which a frightened women wanders down a creepy underground corridor carrying a candellabra trying to find out what has happened to her friends. If a film with a scene like this is your cup of tea (which happens to be laid out meticulously with your straight razor, an old necklace, a newspaper clipping, and a dolls head on a velour covered table) then THE EMBALMER may just be a film that you want to check out.
It seems young, beautiful women are dissappearing in scenic Venice. One by one they are grabbed by a person in a diving suit and dragged into the murky depths of the canals below. They are then embalmed by a mysterious figure in a black robe in some secret underground (or underwater?) hideout. It seems this killer has a penchant for preserving these young women in their most beautiful state so that he may keep them for all eternity.
The police try desparately to figure out whats going on but seem to get nowhere. A newspaper journalist also joins the hunt to try to find this mysterious killer and even concocts a story of what he believes is happening. The police commissioner has a hard time believing the story though as they have not found any evidence of what has happened to the girls, all they know is that they are missing. A young woman and her group of college girls arrive to tour the city in the midst of the madness. The journalist offers to be their guide and eventually ends up falling for the young woman. It doesn't take a genius to figure out whats going to happen next!
THE EMBALMER (also known as THE MONSTER OF VENICE) is classified as a giallo and in most respects it is. However, if you go into this one expecting the deliriously off-beat stylings of an Argento, Martino, or even a Fulci flick, you may be somewhat dissappointed. The film is not without its charm: beautiful Venice, creepy underground monastary, black robed killer, black and white photography, a halfway decent chase scene, semi-sexualized embalmings... but its not quite on par with most of the more important entries in the genre. In fact, in this black gloved killer's opinion, this is a giallo in much the same way that THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is a giallo (though lacking the visual style and technical prowess of the Bava film). Its almost a "proto-giallo" in that it contains many of the genre trappings but never quite kicks into high gear and goes the extra mile; its a mostly by the books affair. Its even got a similar type of quirky comic relief as the aforementioned Bava film, though not nearly as effective.
One complaint I have about the film is that its not very hard to figure out who the killer is. Another thing that was severly lacking were the requisite red herrings. Suspicion is never really cast on anyone in particular or at all so the brain never gets the challenge of trying to piece together just how everything is going down. Also the musical score can get a little overbearing. Watch for a scene with the young woman searching through a room trying to find clues to whats going on and you'll see what I mean. Nonetheless if you're a fan of the genre, you will likely enjoy the film on the most basic of levels... its a giallo!!!
The performances range from pretty bad to mediocre all around. No one really stands out or leaves much of a lasting impression and most of the actors are fairly stiff. The film is obvisouly dubbed so that may have contributed to the stiffness but even the actors expressions seem overly forced. On a good note, there is a veritable bevy of attractive young women but they either serve as fodder for the killer or just giggle in the background on occassion. There was one scene that had me laughing pretty hard too featuring and older woman and her nephew cutting a little rug during a dinner banquet. I'm sure most will get a kick out of it.
THE EMBALMER creeps its way on to DVD courtesy of Alpha Video. If you're not familiar with the company, they've been releasing a large number of classic films for ridiculously low prices in recent months. Knowing that, I wasn't expecting much from this disc. I can't say that I was pleasantly surprised with it in the end, but I will say that for the money (about $5 new most places) I am quite satisfied. The DVD package has a nice color cover that grabs you attention immediately and good synopsis on the back so its off to a good start anyway. The film is presented in a widescreen non-anamorphic transfer letterboxed at roughly 1.66:1 and it is divided into 6 chapters which are directly accessible through the menu. I have no idea what the orignal framing was but none of the compositions seem like they're missing any info. The image itself is actually one of the better ones I've seen from Alpha though it is slightly soft. The day scenes are acceptable and the black levels are ok but the night scenes lean more towards gray and you can see the grayscale levels almost as if they were sourced from video, which could very well be the case. Print damage is slight and pops up now and again but is never distracting. The audio is Dolby 2.0 and servicable at best but thats about it. I don't know if the film is uncut or not but its a 1965 production and there is not a lot of violence and no nudity. Necrophilia is hinted at but the reference is vague and couldn't have possibly caused too many problems. My guess would be that it is indeed uncut but I have no true way of knowing. The running time is 77 minutes which seems to be the most common time listed in most places. The extras on the disc are a color catalog of Alpha DVDs and about 6 minutes of trailers for low budget, mostly shot on video films.
If you are a fan of the genre, then you should already either own this disc or have it on order, especially given its insanely cheap price. If you're not a fan or maybe you are looking to get into the crazy world of gialli, this is not likely the film thats going to make you a full fledged convert; however, its a decent way to enter the waters feet first so that you can discover the many treasures that lie beneath.
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Review by The Black Gloved Killer. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©