Directed by Aldo Lado. Starring George Lazenby ("Franco Serpieri"), Anita Strindberg ("Elizabeth Serpieri"), Adolfo Celi ("Serafian"), and Dominique Boschero ("Ginevra Storelli"). Not Rated.
Source: Region 1 DVD (Anchor Bay)
Country: Italy, West Germany
A fairly solid Giallo from the director of NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS. Unlike most Gialli, this one revolves around a child murderer rather than a fedora-wearing killer who targets socialites. I first watched this one a while back and then re-watched it in September of last year in preparation for my last appearance on the Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema, but then I changed my mind a few days before we recorded and picked another movie instead; the reason being it didn't hold up as well as I would have hoped and I liked it significantly less the second time around, although I do still consider it a good Giallo for the most part.
The movie opens with an uncomfortable sequence that establishes the killer. A young girl, separated from her mother on a crowded snow-capped mountain, is smothered and beaten to death by the film's killer. Throughout the movie, we never really see the killer aside from brief glimpses, but it's still made clear that it's a woman with a black veil covering her face, or at least someone dressed like a woman. Interestingly enough, we do get many POV shots from the killer's perspective, veil covering the camera and all. I'm sure this isn't the first movie to feature camera shots from the point of view of a homicidal maniac, but it's still noteworthy for the simple fact that WHO SAW HER DIE? features these shots a few years before John Carpenter used them in HALLOWEEN. Ironically, people often cite Carpenter's seminal slasher when describing killer POV shots in succeeding films.
Italy in the 70's was known for attracting actors who were already established outside of the country and looking for work. Such is the case here with Australian actor George Lazenby, who played James Bond for a hot second in the late 60's. Here, Lazenby plays a single father named Franco. The first half of the film focuses on the relationship between him and his daughter, played by Nicoletta Elmi (the red-head girl who popped up in pretty much every noteworthy Italian genre film from the 70's). Seeing as this is about someone who murders children, I'm sure you can take a wild guess as to why their relationship isn't a focal point of the second half of the film. That being said, Franco becomes obsessed with tracking down the child-killer, but things take a turn when the people around him - even adults - begin turning up dead. On a side note, Swedish bombshell Anita Strindberg plays Franco's estranged wife.
This needn't necessarily be mentioned in the review, but I spotted something interesting in the film that I wanted to point out. At a certain point, Lazenby explores an abandoned building for whatever reason. Well, not only does the same building also make an appearance in another Giallo called THE FIFTH CORD, but both movies feature the lead characters chasing someone through the exact same hallway. It would have been funny if there was some sort of crossover. Say, for example, Franco Nero in THE FIFTH CORD chasing that particular film's killer through the hallway and suddenly bumping into George Lazenby.
One of the highlights of WHO SAW HER DIE? is its eerie score comprised of choral vocals sung by children. At times, because of how the vocals are arranged, the score sounds like a bunch of birds chirping in unison, which is odd since there are a lot of actual birds throughout movie. At the risk of sounding very pretentious, the child vocals can be interpreted as being symbolic of the tortured souls of the killer's victims attempting to be heard from beyond the grave. I highly doubt it's the case, but you never know. Aside from that, the killer in this is pretty creepy, and composer Ennio Morricone uses music to make the sporadic appearances of the killer come across as foreboding as possible.
WHO SAW HER DIE? is a standout Giallo, but not necessarily for all the right reasons. As I mentioned earlier, it's a solid entry in the Italian slasher genre for a variety of reasons, but it also drags at times, and, as a fan of Gialli, I longed for the cinematic pizzazz that you'd find in a Giallo from the likes of Argento, Martino and so forth. However, there are little touches in the film that separate it from the rest of the pack: a commentary on corruption, jabs at the Catholic church, and pedophilic undertones. There are numerous moments in the film where you'd swear the men who surround Nicoletta Elmi's character wanna fuck her brains out. Apparently this was done to set up red herrings regarding Elmi's inevitable fate, but it ultimately doesn't come across that way - not to me anyway. Despite its flaws, though, it's a worthwhile Giallo, but not one I'd call essential.