Movies and Film

To Catch a Killer – The Fifth Cord (1971)

Franco Nero plays an alcoholic reporter named Andreas who is given a story covering a series of killings. Each murder takes place on a Tuesday and at every scene a fingerless glove is left, perhaps representing the number of people left to die. As Andreas delves deeper into his work and into the bottle, he realizes that all of the people are connected to a party that he himself attended and that maybe, he may end up being one of the victims or even worse, being framed for the murders.

While the story itself is nothing extraordinary, variations of it having been seen many times before, director Luigi Bazzoni makes the most of it, the film being fairly suspenseful at times and packed with tension. Vittorio Storaro, responsible for the photography present does an amazing job, providing stunning shot after stunning shot. Some of the best scenes in the film are those that take place just before the killer’s victims are murdered, one being where the crippled Sophia is reduced to fleeing through her house, only able to use her arms as the murderer stalks her from room to room. It is a bright and bold film at times and even then, it is still highly atmospheric, the mystery of it all slowly percolating as Andreas stumbles along in his investigation. Even simple scenes such as Pamela Tiffin lying naked upon the bed or a man walking to his car in the parking garage lend the movie a visual brilliance, elevating the fairly standard tale of murder into something a bit more than it would have been otherwise. Familiar or not, the story takes almost takes a back seat, thanks in part to not only the visible aesthetics, but also due in part to a wonderful score by the one and only Ennio Morricone. For the majority of the film, it is a subtle and soothing affair, yet Morricone ramps things up when the killer strikes, not quite discordant, but it becomes nearly as animated as the act that takes place.

Nero puts in the usual good performance, the man seemingly unable to give a bad one and while he plays a fairly stock character, he manages to make the role his own. There are a number of women who end up making their way through the film and in various forms of undress including the aforementioned Tiffin, Ira von Fürstenberg, Agonstina Belli and Silvia Monti, all of them putting in as good an execution of their abilities as anybody else. While a stronger story might have served everyone a little better as there were some bits that were perhaps a little unneeded, it was not lacking so much that one was not compelled to watch. In fact, there are times when movies in this particular genre venture into the bizarre and it is not to say that they are unwelcome or bad in any way, but watching this one stay fairly grounded, perhaps even playing it safe, made for a pleasant experience.

The Fifth Cord or Giornata nera per l’ariete, is a giallo film that does not reinvent the genre, nor does it need to. Sometimes a familiar reiteration is all one needs and Bazzoni makes sure to give it his best, crafting a solid thriller when all is said and done, but it is more the look and sound of the film that ensures it comes out a winner and is worth watching for those things alone.

3.5 out of 5

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