Sunday, August 09, 2020

Avenging Prostitutes in Style

A beautiful woman flees from a stone faced man with reflective glasses; she stops to kiss another man, a handsome stranger, before accidentally breaking the stranger's glasses. When the man with reflective glasses murders her, the man with the broken glasses ruthlessly hunts him in the great 1975 giallo film The Suspicious Death of a Minor (Morte sospetta di una minorenne). If you're looking for a stylish action/comedy/horror/suspense film, this one performs admirably.

I encourage you not to read the plot summary on the Wikipedia entry because it tells you right away who the protagonist, Germi (Claudio Cassinelli), is. One of the pleasures of the film is that we know absolutely nothing about him for the first half. All we know is that he's a stylish dresser, an expert in hand-to-hand combat who fends off five pimps at once, and a man who doesn't scruple to interrogate suspects and witnesses at gunpoint.

This makes him a Byronic hero--a Byronic hero isn't necessarily a charismatic tortured bad boy, by the way--I learned to-day this is a false definition gaining currency. A Byronic hero is someone who pursues his or her goal by eschewing the forces of good and evil or established conventional ideas of such, like Manfred. That's what Germi does.

After the first murder, he watches two stylishly dressed cops (this is a giallo, after all) discuss how hopeless the investigation is before a boy driving by on a moped (Adolfo Caruso) steals a briefcase from one of the cops. What does Germi do? He steals a radio, plants it in a car with an open window to lure in the thief, Giannino, so he can propose a partnership.

They start by roaming the night on a moped, lifting purses from prostitutes until they meet one who can help Germi's investigation (and he'd like to sleep with), a lively young woman named Carmela (Lia Tanzi).

When she tries to get into Germi's car, she finds the door is broken so he tells her she has to climb in through the roof. She laughs and director Sergio Martino finds just the right shot for her manoeuvre.

The broken door comes in handy later in a chase scene when Giannino tosses it out at pursuing police.

The same chase scene features strategically placed acrobats who react to the disruption of the two racing cars in different ways. One man's bicycle is cut in half and he rides the rear portion like a unicycle for a moment before crashing. Another man is flung to the side and spins on his head twice.

There's one densely packed, creative action sequence after another. There's a gunfight on a roller coaster in one scene, a couple scenes set in dark subways, and one spectacular scene where the man with reflective glasses opens the roof on a cinema in the hopes of making Germi tumble to his death inside.

This film is a glorious, full course meal. The Suspicious Death of a Minor is available on Amazon Prime.

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