My Dear Killer (Tonino Valerii, 1972)
aka Mio caro assassino
The Italian murder mystery (better known to Euro Cult aficionados as the giallo) is a well-worn genre. For every exemplary giallo, there are three or four that are mediocre at best, but almost all of them have one thing in common; an effortless sense of style, and Tonino Valerii’s MY DEAR KILLER is no exception. While it’s not an exceptional film it’s certainly above average and true to the spirit of a pantheon of films that is synonymous with black leather glove-clad killers, obtuse camera angles and operatic music scores.
Valerii—like many of his brethren–was something of a journeyman throughout his career in the Italian film industry. Having established himself as a sometime writer and assistant director to Sergio Leone (no small feat when you consider the so-called ‘Father of the Italian Western’ had taken the same road and without doubt, must have been a hard man to please) the young filmmaker soon began to carve out a career as a director and, like his mentor, would make the spaghetti his staple. Valerii’s ascension to the director’s chair was fairly typical of the era, as many emerging filmmakers were given the chance to cut their teeth on Westerns simply because there were more projects than there were directors, but the films of Valerii (and, like the work of fellow Leone alumni Duccio Tessari, Massimo Dallamano and Sergio Corbucci) managed to rise above the deluge of functional or sub-par efforts that were becoming the staple; the crescendo of which was his 1969 effort, THE PRICE OF POWER (Il Prezzo del potere); a film that transposes the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination to the Old West.
After the Italian Western began to fall from prominence in the early 70s, Valerii, like many of his peers, ended up drifting from genre to genre but unlike a lot of lesser filmmakers, seemed to make a success of whatever he turned his hand to. MY DEAR KILLER marked Valerii’s first and only foray into the giallo, which is a shame because he certainly exhibits a strong understanding of getting the most out of the format, effortlessly juxtaposing roving killer point-of-view shots with gratuitous nudity, gore and an atypically low-key Ennio Morricone score.
Inspector Luca Peretti (George Hilton) is called to the scene of what appears to be an accident: an insurance investigator’s body lies decapitated; the victim of an apparent mishap with a digger and all fingers point to the machine’s operator; a man who appears to have vanished. It’s not long before the digger driver’s body is found hanging from a ceiling. The driver had accidentally killed the insurance investigator, fled the scene and had killed himself when he realised he could no longer live with the guilt; an open and shut case? Not as far as Peretti is concerned and the dedicated cop is soon uncovering a labyrinthine plot that becomes intertwined with the kidnapping and murder of a young girl.
What sets MY DEAR KILLER apart from more formulaic gialli is that its greatest attribute is its strong narrative. Many gialli rely on the flimsiest of contrivances to propel their narratives but Valerii’s film (which he co-wrote with Roberto Leoni, Franco Bucceri and José Gutiérrez Maesso) has some genuinely surprising and more importantly, credible twists and turns.
The transfer on Shameless’ recently released region free disc is certainly a step up from Shriek Show DVD, with the picture looking a lot brighter than that of its American counterpart. Print damage and grain are both evident, though typical of a film of MY DEAR KILLER’S vintage. The sound is presented in English mono and is perfectly fine. The film’s theatrical trailer is also included, along with previews for six other Shameless releases.
MY DEAR KILLER is a good, solid giallo and should find a home in the collection of all self-respecting genre enthusiasts. While the US disc has been available for some time now, Shameless’ disc presents the film, in my humble opinion, in a better transfer and is definitely worth an upgrade if you’re not content with Shriek Show’s darker image.