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Watch Me When I Kill
cast: Corrado Pani, Paola Tedesco, Fernando Cerulli, and Franco Citti

director: Antonio Bido

92 minutes (18) 1977
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Shameless DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
This might very well prove to be a review in which the company releasing the film overshadows the film itself. Watch Me When I Kill (aka: Il Gatto dagli occhi di giada) is another in a series of 1970s' Italian crime-focused exploitation films to be released on the Shameless label. Shameless are what you might call a bijou DVD label and are trying to build themselves a fan-base by some rather heavy-handed but remarkably charming branding. A few months ago, when I reviewed Aldo Lado's Who Saw Her Die?, the 1970s' lettering and obsession with gore and bouncing bosoms rather rubbed me the wrong way, but having now sat through two DVDs by this company I have seen that Shameless are also in the business of getting the original directors to re-edit their own films so as to re-instate any scenes that might have been cut out by censorious public bodies or venal producers. Given that Shameless are a label that re-release the kind of overlooked and ignored films that were always going to be of niche interest only, I think their desire to engage with their customer base and add value to these old titles is undeniably a good thing. So hooray for Shameless!

Now, to the film itself... The first two acts of Watch Me When I Kill are pure genre hokum. Held together by good-looking actors, an atmospheric soundtrack and a bit of gore, the plot is a maze of twists and turns built less upon genuine character motivations than upon happenstance. Lukas (Corrado Pani), and Mara (Paola Tedesco) are sucked into investigating the murders by an almost comical series of coincidences which see them visiting pharmacies whilst murders are taking place, volunteering to park victims' cars, and living next door to other victims. It's particularly silly when a neighbour asks Lukas to analyse a strange recording that has been left on his answering machine. Why would Lukas know about audio-engineering? Presumably a previous version of the script included some relevant piece of backstory. The script does attempt to address all of this randomness but even this is done in a rather crude manner as it boils down to Lukas sitting in front of a piece of paper drawing arrows between people, places and motivations in an attempt to fill the audience in on what is going on.

The film's final act is said by director Antonio Bido to be a much more personal part of the film based more heavily upon an earlier and more dramatic version of the script. Bido's greater degree of engagement is visible from the beginning as he moves the action from Rome to Padua and sets about turning the city into a strange provincial hinterland full of eerily empty streets, sinister old people's homes and cackling mad men. Bido's increased care and attention is also visible in the final murder scene's stylish use of music and more aggressive and creative approaches to editing. Had the entirety of the film been made with as much care as the final act then Watch Me When I Kill would, undeniably, have been a good deal more interesting.

Unfortunately, as with the clunky post hoc storytelling of the opening acts, Bido tries to compensate for the film's insipid early acts by throwing about as much cinematic and dramatic colour as he can. Indeed, the motivations for the murders are not really addressed until the final scene in which we are treated to a heroic dose of exposition dealing with Nazis and collaboration and judicial corruption. The result is an experience not dissimilar to drinking a cup of poorly-stirred instant soup; you slurp your way through weak and flavourless gruel and then suddenly you hit a mine of salty, flavoursome goodness but because it comes after a bland and tepid cup of little more than water, the mixture seems overly salty and weirdly unappetising in a way that would not have been the case had the whole cup been full of the stuff.

Watch Me When I Kill was Bido's first film and it is obvious, both from the film and the interesting interview he gives as a DVD extra, that he approached the film with a crippling disdain for the genre it was a part of. In the interview, Bido says that at the time he was only interested in art house films and only wanted to make a genre film in the hope that it would make a load of money and thereby open up more interesting projects for him. This means that when Bido is called upon to make a nuts-and-bolts genre film, he childishly refuses to play ball, limiting himself to reinventing the wheel by rolling out a number of genre clichés whilst protesting that the producers should have made the earlier version of the script. Indeed, Watch Me When I Kill's chief problems are uneven direction and clunky storytelling and both of these are clearly the fault of Bido (who also got a co-writer credit for the film), which is frustrating as Pani and Tedesco form an intriguing screen couple who could have made a lot more of their parts had they been given a bit more to work with.

As with other Shameless releases, Watch Me When I Kill comes with a load of colourful trailers for their other films, and what is rather charitably called a 'commentary track' but is actually a series of comments that pop up on screen using the subtitle technology built into the DVD. What is regrettable though is the fact that the DVD does not include the original dialogue, only the dubbed version. Given that, unlike Who Saw Her Die?, the film has an all-Italian cast one assumes that it was originally released in Italian, but this is only a minor quibble as part of the charm of exploitation films of this era are the weirdly transatlantic accents of the people doing the voiceovers.
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