Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 15, 2019

‘A… Come Assassino’ (Italy 1966), starring Alan Steel/Sergio Ciani

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 9:53 pm
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  “A… COME ASSASSINO” (A For Assassin), Italy 1966

B&W, 77 minutes, Italian Language (subtitled in English)

starring Alan Steel (Sergio Ciani), Mary Arden, Gilberto Mazzi

directed by Angelo Dorigo (aka Ray Morrison), produced by Walter Chiari

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A…COME ASSASSINO, a late (1966) B&W Italian murder mystery, is mentioned rarely, and when it is, it’s due to the presence of star ALAN STEEL/SERGIO CIANI, well-known from sword and sandal films such as HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN. Steel continued working after the Peplum boom, and in the last six months I’ve seen him in a 1970 India-set colonial adventure with Peter Lee Lawrence, and a 1976 Robin Hood comedy very much in the vein of a Bud Spencer film. He’s been convincing in everything I’ve seen, as he is in this film. Also, the film is occasionally mentioned as an early Giallo. Well, maybe in the sense that there is a murder and a number of disreputable suspects, but anyone going into this expecting a kind of proto-Dario Argento slasher is sure to be disappointed. It sometimes is vaguely reminiscent of one of the B&W early 60’s German krimi films in content, but has none of the stylized post-expressionist eccentricity of those films, although it probably would have appealed to fans of that genre outside of Germany.

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The patriarch of a wealthy family is killed by having his throat slashed. Because he knew in advance that his family and hangers-on were all no good, he created a tape-recorded will in case he died, and its terms are novel: of the eight or so people in his orbit who might expect some kind of inheritance, one month after his death, only THREE of them would be allowed to present themselves to his attorney for the remains of his estate. If there are more than three, then NO ONE would get a cent. If there are fewer than three, that was OK….they would split it (of if one, he/she would get it all). He knew that these crooked, sleazy individuals would probably kill themselves over the money in their greed, and no doubt he expected to laugh from the grave over their attempts to eliminate each other. That’s the plot, which takes about ten minutes to set up, and then the remainder of the film involves the characters playing out this scenario, as one after the other leaves the picture, until….  well, you’ll need to see it yourself to find out, but it would not take a genius to figure out what happens, especially once one meets and gets to know this motley crew. And you just know there will be an ironic and cynical resolution, and of course, there is.

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The film plays very much like a Charlie Chan film or Perry Mason episode, minus the hero detective or attorney. There is a clever inspector who seems to be unravelling the threads of the initial crime and then the later shenanigans, but he is hard-pressed to keep up with the pace of the new complications and deaths as the characters eliminate each other.

Running just about an hour and a quarter, A…COME ASSASSINO moves quickly, has a crew of entertainingly sleazy and back-stabbing characters, utilizes the atmospheric B&W photography and old-dark-house setting well, and does not overstay its welcome. In the last 20 minutes it begins to take on some horror film-style camera angles and imagery, but again, anyone coming into this expecting a B&W proto-giallo will be let down.

Imagine a 60’s Italian version of those early 1930’s American indie murder mysteries, set in an old mansion on a rainy night, and made by outfits such as Chesterfield or Mayfair, and you’ll have a better idea of what the film delivers. I found it very entertaining—-it offers a consistent mood, colorful characters who have been cheating and cheating on each other in different combinations that are exposed as the film progresses, and it winds up ratcheting up the suspense and atmosphere in the final 20 minutes. Alan Steel is quite effective as the patriarch’s private secretary who begins as a kind of uptight accountant type but turns out to be much different, and watching him untangle is a pleasure. Fans of Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (which this film does not resemble at all) will be happy to see American actress Mary Arden appearing here, and she also gets a multi-dimensional role that allows here to be both seductive and to chew the scenery. The English subtitling is adequate, and no one will have a problem following the murderous trajectory of the film. Perfect for late night viewing, and easily available for your enjoyment on You Tube. Be sure to subscribe to the “Blake Adam” channel, which is hosting the subtitled feature. He’s got dozens and dozens of 60’s Euro genre films in a number of styles, most of which are quite obscure and quite good. Enjoy….

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