Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In short: The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (1974)

The merry band of rich idlers who are sucking most of their money out of the unreasonably rich Patrick Davenant (Chris Avram) is moving its newest party to an old theatre in Davenant's possession. The building has been shut down and closed for one hundred years (as it will turn out to the day, which is never a good sign in movies). Nobody's really sure whose idea it was to go there, but it was certainly a swell one, so Patrick, his fiancee Kim (Janet Agren), his ex-fiancee Vivian (Rosanna Schiaffino), her new fiancee Albert (Andrea Scotti), Patrick's incest-loving daughter Lynn (Paola Senatore) and her boyfriend Duncan (Gaetano Russo), Russell (Renato Rossini) - whose position besides being Kim's lover I was never able to find out, Patrick's lesbian sister Rebecca (Eva Czemerys) and her girlfriend Doris (Lucretia Love), don't care.

As you have probably already surmised, as soon as everyone is introduced, someone tries to murder Patrick, and a figure in a black cape with black leather gloves and a silly and/or frightening mask stalks the annoying people of oh-so-dubious morals, killing them off one by one. Even the fact that someone has locked them in with the killer doesn't seem to phase anyone too much, so - when they are not getting killed or talking ominously - our protagonists still find the time to get naked a lot.

Can all this (well, probably not the nakedness), as well as some very minor supernatural manifestations, be caused by the curse that is supposed to lie on the theatre?

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats is not a lost classic of the giallo genre, whatever the interesting setting or the supernatural tropes used could make one hope.

Director Giuseppe Bennati's sense of style isn't well developed enough to transform the standard (that is, rather confusing and difficult to take seriously) giallo script into something aesthetically pleasing. It's not that there aren't any moments of style or excitement at all, but those are more happening on account of the nice, atmospheric theatre and the visual conventions of the genre than anything Bennati is doing. A film like this really helps one appreciate the inventiveness of a great craftsman-director like Sergio Martino more, who, given the same script, would have made a much classier movie, especially one holding together better than this one.

Everything about the film is total giallo standard. The acting - as it well should - fluctuates between bored staring and shrill hysterics, but I didn't find it to be all that effective. The murders are on the nastier side of the giallo spectrum, yet they too don't make too much of an impression. The shocking ideas are there, but nobody seems to be willing to actually go through with them.

And there's the problem with this film - all elements of a satisfying giallo with supernatural trappings are there, but the film just plods along somehow, with enough spikes to keep one watching, yet not enough to keep one interested.

It's the old song again: it's a perfectly alright film, and therefore not very memorable.


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