Thursday, June 10, 2010

In short: The Embalmer (1965)

aka (The) Monster of Venice

Quite a few young women have disappeared in Venice in the last few weeks. The police don't believe that anybody is responsible for the disappearances. Only the reporter Andrea (Luigi Martocci, working under the most excellent nom de plume of "Gin Mart") believes that "a sexual maniac, a monster" is stalking the streets at night. Alas, Andrea can't convince the cops of his theory. We're never told what exactly the cops think is happening to all these young women - the Rapture? random vampire attacks? alien abductions? - but they are adamant it can't be serial killer.

Alas, Andrea is spot-on with his theory. A guy in a wetsuit regularly drags women down into his lair, where he embalms them and holds long, boring monologues about preserving their beauty for eternity to them.

Andrea for his part spends most of his time leading the tourist group of a certain Maria (Maureen Brown) through disturbing amounts of boring touristy footage of Venice, unfunny comic relief sequences and the most terrifying nightclub sequence I've ever seen outside of a Santo movie. He's of course also romancing Maria, but honestly, who cares?

The plot finally starts again when the killer murders a professor who accidentally stumbled on his lair and Andrea decides to finally do a bit of investigating on his own. And go out with Maria. And sit around on his behind.

I suppose The Embalmer is what happens when an Italian director (the guilty party here is Dino Tavella, who only made two films in his career; I'm thankful for that) tries his damndest to copy only the dullest moments of the German Edgar Wallace krimis. The film seems completely without a care for the fact that people will try to watch it and want to stay awake through its running time.

From time to time Tavella manages to show a decent shot of something - there are two, perhaps three moments with a slightly noirish use of shadow and one or two very gialloesque (a genre this one just doesn't seem to want to belong to) mirror shots. Alas ninety mildly effective seconds do not a watchable film make, especially when said film consists to ninety percent of brain-numbing, painful filler. This might possibly be the most filler-rich film I've yet seen, which is a thing I'd better not contemplate much further. Apart from that, there are only the freeze frames of the killer's future victims to mention, a visual trick that would have been ill-advised used only once, but becomes ridiculous and annoying when used six or seven times.

The Embalmer's lack of excitement (or its deadly dullness) is also a bit sad: it's not difficult to imagine what a better director (or even someone just vaguely competent) could have made out of the same elements Tavella used to brew a sleeping draught. There's a masked evil-doer living in a secret cellar, leaving his lair through unconventional means, there's the promise of necrophilia and exciting hunts through catacombs or of a look into human abysses - everything that could make for a great horror film or an excellent thriller. I find it unfortunate that, having all this at his disposal, Tavella went for a film full of non-descript people walking through the least interesting parts of Venice.



Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

This sounds pretty cool! Like the name too!

houseinrlyeh said...

Honestly, I think the title is the only high point here.

Richard of DM said...

Spot on review here. This movie is one boring ass wasted opportunity.

houseinrlyeh said...

I was very disappointed.