Thursday, November 29, 2012

In short: El asesino está entre los treces (1973)

aka The Killer Is One Of Thirteen

Two years after the death of her husband in the crash of his private plane, rich widow Lisa Mandel (Patty Shepard) calls thirteen of his friends and associates - among them a bored looking Jack Taylor, Simón Andreu and other familiar faces - for a big reunion. On the group's first dinner, Lisa reveals that she has proof her husband didn't die accidentally, but was murdered, and that she's convinced one of the attendants is his killer. After all, everyone had motive and opportunity to do the deed, which she then proceeds to reveal. Let's just say that the rich in this movie really are involved in a lot of things, reaching from the rather more typical mass adultery, to art forgery, to deeply Freudian mother-son relationships, to drug smuggling.

Unfortunately, the motives and opportunities are so ample, Lisa has her difficulties deciding who actually is the killer, so she's obviously decided to just bring everyone together and wait until the killer reveals his or herself. It's a sound plan, as it turns out, for once everyone's secrets are revealed or hinted at, the guests spend the next few days with attempts at digging each other's holes deeper. And after a time, the killer cuts the phone lines, wrecks some cars in the knowledge nobody here knows how to walk, and begins to thin the herd of people who might know something about him.

In theory, Javier Aguirre's The Killer should be a rather pleasant mystery of the "rich bastards die in an isolated place" type, but in practice, it's mostly a bore.

I suspect the higher number of the guests here is an attempt to outdo And Then There Were None, but it really leads to a film with so many characters there's no room to properly develop any of them or to find time to amuse the audience with their decadent hobbies for more than five seconds. The only bits of decadence the film finds time showing are various deeds of adultery, but those are filmed as the sort of face rubbing that wouldn't be steamy in a 70s soap opera, with little of interest to the friend of sleazy entertainment nor the viewer in hope of anything visually or emotionally interesting. It's just a very bland film that even manages to waste an excellent set-up for Freudian shenanigans.

This blandness is further increased by the film's snail-like pacing, Aguirre's decision to tell his story as a series of overlong and perfectly boring dialogue scenes, and the fact that it takes an hour until the killer decides to finally off a member of the horde of suspects (of course in a bland and uninvolving manner). It's difficult to understand how the same Javier Aguirre was able to direct the insane Hunchback of the Morgue in the same year as this snoozer, but there you have it. As it stands, the only connection the two films have is the presence of beloved Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy, but where Hunchback is his film, this one sees him only doing a short guest star part in which he looks as bored as Taylor does.

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