Arrow Video, 2019. Region A.
Feature: 94 mins. Aspect ratio 2.35:1.
After Short Night of the Glass Dolls (1971), director Aldo Lado returned to the giallo and delivered one of the genre’s most interesting fims, Who Saw Her Die? (original Italian title Chi l’ha vista morire?).
Opening in France in 1968, the film begins with a shot of a ski hill taken from a ski lift. A child, Nicole, plays with her nurse guardian in the snow, playfully running away into a forest. A shot of the little girl filmed through a translucent veil gives us the point of view of a black-clad assailant who shockingly murders the child and buries her body in the snow.
After this chilling prelude, the movie switches locales to Venice, where sculptor Franco Serpieri (George Lazenby, three years after taking questionable advice to quit playing James Bond) welcomes his daughter Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi, a redheaded child actress known from several Euro horrors like Deep Red). It’s not long before Roberta is observed on the streets of Venice by the same veiled killer from the opening sequence. Like in many giallos, the killer wears black gloves, though here they are lace rather than leather, lending the air of a widow in mourning. After being left by Franco to play with some local children, Roberta disappears. Her body is then found floating in a canal. Distraught, Franco follows a connection to a previous child murder to track down his daughter’s killer.
The notion of an innocent child being stalked and killed is particularly disturbing and the film plays with this juxtaposition of innocence and evil. “Who Saw Her Die” is the title of a song that Franco and Roberta sing while prancing down a Venetian street. Later, a group of children sing the same song while dancing in a circle around Roberta. The melody of the song is echoed in Ennio Morricone’s haunting and occasionally overwhelming score.
The film also daringly plays with the theme of sexual exploitation of children by authority figures. An 8mm black and white film shows the decadent depths enjoyed by some of the Venetian rich and powerful. The trail of the murderer leads ultimately to the church and the priesthood, a subtle but audacious critique of the Catholic church.
Like Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (released the following year, 1973), Who Saw Her Die? makes the most of its setting. The canals, open water, and dank stone-clad streets of Venice, frequently hazed with fog, imbrue the film with an eerie backdrop. Director Lado makes use of some unusual settings, including a derelict ship floating ghost-like in a mist and a labyrinthine abandoned factory. One of the most memorable murder sequences takes place in a stark white room dominated by a large aviary. Lado shot the film in Venice in November and December, off-tourist season, which showcases the city as an almost deserted urban landscape that enhances the uncanny ambiance.
The cast acquits themselves well, led capably by George Lazenby who obviously had worked on his thespian craft after his patchy big screen acting debut as 007 in the otherwise superior On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Fellow Bond alumn Adolfo Celi, Thunderball’s villain Emilo Largo, turns up in a small but memorable turn as an art dealer. Giallo mainstay Anita Strindberg unfortunately gets little screen time.
The year 1972 was a prolific year for the giallo genre, and Who Saw Her Die?, though not particularly groundbreaking, is one of the most interesting.
The transfer is a 2K scan from a 35mm negative. I’ve seen this film in a particularly lousy version through PS4, so this Arrow transfer is a revelation. The picture is pristine and undamaged while showcasing the natural film grain. It looks about as good as a modestly-budgeted film from the ‘70s can be expected to look.
The disc has wo versions of the film: Italian and English. In neither version do we hear Lazenby’s voice, which is dubbed by an Italian actor or an American actor, depending on the variant you watch.
Audio commentary by Troy Howarth – Euro cult cinema expert Howarth contributes an enthusiastic commentary shot through with detail about the makers of the film and the history and evolution of the giallo genre.
I Saw Her Die – A new interview with the director, Aldo Lado, who talks about his history in the Italian film industry and the production of Who Saw Her Die? Barilli also tells a key story about his childhood that influenced the theme of the movie. (56 mins., Italian with English subtitles.)
Nicoletta, Child of Darkness – A new interview with actress Nicoletta Elmi, who discusses her entire career as well as her experience shooting this movie. (27 mins., Italian with English subtitles.)
Once Upon a Time, in Venice –A new interview with co-writer Francesco Barilli. The author discusses the conception of the story and how it made it into production. Barilli is wide-ranging in this interview, touching on several of the movies he was involved in. (31 mins., Italian with English Subtitles.)
Giallo in Venice – A new interview with author and critic Michael Mackenzie who discusses the genre career of Aldo Lado and analyzes Who Saw Her Die?, including the similarities between this film and Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (26 mins.)
Arrow have done a tremendous service to giallo aficionados by producing such a classy, high-quality version of one of the most atmospheric and disturbing films the genre produced. Highly recommended.