This delirious mix of sex, sadism and style has a masked man stalking the gorgeous mannequins of a Roman high fashion house, murdering them in a strikingly fetishist manner and then leaving the corpses to be discovered like grisly works of art. Mario Bava's 1964 film, originally titled Sei donne per l'assassino
, is one of the earliest slasher movies, and remains a suspenseful, disturbing and oddly seductive film.
The complex, lurid plot features blackmail, murder for profit, drug addiction and scandal among the beautiful people. Smooth Cameron Mitchell and lovely Eva Bartok are the conspirators, pursued by a plodding Columbo-style detective. However, Bava goes beyond the world of Agatha Christie or Edgar Wallace to embrace the surreal and the nightmarish. Each murder is handled like a musical number, with elaborate camera moves, striking colour effects and a strangely memorable jazz score. There is certainly more than a tinge of misogyny in the treatment of actresses as disposable dummies, but the plot is equally cynical about its grasping, feeble, suspicious male characters. This welcome video release--more complete than any previous UK edition--is letterboxed to show off the cinematography and, most importantly, preserves Bava's astonishingly rich colour effects. --Kim Newman