La ragazza dal pigiama giallo
The Girl in the Yellow Pyjamas
Part of the attraction of Italian giallo productions is their luridly exotic titles. It’s hard to resist films with such striking titles as The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971), Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971) or Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972). The titles promise much but only on occasion do they fully deliver. One of the worst titles for a film is surely The Pyjama Girl Case. It doesn’t promise a great deal and expectations are subsequently low, but the film constantly upsets ones expectations. This is one of the most obscure of the batch of gialli DVD’s released by ace US distributor Blue Underground a few years back, and is in my view one of the best. It was released in 1977 at a time when the production of gialli was beginning to slow down, and to its credit does a number of different things with a form that had become stale. The director Flavio Mogherini was best known as an art director and production designer, he was the man behind the larger-than-life art deco designs of Mario Bava’s spoof spy adventure Danger: Diabolik (1968). His directorial career was less distinguished, but Mogherini who co-wrote The Pyjama Girl Case with Rafael Sanchez Campay deserves attention for his precisely plotted narrative and an ingenious piece of misdirection that takes one by surprise.
Dalila Di Lazzaro as Glenda Blythe
The narrative only in part deals with these themes; running in tandem to these concerns is an investigation into a particularly brutal murder. The badly burned body of a woman is discovered on a beach distinctively attired in the garments of the films title, and the ensuing case frustrates the investigating authorities and leads one man to come out of retirement to try and solve the crime. This is Inspector Thompson played with gruff brilliance by former Oscar winner Ray Milland. Milland’s descent into the cinematic sewer remains one of the more perplexing chapters of film history, but he obviously thought a lot more of this film because he puts in a great little performance. Like the foreigners Thompson is also cut off from society and uses the opportunity to investigate the murder as a means of reconnecting to society. The actual authorities seem unconcerned and at one point turn the investigation into an illicit circus when they put the corpse on public display in an attempt to create leads. This is an aspect of the case which apparently did actually take place. This moment is the most disturbing in the film as members of the public gawp in repulsed fascination at the charred remnants while Riz Ortolani’s electronic score throbs in the background.
© Shaun Anderson 2011