Arrow Video: The Fifth Cord (1971) - Reviewed

A murderer plots to choose and kill five victims. Alcoholic journalist Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) is one of the suspects. Denying he has any involvement, he is determined to find the killer.  While cavorting with both his young, blonde girlfriend, Lu (Pamela Tiffin), and red-headed, single mom girlfriend, Helene (Silvia Monti), he’ll do anything to get his scoop, while also proving his innocence to the Police Inspector (Wolfgang Preiss), and hoping to prevent the killer from completing their deadly goal. 

Riding on the success of Dario Argento’s giallo films of the early 1970s, The Fifth Cord is framed by an unforgettable score by Ennio Morricone (you will get the opening theme song stuck in your head), and the photography of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who  previously had worked with Argento on The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and went on to have an interesting career of Hollywood blockbusters and disasters in which the photography was the strongest element (i.e.: Last Tango in Paris, Dick Tracy, Apocalypse Now).

Other than that, The Fifth Cord doesn’t have much that stands out, but has a few things that make it enjoyable to watch.  Throughout the film, the artful and intense lamps in every room in each scene are a delightful yet unfortunate distraction from the convoluted and confusing plot. Franco Nero, although a scoundrel who slaps the shit out of his girlfriend for no reason with no consequences (with cartoony sound effects, no less), looks suave with his sideburns, ‘stache, big turtlenecks and large lapels. There are a few items from the closet of Helene that I would love to come across in a vintage shop, like the full-length leopard print trench she wears in the airport scene.  Most characters wear turtlenecks at multiple points in the movie. At one point, I am convinced that Andrea is wearing the same over-sized brown turtleneck as Helene was wearing in the previous scene! 

Aside from the fashions, Franco Nero, Silvia Monti, and the rest of the cast are charismatic and charming. Nero plays the Bild character in a way that many will love to hate. Each location, from the home Helene and her small son, Tony live in, to the office building Andrea works in is a Mid-Century Modern Design admirer’s dream.

For those wanting to watch a classic giallo with the expected tropes, there isn’t much to be disappointed in.  However, the plot is so needlessly confusing that even after viewing both the English and Italian-subtitled versions, I still had some trouble figuring out just who certain people were and how they fit in to the story.  The film also lacked any real suspense, and truly gruesome murder scenes, so some giallo lovers may feel slightly ripped off in that regard.   

The new Arrow Blu-ray is packed with special features, like a new audio commentary from film journalist Travis Crawford. Also, self-described Giallo Fiend, Rachael Nisbet, discusses the cinematography in a short segment. In a featurette called “Whiskey Giallore”, Michael MacKenzie chats about his appreciation of giallo and more specifically, The Fifth Cord.  Arrow Blu-ray also got a chance to sit down with Italian acting legend, and star of The Fifth Cord, Franco Nero, where he chats about his memories of working on the film. In the featurette, “The Rhythm Section”, film editor Eugenio Alabis is interviewed.  The highlight of all these fascinating segments on the making and history of this film is a deleted montage segment that was found with the other film elements for the movie and has never been released before.  Both Italian and English theatrical trailers are included as well as an Image gallery of lobby cards, posters, promos, and production shots.

--Mara Powell