Arrow Video: Who Saw Her Die? (1972) - Reviewed

Aldo Lado’s film Who Saw Her Die? might not be the most recognizable giallo title of 1972, but it has some attributes that set it apart from its drove of counterparts.  Despite it being fairly formulaic in many regards, its execution is above average and worthy of discussion, which is likely why Arrow decided to restore the film and bring it to Blu-ray.

The premise of the film will sound familiar to gialli fans, but there is one notable difference.  While many gialli bask in buxom beauties becoming the primary victims, this one has very little of that.  Instead, a child killer is the central focus here.  Franco Serpieri (George Lazenby) is a well-known sculptor living in Venice when a mysterious, veiled killer ends up murdering his young daughter Roberta (Nicoletta Elmi).  Frustrated by the police’s lack of progress in the case, Franco and his wife Elizabeth (Anita Strindberg) take matters into their own hands, and the further they investigate, the more people around them start getting slayed–many of whom are viable suspects.  The couple begins to realize their lives are in danger, and they rush to find the killer before they become victims themselves.     

There is a great deal of talent behind this film.  While more naturalistic than most gialli, Franco Di Giacomo’s cinematography compliments the picturesque Venice perfectly, giving the exterior shots a painterly quality that captures the vast beauty of the city.  The interior shots work equally well, showcasing some nice-looking set design.  The dolly work throughout the piece gives the film a fluid, sweeping essence that is polished and thoughtfully planned.  Angelo Curi’s editing is also exceptional throughout the film:  rather than actually showing one of the murders, for example, the scene cuts to a slab of raw meat in a butcher shop right before the stabbing occurs, adding a wicked sense of humor to the moment.  Several sequences feel downright poetic, particularly the shots of Roberta’s body floating in the water, contrasted against shots of townspeople working near the bay, culminating in some passersby finding the child’s body.  There is an elegiac air about that moment, thanks in part to the masterful Ennio Morricone’s brilliant score comprised of haunting children’s choir music, which is unsettlingly befitting for the film’s subject matter.

Despite the crew’s competence, Who Saw Her Die? is by no means a perfect film.  Too many characters are introduced to the plot, only seeming to exist to increase the body count.  The main cast is talented, but there is little for them to sink their teeth into, especially in the case of Anita Strindberg, who was woefully underutilized.  Moreover, the film loses some steam in its second half, leading up to an unsatisfying climax filled with awkward fight choreography and a killer reveal that is equal parts surprising and underwhelming.  Some giallo fans will be disappointed by the lack of explicit gore in this film (and how phony the gore it does depict appears), but a few of the more creative murder scenes somewhat make up for it, particularly one involving an aviary.

For those that want a deep dive into this film, the Arrow Blu-ray delivers as usual.  The 2K restoration from the original 35mm Italian negative enhances the already great cinematography, and the score sounds especially crisp, despite some of the sound effects still sounding outdated.  The option to view the film in dubbed English or its native Italian format is given, and although the syncing is a bit loose, it is a forgivable offense for those familiar with the genre.  The bonus features are impressive, ranging from an audio commentary by critic Troy Howarth, to interviews with everyone from director Aldo Lado to the now iconic horror actress Nicoletta Elmi.  Author and critic Michael Mackenzie makes a strong case for how standout this film is in his interview, but make sure to watch it after your first screening to avoid any spoilers.

Who Saw Her Die? is a worthwhile endeavor that tackles a taboo topic with enough aplomb to not feel tacky or cliche.  It has a unique presence in the world of gialli, and anyone that enjoys the genre should consider exploring it through this newly released Arrow Blu-ray.

--Andrea Riley