Friday night at the home drive-in: Watch Me When I Kill (1977) by #AntonioBido w/ #CorradoPani #PaolaTedesco #FrancoCitti "When I go berserk… you're better off dead!" #Horror #Giallo #NotQuiteClassicCinema pic.twitter.com/SXqBstjbRV
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) November 16, 2019
I have always been a fan of horror films, and slasher films in particular. I saw movies like Halloween (1978) and Terror Train (1980) when they first appeared on TV, and they made a strong impression. But it wasn’t every day that respectable TV stations would show movies like that. And I was too young to get in to see most of them in the theatre. Home video was a life-changer for a kid like me. Not only did stores like Jumbo Video have a Horror Castle (which was a room filled with hundreds of horror films on VHS and Beta), the clerks who worked in those stores never stopped me or my friends from renting R-rated movies when we were 12 or 13.
We quickly discovered that even though movies had shiny new boxes, with custom made artwork, the films inside were sometimes a lot older than they were made to look. Occasionally we would rent what appeared to be a brand new slasher film, only to discover that it was in fact an old (1960s or early 1970s) Italian movie about a series of murders. Stylistically, these movies were very different from slasher films, and we often felt disappointed when we inadvertently wound up watching one on a Friday night.
Years later I discovered that these movies were called giallos (if you are unfamiliar with that term, go here for a detailed explanation). To my untrained eye, at that time, giallos were basically violent murder mysteries.
As I got older, I started to appreciate these giallos a lot more. Instead of being disappointed when I bought an old VHS tape and discovered a giallo inside, I would get excited. I actually started to look for them, reading the small print on the back of boxes looking for clues. If the program content was dated 1960s or 70s, that was good sign. If there were a lot of Italian names in the credits, that was a very good sign. This is how I came to purchase VHS tapes with titles like Virgin Terror – which turned out to be an Italian movie called Enigma rosso or Red Rings of Fear (1978).
Watch Me When I Kill (1977) was another movie that fit into this category. I remember the VHS tape kicking around, but I had never rented it. This was largely due to negative reviews I had read in books I trusted. But the authors had panned the movie for the same reason that my friends and I had been disappointed by some of our rentals; it was not what it pretended to be (a slasher film). When I was 12 or 13, I would have agreed whole-heartedly. How dare this old, dubbed, murder mystery pretend to be like Prom Night or My Bloody Valentine? But by the time I was an adult, my attitude had changed. Still, I somehow managed to never see Watch Me When I Kill (1977). Never, that is, until I picked up a nice DVD edition on my travels last week. I figured a viewing was long overdue, and I was willing to take a chance that it was a movie I would be happy to have in my collection. I was not disappointed.
Giallos are a bit like slasher films in that even the “bad” ones are still entertaining (at least to me). And although I never saw one on Not Quite Classic Theatre, I did literally discover giallos at the Home Drive-in (my local video store) back in the glory days of home video. And as such, they will aways be a welcome addition to my #NotQuiteClassicCinema library.