The Wife Killer...
R1 - America - Mondo Macabro
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (5th May 2019).
The Film

Mondo Macabro expands my head once again with the madness of "The Greek Collection Volume Two" presentation of "The Wife Killer..." What we have here is a sleaze filled offering by Greek director Kostas Karagiannis (credited here as Dacosta Carayan) as he throws a little of his favorite Alfred Hitchcock homages into the mix alongside plenty of nudity, perversion and brutality. Oh, did I mention the frequent slaps that occur throughout the film as well; I mean more slaps than a Moe Howard short. Both sexes get backhanders across the mugs as if to punctuate the level of lewdness on the screen, but wait there’s more here than meets the eye.

Our film starts with a scene of a party on a yacht named Captain Jim; it was a birthday gift by the newly married and wealthy Helen (Dorothy Moore) to her playboy husband of the same name (Lakis Komninos or the Americanized Larry Daniels). Jim stands around looking bored by this lavish affair but perks up a bit when he spies the doctor (Giorgos Bartis) coming aboard. It seems that the doc and his wife used to be lovers and he still is carrying a torch for Helen. We see a blonde in a car ashore with a pair of binoculars and she is Laura (Jane Patterson), she is Jim’s mistress. Wait, another car speeds into the parking lot and the man inside starts snapping photos of the party with a telephoto lens; he is Mike (Vagelis Seilinos) and he and Captain Jim share a criminal past. To basically lay out the plot, Jim needs to have Helen come to a fatal end so that he can collect the insurance and her money and end up marrying Laura. This is where Mike comes in to things. It turns out that he is a sex maniac that is on the loose, raping and killing couples in parked cars at deserted lover’s lanes. The killer has struck twice before and the police are stymied (aren’t they always?). These films are presented in such a way as to appeal to fans of the “Italian Giallo” as it reads on the box cover, but let’s face facts, this strange film is all alone in its own weird world.

It is noted in the extra featurette “Sunshine and Shadows” that Karagiannis had screened many genre films before the production started with his cinematographer Vasilis Vasileiadis and the director pointed out certain sequences that he liked and wanted his film to resemble. No doubt they had screened Luigi Cozzi’s giallo "The Killer Must Kill Again" (1975) which featured a similar plot, but to me this film had an uneasy alliance with the actual crimes of the Zodiac Killer who was at work in Northern California in the 60's. There is a scene where Mike calls the police from a pay phone and reports that there was screaming coming from the woods and asks shouldn’t they check it out ; Zodiac actually did the same after killing a couple in Blue Rocks Springs in 1969. Nevertheless in the film Mike and Jim scheme to come up with a plan for the local killer to prey upon Helen and him while they were parking and thus making it look like it was an authentic attack. This is where the film sort of nosedives into madness: we have been witness to Mike committing previous attacks and we have seen his MO. He pulls a stocking over his mug and dons leather gloves and approaches an unaware couple with a silenced revolver, where he quickly kills the man and then rapes and kills the woman. Now we see Mike on the prowl, haunting some local club that features a lengthy dance number accompanied by Greek music, and Mike is dressed to kill. Wearing a suit of some dark green material and with his hair slicked down and combed down the middle, Mike looks like a complete deviant loser. He is intently smoking a cigarette in a lacquer holder and making eyes at the woman in the club; he reaches into his jacket pocket for a B&W glossy of Helen and eyes it provocatively. The plan is for him to go out and nab another blonde that resembles Helen and then he will substitute one for the other in order to get the upper hand over Jim. The dance scene just drags on endlessly here and I guess this is to pacify the Greek audiences somehow. The next scene is even more absurd though; we cut to a gambling establishment and the camera is prowling through the crowds when it zooms in on Mike. Again, he is in disguise with his hair slicked down and plastered to his skull, looking like a complete moron, but this time he is wearing a purple suit coat and a white ruffled shirt complete with bow tie. He is still looking for a Helen lookalike and this time he zooms in on a blonde that is wearing some strange rhinestone bejewelled eyeglasses playing the roulette wheel. Mike plants himself a few yards away and openly stares at the woman with lechery on his mind. Yes, it was the 70’s and I hope to god that I did not look anything like this man.

We cut to a darkened roadside and Mike races his car ahead of the blonde in a convertible. He feigns difficulty and flags her down; is it possible that she give him a ride, he asks innocently. “No wait while I get my car keys” he exclaims and promptly scurries back to his car where he produces a bottle with chloroform and soaks a hanky in it. The blonde is rendered unconscious and now Mike is in charge. He deposits her in the backseat of his car and leaves her car perched on a nearby cliffside. He drives back to his house where the next step of his evil plan is revealed. Mike still has a previous victim held hostage back at his pad and know he takes the drugged woman and plants her in the other blonde’s car. He douses the car with gas and then pushes it over the cliffside where it crashes in a fiery heap. Cops on stake out think that this is going to be their man, but Mike drives away in the opposite way, laughing. Mike calls Jim on the phone and wants to know if the deal is scheduled to go down tonight. Jim tells Helen that she is to look especially beautiful tonight and that he has a big surprise for her lined up. What a cad, that Captain Jim is!

The couple head to Mike’s joint where they are supposed to meet Jim’s friend. The dialogue here is priceless: “Your house is simply exquisite” says Helen. “Then may I suggest that you take a tour of the premises, I have some excellent pieces here. Let’s start in the cellar.” Captain Jim says “There’s lots of interesting things in the cellar.” If I was Helen and I heard this, my alarm bells would be ringing loudly. So then Mike forces Helen into an odd room where there is a casket on display and then he repeatedly slaps her. I forgot to mention that Mike is also a mortician of some sort. He tells Jim to go to a prearranged spot in the woods and that everything is already. Mike quickly strips Helen and takes her jewelry from her only to put it back on the previously kidnapped blonde. Ah ha, I exclaim, the old switcheroo! We cut to the woods where Jim is waiting for his pal and then Mike shots Jim in the shoulder and then further wounds him by hitting him in the face with a rock. After raping the substitute blonde, he kills her, and then calls the police to report that he heard some screaming in the woods. Later on Jim is in the hospital looking pretty worse for wear and the cops come to interview him about the attack. After a few questions, they leave and Jim smiles. Cut to Mike, who is sitting around smoking and watching the news reports about the killing. He is happy that the police are completely on the wrong track and are describing someone else. We cut to a brutal interrogation of a suspect with multiple slaps to his face. Again with the slaps? What does it all mean?

Then out of the blue the doctor from the beginning of the film surfaces and makes an inquest about Helen’s body. He tells the policeman that he is sure that the body on the slab is not Helen Preston; he sites that he operated on her and that she should have an appendectomy scar on her stomach. The police make a report that a suspect has been captured and that the case has been solved. Helen’s funeral is the next day, but the police are watching Jim; he doesn’t know that the doctor has spoken to the authorities and that they know that he is involved with the death of Helen. We cut to Jim and Laura and there is another long sex scene that is totally boring. Intercutting the couple in a heated embrace with framed works of art on the wall-please! Jim tells Laura that he needs to cancel Mike’s ticket because Mike still can blackmail Jim because of what he knows. He tells Laura that he still needs to pay Mike off, but he is actually planning on killing him. The trio meets in the woods and Jim hands Mike a bag of cash; when he attempts to leave, Jim pulls a gun on him. Mike then reveals that he is smarter than Jim and that he actually still has his wife held hostage at his house ; if he doesn’t get the money, then Jim will be arrested for the attempted killing of Helen. The men go to Mike’s house and the killer shows Jim the unconscious Helen. Jim hands over the money again and walks away as Mike fires the gun into the ceiling. As Jim comes out of the house, the police are waiting for him along with Laura and then it is evident that she had set up Jim. Jim fires his gun at the inspector and misses but manages to run away. Inside Mike is busy carrying Helen’s nude body up the stairs to the bedroom, but he hears the shots and pulls his own revolver. Jim and the doctor have made it to the yacht and the doctor pulls a gun on Jim, but Jim makes with some kung Fu kicks and knocks the gun from the doctor’s hand. The two struggle and with the camera outside the house, a single shot is fired. The doctor comes outside with his hands held aloft. Inside Jim is wounded but still alive and he makes his way outside. Helen is rescued by the Inspector and propped up in a chair. Outside Jim is assaulted with a volley of gunfire by the cops and he dies with his hand ironically pointing to the name Captain Jim on the boat’s exterior. The film ends with the Inspector and Helen and the doctor all sipping drinks while the boat sets sail for some exotic port of call. The credits roll and the screen turn black.

Video

Presented in fullscreen 1.33:1 ratio, there was a foreword before the film began that this was an old film and that restorative processes had been made to present the best possible picture, so you are forewarned going in. The box says that this was a brand new transfer from the negative and the quality is not bad.

Audio

Two audio options are included in Greek Dolby Digital 1.0 mono and English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. Watching this in the Greek with English subtitles on, it feels like a completely different film. The English dubbed version just feels much more lurid than the other presentation. Optional subtitles are included in English.

Extras

The first extra is "A Crime in Cavouri" a 6 page text summary about a real life crime that had occurred where the film took place.

There are a collection of cast and crew bios, which are a brief write up of two of the cast and a bio of the composer of the film’s soundtrack and one on the director as well.

"About the Film" is another text feature that covers a brief history of the Giallo and its successors.

There are "Alternative" English credits (1:08), which is an English cast listing under the film's alternate title - "Death Kiss".

Next up are US theatrical trailers, faded trailers for "The Wife Killer" and "Death Kiss" (4:19).

“Sunshine and Shadows” a Greek cult cinema documentary (24:33) features an interview with a film critic that highlights the history of Greek cult films.

Finally, rounding out the supplements are the ever wonderful Mondo Macabro preview trailer reel (9:33).

Packaging

Packaged in a red DVD keep case.

Overall

For some derivative sleaze than this is pretty good. The director went on to helm over a 100 films which is pretty impressive. The film moves along at a fast clip and there is plenty of slapping for all.

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: A

 


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