Saturday, September 30, 2023



MYTHICITY: (1) *fair,* (2) *poor*

I'm gratified to note online info that others besides me regard HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME as an "American giallo." Most slashers of the eighties, good or bad, tend to follow a fairly linear plot, in which some psycho-killer slowly slays victim after victim without much controversy about the murderer's identity. Even when such films end with the revelation that the killer wasn't the expected culprit, the overall narrative isn't substantially different because of the twist ending.

Giallo-makers, though, love to complicate the main plot with tons of data, whether relevant to that plot or not. In the most extravagant Italian productions, the writers often seem to be mocking Poe's basic idea of the "ratiocinative tale." It seems unlikely that director J. Lee Thompson or the four credited writers of BIRTHDAY were intentionally emulating the Italian movies. Even though the 1981 film was one of the more successful slashers, it's possible that the filmmakers were just trying to meld the popular tropes of the slasher-story with more traditional Hitchcockian thrillers.

Ginny (Melissa Sue Anderson) belongs to the "Top Ten," a group of privileged high school seniors who hang out and sometimes scandalize the older residents of the city with dangerous games. Then a black-gloved killer slays two members of the clique before anyone realizes that anyone is in danger. Ginny, who previously underwent brain surgery a few years ago, slowly begins to wonder if she herself may be committing crimes due to some mental abnormality in her psyche, brought on by the death of her mother. It takes a long time for anyone-- Ginny, her father Hal (Lawrence Dane), or Doctor Faraday (Glenn Ford)-- to allude to the accident that took the life of Ginny's mother. For roughly the film, Ginny and her clique-members just go about their daily business, slamming one another or trying to sleep with one another.

Though the first murder is a simple throat-slashing, subsequent deaths are more imaginatively mounted-- again, along the lines of the giallo for "artistic" deaths. One of the standout set-pieces involves a young man getting a deadly shish-kebab shoved down his throat, and arguably the lobby card of this scene remains one of the most famous examples of lurid slasher-art. Some scenes eat a great deal of run-time even when they don't contribute that much to the overall story but the creation of red herrings, as with a continuity involving one of the boys sabotaging the pull-rope of a church-bell. But Thompson et al do an admirable job of keeping tension up even in what are essentially throwaway scenes.

Anderson carries most of the movie with her innocent but determined protagonist, seeking the truth even if she herself is unmasked as a lunatic. Lawrence Dane is equally good, even though it may take a while for viewers to get a handle on his character. Aside from Ginny, none of the Top Ten are more than ciphers, but of the young actors, Traci E Bregman and David Eisner prove better than average. 

I can't say that all the complications add up to a complex symbol-tapestry, but I admire the bravura flourish of the big finish, which the writers reportedly changed during filming-- IMO, for the better. The sociological trope of "killer going after privileged classes" doesn't really gel into anything meaningful, but that too reminds me strongly of Italian giallos.

I can't say 2008's APRIL FOOLS DAY reminds me of much of anything. This DTV movie is, as one may anticipate, a loose remake of the 1986 faux-slasher APRIL FOOL'S DAY, which I reviewed earlier. I don't think the original movie is considered one of the better slashers of the decade, but it has a certain iconic fame for having been among the many such films to play off famous holidays or social events.

And here's all anyone needs to know in comparing the original to the remake:

APRIL '86 was a slasher-take on the tropes associated with TEN LITTLE INDIANS, a mystery.

APRIL '08 is a slasher-take on the tropes associated with I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, which was already a slasher. And since SUMMER was a decent enough slasher, why would anyone watch a hack-version of the previous movie?

All the young men and women being stalked by a killer are flawlessly good-looking, and dull as dirt. I haven't seen the movie that propelled the writer-director team "The Butcher Brothers" to fame, but it's got to be better than this soulless junk. The terrible dialogue, which seems like 75% exposition, fails to put across any character enough to make one identify with any of the protagonists. 

I'm trying to think of one positive thing to say about this dismal DAY, but this time, I just can't do it. Unlike BIRTHDAY, DAY participates in the trope of the phantasmal figuration.



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*

The oddest thing about this three-part episode BREAKING (etc.) appears in the opening scene of the third section-- but first, a little backstory. In the previous two episodes, Al and Peg quarrel, and Al takes up separate residence, thinking that he's now going to score with hot young women. (This runs totally counter to his general tendency to avoid cheating on Peg, not out of devotion but out of a perverse sense of being doomed to be "married with children," as seen in this early episode). 

OK, back to the odd thing. Griff and Jefferson visit Al at his new digs, and observe that Al now sports a black eye. Now the viewer knows from the previous episode that Al got a visit to a hot young babe who wanted him to fix her shoe heel, him being a shoe-man and all. Al does so, but receives another knock at the door, following by a punch in the face from the girl's apish boyfriend. The girl of course does not apologize for her BF's action, but just blandly thanks Al for fixing her shoe.

The viewer knows all this, but before Al can make any explanations, Jefferson says, "Marcy predicted that some woman would beat holy hell out of you." Now, much though Marcy hates Al, and celebrates the possibility of his being permanently kicked out by Peg, this is a weird statement. Al's a big man; why would any average sized woman be able to beat him up? Of course Marcy has seen years' worth of evidence that Peg has verbally emasculated Al-- he even makes a "nutcracker" remark about Peg in this storyline-- but that's not quite the same as physical assault. Al does suffer such indignities at the hands of Peg and other females-- indeed, in this three-parter there's a flashback-montage in which Peg kicks Al off a bunkbed so that he crashes through the floor-- but it's not the sort of thing one sees every episode. My armchair-analysis is that the writers were having fun conflating Al's general humiliation with the idea of physical abuse, even though the viewer has clearly seen that Al did not, in this case, get beat up even by some giant-economy-size female (though this also happened a few times).

The actual plot of BREAKING doesn't merit much discussion, since this is probably the weakest episode of the eleventh and final season. The viewer knows that Al and Peg will get back together, and the script doesn't really come up with any good takes on their ongoing war of the sexes, except in one minor respect. While Al can't score to save his life, Peg puts herself out there and almost immediately snaps up rich suitor Bruce (Alan Thicke). Peg is at least ambivalent: she likes the idea of being a rich man's wife but regrets that Bruce does not have Al's "animal magnetism." Kelly and Bud retaliate for Al's years of indifferent neglect by being largely indifferent to his absence, and of course they pin their hopes on a wealthy daddy who's certainly not a shoe salesman. Bruce, though, makes it easy for Peg and the kids to dump him. Not only does he expect that if he marries Peg she'll have to learn to cook and clean, he also wants the kids to leave and make their own way. So, exit Bruce, leading to the reconciliation of Peg and Al.

Though Al doesn't take any lumps from the gentler sex this time, Jefferson and Bud do. Jefferson again lies to Marcy, leading her to both deck him and drag him home by his leg. In the first part, Bud is once more functioning as an agent to Kelly's acting career, when the two of them encounter Heather, another blonde bimbo who frequently steals Kelly's acting roles. The two young ladies decide to have it out in the boxing ring, and each of them gets to take advantage of the other in their perverse "war of the siblings." When Kelly trains for her bout by jumping rope, Bud sells tickets to young boys so they can watch her bouncing. But when Bud tries to help Kelly train pugilistically, she ends up punching him out twice. On top of that, during the fight between Kelly and Heather, Heather swings at Kelly but takes no small pleasure in having hit Bud instead. This leads to one of the few good lines of the story, from Kelly: "Hey! Nobody hits my brother! At least not without dating him first!"

So does that mean that all of the times Kelly has hit Bud-- not only with her fists, but with such things as a jukebox, an electrical barrage, and an arrow aimed at his skull (technically a miss)-- she has felt justified to do so because-- they're "dating?"



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *metaphysical, psychological*

For some thirty years now I've seen numerous films in which some denizen of Arthurian Britain invades the modern world, either literally traveling in time or being reincarnated in some contemporaneous body. Most of them are dogs like the 1999 ARTHUR'S QUEST, whose creators are overly impressed with their banal conceptions. THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING, a British production written and directed by Joe (ADVENTURES OF TINTIN) Cornish is a fairly simplified take on the Arthurian mythos, but it's consistently engaging.

First, the prologue relates a D&D version of the conflict between Arthur and his half-sister Morgana. The film skirts the circumstances of Arthur's conception and asserts that after Young Arthur pulls Excalibur from the stone with the help of Merlin, he manages to unite many warring tribes of England. Envious Morgana turns to dark magic and tries to overthrow Camelot, and the story of Arthur ends with Merlin using his magic to imprison the serpentine form of Morgana in some other dimension.

Fast forward to the present. Alex (Louis Ashborne Serkis) is a short middle-school kid who pals around with his pudgy mate Bedders as they try to avoid being targeted by school bullies Lance and Kaye (the latter a rarely seen girl bully). Alex lives alone with his mother, and nothing is said of his father for half the film. By accident Alex stumbles across an ancient sword whose markings suggest Excalibur, according to an old book left to Alex by his absent father. But the unearthing of Excalibur awakens Morgana, and now she has power enough to send demon minions to obtain the sword.

A new boy, calling himself Mertin, enters the middle school, and soon enough he calls upon Alex and Bedders, telling them that he is actually Merlin traveling in time and Alex is the descendant of Arthur.  (I assume Bedders descends from Sir Bedivere but I don't believe it's stated.)  Alex and Bedders only believe this story after Merlin saves Alex from one of the demons. (The effort costs him energy, though, and Young Merlin briefly transforms into Old Patrick Stewart.) The youngsters must then find some way to combat Morgana-- and their best chance seems to be to bring Lance and Kaye into the fold, the way ancient Arthur reconciled warring kings. But can two bullies, implicitly named for archaic figures inimical to the archaic King of Britain, be trusted?

KID does set itself aside from the dozens of films in which bully-characters are just used as convenient targets for vengeance, since in this case Alex must actually manage to convert them to the cause of a noble mission. This is decent melodrama, but nothing exceptional. The script goes awry by introducing the story of the absent father, because it never becomes important to the story, not even in terms of straining Alex's relationship with his mother. The final confrontation with Morgana puts across the action with adequate FX, though the best scene in the film involves Alex knighting the whole student body of his school to battle the demons. (Naturally no kids are harmed during this demon invasion.)

I thought Serkis was a bit too nebbish-y to make a juvenile Arthur, and his line-readings are rather mechanical. Patrick Stewart isn't in the film long enough to make any impression, so I don't know why the producers bothered to hire him. Angus Imrie provides the best performance as Quirky Young Merlin, who excels in instructing the other kids in the Chivalric Code.

Friday, September 29, 2023



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *metaphysical, psychological*

Larry Hagman couldn't make this TV reunion-film, as he got an urgent call from DALLAS (that put him in a different pay-grade). But by 1985 Hagman had become so typed as J.R. Ewing that he probably would have cast a discordant note attempting to re-enact the role of Tony Nelson from the fondly remembered sixties comedy show.

Most latter-day reunions of TV-characters are forgettable, and JEANNIE '85 isn't much better than average. Of course, the original I DREAM OF JEANNIE show was largely slapstick froth, so even a bad follow-up wouldn't exactly have been a crime against great art. Further, the last season of the program allowed Tony and his ditzy genie Jeannie (Barbara Eden) to be married, which eliminated one of the two main tropes of the series; that of the man who chased a woman until she caught him. That last season was obliged to pursue the other principal trope, the struggle to keep outsiders from finding out that the respectable astronaut was married to a genie able to wreak miracles with the blink of an eye. Surprisingly, this trope also goes unused in the script by Dinah Kirgo and Irma Kalish. (The latter contributed one script apiece both to the original 1965-70 show and to the Hanna-Barbera JEANNIE cartoon.) Instead, Kirgo and Kalish focus on a motif that only occasionally appeared in the sixties series: the "war between men and women." 

So JEANNIE '85 opens when Jeannie and Tony (now played by Wayne Rogers) have been married 15 years, and they have a middle-school-aged boy, Tony Jr. (Brandon Call), who does not appear to have inherited any genie-genes from, uh, his mother. Tony is just about to retire from his astronaut career, and Jeannie anticipates that she and their son will be able to spend more time with him. But Tony accepts a plea from his superiors to delay retirement and participate in one more manned mission. This breeds an argument between the couple, in which Tony breaks his word. Yet Jeannie's somewhat in the wrong, for she fails to trust Tony's marital fidelity, becoming jealous when he's scheduled to work with a pretty female astronaut.

This plebeian quarrel is exacerbated by Jeannie's scheming sibling (also Eden), who for convenience I will call Jeannie II. This conniving cat would like nothing better than to break up the couple and claim Tony for herself (though in the telefilm she never actually makes a move on the astronaut). Naughty Number Two gets some help from Haji, King of the Genies (Andre de Shields). In the old show, Haji was always an elderly Arab, but in keeping with eighties tropes, he's now a relatively young Black guy who runs a fitness center. However, Haji has some traditionalism in his makeup, for he doesn't like how the younger breed of genies envy Jeannie I's successful marriage to a mortal. To discourage further intermarriage, he abets Jeannie II's plans.

The JEANNIE TV show did sometimes show Tony's male authority being undermined. Even though a genie was theoretically under her master's total command, Jeannie seemed to pick and choose when she would obey her master's orders. In JEANNIE '85, the couple separates because of the quarrel about retirement, and Jeannie takes Tony Jr. with her, to prove that she can make it on her own, without using her genie-powers. Kirgo and Kalish were probably trying to make a general statement about the difficulty of wives trying to market their skills after years of domestic work, but at least they keep the feminist content light. Jeannie II, in addition, continues to seek ways to break up her sister and Tony, and also gratuitously encourages Tony Jr. to help a pretty classmate (a teenaged Nicole Eggert) cheat on a school test.

Eden is game in her dual role, and she's easily the best thing about the telefilm, since most of the script is lacking in the humor department. Two performers from the sixties show, Bill Daily and Hayden Rorke, are given some minor scenes, but they could have been written out with no great loss. Indeed, Tony Nelson doesn't have much to do either. The main story arc revolves around Jeannie's attempts to prove herself and to mend fences with her husband, while trying to keep Jeannie II from messing up her life and that of her son. It's interesting that the characters with the most scenes are Jeannie, her sister and her son, but the writers don't do anything interesting with this conflict. There is one development that almost seems like the two Jeannies are struggling more over Tony Jr than over Tony. Jeannie II tricks her sister into entering her bottle and then traps her with a cork that only another genie can remove. Tony Jr. finds his imprisoned mother and swears to take care of her, while she makes the odd comment, "Don't all boys want to keep their mothers bottled up?" As if to disprove this canard, Tony Jr. taps his latent genie-powers and sets his mother free, just in time for her to rescue Tony from his conveniently-in-peril space-mission. The resolution seems like the writers were told to set things up as if a new series might eventuate-- an unlikely possibility, even though Eden still looked quite fetching in her middle years.

One other odd aspect of JEANNIE '85 was that it was directed by William Asher. Back in the sixties I DREAM OF JEANNIE competed with (and may've been inspired by) the 1964 BEWITCHED. William Asher worked on over a hundred episodes of that show as either writer, director, or producer, and was married to Elizabeth Montgomery to boot. But though the original JEANNIE was Asher's rival, JEANNIE '85 was one of the last few projects Asher directed, the very last being another reunion-film, RETURN TO GREEN ACRES.

ADDENDUM: It belatedly occurred to me that I probably allotted too much responsibility to the writers for the final form of the script. After all, Barbara Eden was the one performer who, in terms of pleasing nostalgic viewers, could not have been credibly replaced-- and what would have sealed the actress's participation more than a script in which she was the main focus in her dual role? Whereas the sixties series placed both Tony and Jeannie center stage, here it's really just Jeannie. A different writer penned the true last hurrah for the character, the 1991 telefilm I STILL DREAM OF JEANNIE-- but in that one, Tony is conveniently off stage for the whole tale, and once more the narrative emphasis is on the two Jeannies and Tony Jr.

Thursday, September 28, 2023



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *cosmological, psychological*

If a viewer can get past the utterly boneheaded rationale for REPLICANT, this second collaboration between star Jean-Claude Van Damme and HK director Ringo Lam has a little more emotional nuance than the standard American chopsocky.

Seattle cop Jake Riley (Michael Rooker) is forced to retire before he can catch a serial killer, nicknamed "The Torch" because he targets young mothers and burns them alive. The Torch (one of two roles played by Van Damme) even calls the retired cop at his home and taunts him with Jake's inability to catch him.

Then Jake gets another chance from those helpful folks at the CIA. They have perfected a miraculous cloning technology, which they plan to use in anti-terrorist operations. But since they don't want to mess up any of their own cases, they talk Jake into being the handler for their first guinea pig. The agents have obtained some DNA from the Torch, and they use this data to create a fully-grown "blank slate" version of the killer (the other Van Damme, playing his fourth "double role" in his movie career). It sounds like the resulting Replicant is the first time the CIA boffins have actually carried their experiment to its final conclusion, yet somehow they know their clone will have a psychic link to the wanted man. I guess this link would help the agents use other clones to track down hidden terrorists-- or something. As I said, if a viewer can accept all this folderol the way a kid would accept magic beans in a fairytale, said viewer will be better off.

Though in his home life Jake has a wife and a young son, he doesn't prove to be a very good babysitter for a fully adult copy of the murderer Jake hates with a passion. He's verbally and physically abusive, but the Replicant, not having known anything else, accepts Jake's abuse because Jake also feeds him and teaches him some basic facts of existence. During Replicant's education period, the CIA helpfully provides the clone with videos of gymnasts, and, wonder of wonders, Replicant starts imitating them. The script could have claimed that he was unconsciously emulating the original model, since it will be eventually seen that the Torch is also a super-athlete. But after asking the viewer to believe that the CIA would create a clone of a serial killer for a test run, the bit about the kung fu skills is easy by comparison.

The point of the experiment, to get Replicant to track down Torch, often takes a back seat to Jake's attempts to deal with his charge. The CIA doesn't provide Replicant with so much as an elementary education; he just learns really fast and is eventually able to frame sentences and make elementary connections. In due time, Replicant runs across his original self, and though it takes Torch a while to suss things out, eventually he tries to convert Replicant to his cause, because the two of them are essentially "brothers." 

Will Replicant manage to throw off the influence of the only "father" he's known, and bond with a "brother" he knows to be evil? If one has seen a Van Damme movie before-- or, for that matter, any version of TOTAL RECALL-- it's a given that the "blank slate" self is going to turn out better than the original. The developments of the plot are lively but inconsequential, for they only exist to provide excuses for high-kicking action. The only backstory of any importance is the explanation that the Torch formed his psychosis after his crazy mother almost killed him by burning him alive. This makes for a dodgy parallel between the Torch's history and the treatment of Replicant by Jake, and it doesn't help that Jake's character is too thin to make him anything but a Dirty Harry "clone." Knowing that he's angry at the real killer doesn't really make Jake's treatment of the innocent clone dramatically interesting, even when he does "get religion" about Replicant's essential nobility in the last half hour of the film.

Still, the "blank slate" theme acquires some strong resonance thanks to Van Damme's double performance. The actor is better as the soulful innocent than as the nihilistic misogynist, not least because Replicant gets a lot more scenes. Neither of REPLICANT's two writers, Lawrence Riggins and Les Weldon, have produced a ton of outstanding scripts. Weldon, though, racked up more consequential credits as a producer of big-ticket action movies like the 2011 CONAN THE BARBARIAN  and both the first and fourth entries in the EXPENDABLES franchise.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023



PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *metaphysical, sociological*

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, when I sample some streaming movie I've heard nothing about, the best I can hope for is competently executed but unexciting formula-fiction. But THE LAST DRAGONSLAYER, adapted for British TV from a YA fantasy book by Jasper Fforde, is that one happy exception to the rule.

Preteen Jennifer Strange is liberated from an orphanage by a quirky but lovable magician, Zambini (Andrew Buchan) to become his assistant. Through Jennifer's eyes we see the higglety pigglety word of the Jasper Fforde series: a modern-day England in which magic is still practiced even though the people have cars, guns, and television, and people wear a wild melange of modern and medieval attire. Because technology is so much easier, magic users have fallen on hard times, and Zambini himself runs an employment agency that sets up witches and wizards with mundane jobs like rewiring electrical systems.

When Jennifer turns 16 (and begins being played by Ellise Chappell), Zambini mysteriously disappears. Jennifer suspects some magical scheme, but she has no leads, so all she can do is keep running her surrogate father's agency. Various seers begin predicting that the Official Dragonslayer is destined to slay Maltcassion, the last dragon. Ever since a long-ago pact confined all dragons to their own lands, totally separate from human dominions, the dragon-race has been dying out. If Maltcassion dies, all of the dragon-lands will become open for human colonization, which is great news to the realm's grasping king (Matt "THE IT CROWD" Berry) and all of his court-sycophants. The common folk of the town adjoining Maltcassion's realm are no better; one lady hopes to claim free land and put up a parking lot.

Jennifer suspects that if the last dragon dies, the power of magic, which is already behaving erratically for the wizards, will also perish, and she'll never find Zambini. She journeys to the dwelling-place of the Official Dragonslayer, intending to talk him out of killing Maltcassion. Instead, the fellow thrusts the Dragonslayer's sword into Jennifer's hands, tells her she's the destined heir to the office, and perishes. Now everyone, from the dotty king to the howling mobs to annoying TV newscasters, expects the young woman to enter the dragon-lands on the prophesied date and slay Maltcassion, even though the creature has done nothing to break the truce between human and dragon. Jennifer even attempts to communicate with Maltcassion, but the dragon seems to regard their impending battle as set in stone.

I've not read the original novel, but I tend to believe writer Tom Edge (co-scripter of the 2019 biofilm JUDY) must have faithfully adapted the many complicated subplots of the book, particularly one involving how the pact between dragon and human came to be. Edge's script keeps revealing interesting things about the world at a breakneck pace, sort of like BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA with an actual plot. Director Jamie Stone keeps things visually interesting, seeking to compensate for the inexpensive TV-CGI with strong visuals. I knew none of the British actors except Berry, but no one sounds a bad note, and that's partly because the script, unlike so many dull fantasy-films, gives all the actors defining moments. I suppose for some viewers it might be a minus that the telefilm ends with a few unresolved plotlines, which is certainly because the Jasper Fforde book was the first in a series of four novels. I'm sorry the same crew didn't get the chance to adapt the other three parts of the story, but at least the whole story is out there.

Though Jennifer only has two short fights, they're enough to make this a combative film. Still, the emphasis is on comedy: on the attempt of a noble young woman to navigate a society of fools and knaves. The dominant comic mood doesn't prevent some sad moments, but the ending carries a rousing HUNGER GAMES vibe.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023




IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE is a fun name for a giallo even though its "animal title" was created to play off Dario Argento's groundbreaking THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. To those who would say the context of the fire-tongued reptile doesn't add up to much in the narrative, I'll note that the crystal-plumed bird is something of a "false clue" in Argento as well.

A mysterious killer starts off his spree in Dublin (IGUANA was actually filmed in Waterford, Ireland) by ringing a woman's doorbell and then both splashing her with acid and cutting her throat. He then loads her body in the trunk of a car belonging to Swiss ambassador Sobiesky (Anton Diffring). The police question the arrogant Sobieski and his family, though the only one who provides the film with a solid red herring is grown daughter Helen (Dagmar Lassander). However, the Dublin cops can only do so much since their main suspect-- who apparently had relations with the slain woman as his mistress-- is protected by diplomatic immunity.

So the local constables bring in a ringer to investigate the family, former cop Norton (Luigi Pistilli). It seems counter-intuitive to choose as your undercover guy a cop fired for having abused a suspect who then committed suicide in front of Norton's eyes. However, maybe the phlegmatic commissioner-- the one who coins the iguana metaphor for the killer-- is impressed by the fact that Norton's really, really bugged by his past mistake and seems to want absolution (assuming Norton's not the killer, since the script implies as much a few times). Of course Norton's undercover operation comes with fringe benefits, for it apparently hinges on his managing to chat up Helen and sleep with her while he's investigating.

Subsequent killings-- mostly with knives and acid, though one does involve a sabotaged bobsleb-- all involve people somehow tied to the Sobieski family. Viewers get to see a POV of the killer wearing dark glasses, so of course Helen and one or two other characters are also seen wearing dark glasses. There's an aimless subplot about blackmail and we also meet Norton's elderly mother and teenaged daughter, who live with the ex-cop. (One hears no more about the daughter's mother than about what Norton was doing to put food on the table before he got this undercover gig.) 

Director/co-scripter Riccardo Freda imitated the bloodiness of other giallo but none of Argento's stylish setups. Allegedly Freda used a pseudonym because of his dissatisfaction with the film, and because he wanted Roger Moore for Norton and couldn't get him. In truth, though the Norton character is nothing special, Pistilli imbues his role with a convincing nervous intensity, which is probably more than Moore could have accomplished. The other performances are just OK (including such figures as Valentina Cortese and Dominique Broschero), and the wrap-up is largely nonsensical. It hinges on the killer being a madman who just wanted everyone he knew to be unhappy, which may be the weakest giallo motive I've ever seen. (He also wears a disguise at one point, which is I assign the film my "outre outfits" trope.)

Oh, and the iguana metaphor? The commissioner compares the mystery killer to an iguana he (the commissioner) almost stepped on in Africa because the beast was so good at concealing itself. (Isn't it the chameleon who's a good hider?) Also, the killer's use of acid reminds the old cop of the fact that iguanas can spit a sort of venom, though he admits that the iguana is harmless to humans. (I looked it up: the iguana possesses atrophied venom glands, so his venom is weak.) The film IGUANA is somewhat atrophied in its power to entertain, but at least it has Luigi Pistilli and a few decent kill-scenes. Oh, and once or twice I got a feeling of that favorite Italian-movie theme, the corruption within the ruling class.