Giallo Madness is a recurring segment where Wicked Horror managing editor Tyler Doupe’ looks back on a noteworthy giallo from years past and makes a case for why it should be on your radar. The titles showcased in this feature will typically be lesser known but still deserving of your attention. In this installment, we will be revisiting Luigi Bazzoni’s The Fifth Cord.
What stands out to me most about The Fifth Cord is Franco Nero’s (Django Unchained) performance as investigative journalist Andrea Bild. He portrays the character as a flawed and troubled man. He’s not necessarily likable in the conventional sense. He’s an abusive, alcoholic, womanizer. But there is actual depth to his character and his performance. His brooding, depressed ways make him more textured than the typical giallo protagonist. One gets the impression that, in addition to chasing down a story and trying to prove his own innocence, Bild is looking for redemption or some sort of purpose by solving the string of murders he’s investigating.
See Also: Giallo Madness: Death Walks at Midnight
Aside from a solid performance from the film’s lead, the picture also benefits greatly from director and cowriter Luigi Bazzoni’s prowess behind the camera. Bazzoni films the action sequences in such an intense and chaotic fashion that the audience is likely to feel as if they are right there with the victims.
One great example of Bazzoni’s visual storytelling capabilities is the park chase sequence. The entire ordeal is dizzying and frenetic. The camera jumps around in an attempt to leave the viewer feeling discombobulated and on edge. And with that sequence coming just before the third act, it helps set the tone for what’s to come in the denouement.
While the pacing is a bit up and down for the first sixty minutes of the film’s runtime, that is more than made up for in the final thirty minutes when Bazzoni really goes balls-to-the-wall. The scene where a helpless, young child faces off with the killer never ceases to terrify me. Not to mention, the intense showdown leading up to the (not entirely surprising) reveal of the killer’s true identity.
As far as the premise is concerned, the screenplay offers up ample twists, turns, and bouts of misdirection. The mystery at the core of the film is a particularly interesting one. And perhaps that’s why Bazzoni went somewhat light on some of the typical giallo trappings, like excessive nudity and bountiful bloodshed.
Wile a little extra carnage would have made the film feel slightly more giallo-esque, the whodunnit narrative, the frequent appearance of red herrings, and the gloved killer that lurks in the shadows give the flick plenty of credibility as a standout entry in the giallo subgenre.
And even if you’re not a died-in-the-wool aficionado of Italian cinema, there’s a lot to appreciate about this flick. In the moments of respite from tension, the audience is treated to absolutely gorgeous set design, as well as groovy wardrobe and stylistic choices. Bild’s mutton chops alone make the film a must see.
If you have somehow avoided this oft-overlooked gem, give it a shot. I don’t expect you’ll be disappointed.