UK Release Date: 17th September 2018
Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: Flavio Mogherini
Writer: Flavio Mogherini, Rafael Sánchez Campoy
Starring: Ray Milland, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Michele Placido, Howard Ross
Synopsis: An ageing former cop must work with a complacent young investigator to solve the case of a woman found murdered and badly burnt.
When you think of the giallo, you think of Italy. You think of black-gloved killers splattering blood all over lurid, colourful walls while being pursued by over-sexed detectives. What you don’t necessarily consider is a gruesome murder that really happened in Australia. Nonetheless, that’s the subject matter from which writer-director Flavio Mogherini draws for The Pyjama Girl Case, which is a giallo with an international twist. There’s also another twist to proceedings – the twist that it’s actually very dull.
Things start in engagingly grotesque fashion, as a small girl discovers the disfigured, charred corpse of the titular murder victim on an idyllic beach in New South Wales. The cops struggle to identify the woman and choose to preserve the corpse in the hope that a member of the public might come forward with information. In the meantime, ageing detective Timpson (Ray Milland) comes out of retirement to do some good, old-fashioned police work while the young cop assigned to the case gets complacent over the first possible suspect. Meanwhile, a parallel story follows Glenda (Dalila Di Lazzaro) and her turbulent relationships with both her husband (Michele Placido) and the man with whom she’s having an affair (Howard Ross).
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how these stories line up, but the movie seems keen to paint it as at least something of a mystery. Matters are not helped by the fact that Di Lazzaro’s story is exceptionally boring as she squabbles with her two paramours and this stuff is given a great deal of prominence at the expense of the investigation, particularly in the second half of the movie.
The best of the giallo sub-genre deals in lurid, flamboyant gore and rather preposterous storytelling. The Pyjama Girl Case is instead a rather serious thriller that’s connected to giallo almost solely as a result of its predominantly Italian cast. It’s a departure for Mogherini, whose career was mainly characterised by comedy, as this film doesn’t feature as much as a sniff of a laugh. The potentially intriguing elements of the warring detectives are ditched with alarming regularity, as the movie allows most of Milland’s character’s intricate investigation to unfold off screen.
Across the board, this simply feels like a missed opportunity to tell a giallo story in a new environment, with Australia mostly indistinguishable from a standard giallo setting whenever the action moves away from the beaches of New South Wales. Most of the characteristics and quirks that make the giallo compelling as a genre are absent and what’s left is a fairly standard detective story that lacks much in the way of mystery and, as a result, culminates in a whimper rather than the gut punch of a big narrative twist.
Lots of new interviews with people involved in the film, as well as some discussion of where the movie fits into the giallo canon.
Pop or Poop?
The giallo sheds its flamboyant European trappings for The Pyjama Girl Case, which relocates the action to Australia and the tone to something very serious and straight-faced. The multiple plotlines sap each other of momentum and the performances are every bit as devoid of energy as the narrative.
The Pyjama Girl Case is available on Blu-ray in the UK from Monday, courtesy of Arrow Video.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.