Monster of Venice: Alla Salute!

Monster of Venice directed by Dino TavellaMonster of Venice directed by Dino Tavella

Monster of Venice directed by Dino TavellaPop quiz: Can you name a film in which a serial killer stalks the byways and canals of Venice? If your answer is Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film Don’t Look Now, a glass of Chianti for you! If you came up with the more obscure film Who Saw Her Die?, a giallo picture directed by Aldo Lado in 1972, well, you’ve just earned yourself two glasses of Marchesi Antinori! And if your response was the extremely obscure Monster of Venice, a B&W thriller directed by Dino Tavella in 1965, well, YOU deserve an entire bottle of Nero d’Avola! In this one, the titular madman’s MO is to put on scuba gear and either abduct his teenage female prey right off their gondolas or as they’re walking near the canals. When he isn’t busy actually snatching his pretties, he can be found in his underground catacomb lair, injecting his latest catch with embalming fluid (the film’s American title IS The Embalmer) and adding her to his ranked collection standing along the wall; his so-called “Temple of Beauty,” he says out loud, his face hidden behind a skull mask and cowl. Whereas the dim-witted Venetian cops don’t see a connection between the rash of teenage disappearances, a young, hunky-dude reporter, Andreas (Luigi Martocci, listed in the credits here as Gin Mart, which, coincidentally, is where I buy all my vino!), most certainly does, and sets out to capture the fiend. The advent of a group of young female students on holiday, shepherded by their pretty chaperone (Maureen Lidgard Brown), proves a distraction, though, for both Andreas AND the killer…

Anyway, Monster of Venice boasts little in the way of plot, other than a series of abductions and gloatings, and the identity of the monster is fairly easy to deduce. Still, it remains a moderately pleasing entertainment, its saving graces being a suspenseful windup (as the chaperone and Andreas independently penetrate the killer’s lair) and an extremely ingratiating performance from Martocci. Handsome, suave and genial, he almost comes across here like the Sean Connery of the early ’60s; too bad he doesn’t fight as well as a 00 agent! And too bad, also, that Martocci’s only other screen appearance seems to have been an uncredited one in 1963’s Cleopatra. Playing Andreas, he looks “as slick as a movie idol,” as one of his fellow reporters tells him.

The film also sports some at-times interesting direction from Tavella, but the background music of Marcello Gigante was a problem for this viewer. It is effectively suitable here and there, but at other times, the big-band jazz seems out of place; almost non sequitur. At a mere 83 minutes long, the picture goes by fairly easily, yet is still padded somewhat by musical numbers and some halfhearted travelogue sequences. And the dubbing here is just atrocious; the film in its original Italian, with subtitles, would have been a vast improvement. As for the current DVD incarnation of this relatively unknown film, the one from RetroMedia, the print offered looks just fine, with minimal damage, its only extra being a trailer for The Embalmer. And truth to tell, we’re not likely to get a better offering of this film anytime soon. That’s a shame, as Monster of Venice, modest entertainment that it is, still deserves a wider renown. It’s nothing great, but is certainly a decent night’s time killer. And if you should happen to partake of a few glasses of Italian red before venturing in, why, then, all the better! Alla salute!


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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