Posted September 17, 2018 by Chris Hick in Film Reviews

The Pyjama Girl Case (1977) Blu-ray Review

Spoiler alert ahead. Made in 1977, The Pyjama Girl Case was a late giallo thriller and one that came following a massive spate of Italian euro thrillers which begun in the 1960s and exploded with the release of Dario Argento’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), a film that influenced all those that followed it. The Pyjama Girl Case was a bit different, however, as it moved away from its normal European settings and was the only giallo set and filmed in Australia (although most of it was also actually shot in Spain). It also departs from the normal giallo¬†conventions and tropes in that there is no gloved killer seen from POV angles and there is no high body count stacked up by a psychotic killer.

The film opens with the very Marianne Faithfull sounding theme sung by Amanda Lear (she sings a couple of songs in the film) when a young girl playing and finding a dead body with a burnt head in an abandoned car on the beach wearing only yellow pyjamas. The police investigate, led by a retired Canadian cop (played by Hollywood veteran Ray Milland slumming it here in his twilight years). From here on there are two parallel narratives that play out. There is the investigation led (in the first two thirds at any rate) by Milland and there is the story of a girl, Linda (Dalila Di Lazzaro) and her many lovers, from a sugar daddy (Mel Ferrer) to her husband-to-be, Italian immigrant, Antonio (Michele Placido) and Antonio’s blonde friend who is also having an affair with Linda. It is only about halfway into the film that the audience is able to make the leap that the woman’s life we are following is that of the dead girl and wonder how she was to end up mutilated.

The film is actually based off a real event and unsolved crime that took place in Melbourne in 1935, although the action was moved to the more iconic Sydney for the purposes of this film. The headlines at the time mentioned that the corpse of the unknown woman was found in yellow pyjamas. In an effort to find out who the woman was the mutilated corpse was displayed in a glass case to a shocked public as the corpse is in the film in one of the films best known and most shocking scenes in order that the police can try and identify who the woman is. It is made all the more bizarre when it is revealed that this actually happened in the original case.

As¬†author and critic Michael Mackenzie says on a 30 minute featurette on the internationalism of the giallo, the film plays into the travelogue image of the giallo with its shots of classic locations of Sydney in New South Wales, unusual and unique in itself for these Italian films, rather than the more familiar exotic European locations. Nevertheless, this is a different but interesting Italian genre film. It’s an unusual role for Milland, who had played in the Hitchcock villain in Dial M for Murder (1954) or playing the alcoholic in the Oscar winning The Lost Weekend (1945), not to mention the handful of Roger Cormon horror classics. But here he has some unusual lines and unusual observations and comments on masturbation. At the time Milland lived in Spain and all of his scenes were shot there.

One of the problems with this film, as with most Italian genre films is the dreadful dubbing, both in Italian and in English. Normally I would tend to watch a giallo in Italian, but for authenticity and that it stars Milland and Ferrer it is perhaps best to watch in English on this occasion. This dreadful dubbing is unfortunate as director Flavio Mogherini has directed an otherwise intelligent and well constructed thriller that for a modern audience with DVD and Blu-ray players does invite further viewings to reveal what was going on with the plot, once it makes sense, a not so confusing flashback within flashback kind of plot. However, unlike many giallos, it is nicely put together, lacking the absurd red herrings and illogical plots of many of these kind of films.

The extras are many. There are interviews with Howard Ross (Renato Rossini) who plays one of the lovers, editor (Alberto Tagliavia) and Riz Ortalani who provides much of the classic giallo soundtrack; this film does provide a great soundtrack. Best of all though, as well as Mackenzie’s discussion on the internationalism of giallo with several clips, is giallo expert Troy Howarth’s passionate, knowledgeable and often very witty commentary that is well worth a listen.

Chris Hick

Chris Hick