Color, 1976, 87m.
Directed by Dacosta Carayan
Starring Larry Daniels, Dorothy Moore, Vagelis Seilinos, Jane Paterson
Mondo Macabro (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
The DVD packaging for this film as well as many reviews play up its debt to the Italian giallo films flooding worldwide movie theaters throughout the '70s, though it's obvious that director Dacosta Carayan (aka Kostas Karagiannis) was gorging on Hitchcock big time as well. Nods to Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, and Vertigo abound here, but they're mixed into a sordid brew filled with nudity, violence, and perversity significantly stronger than anything the Master of Suspense would have attempted.
Reteaming with Caryan after the astounding Tango of Perversion, actors Larry Daniels (aka Lakis Komninos) and Dorothy Moore star here as Jim, a predatory businessman, and his wealthy wife, Helen (Moore), whom he wants to bump off so he can be with his ditzy blonde mistress, Laura (Paterson). However, as we quickly see in the film's opening scene, there's a maniacal sex killer on the loose named Mike (Seilinos) who likes to stick pantyhose over his head and kill off amorous couples making out at night in their cars. Jim decides to offer a chunk of Helen's inheritance to the psychopath, who can use Helen for any nefarious means he has in mind as long as he kills her with a clear alibi left for the husband. Jim explains the whole plan to Laura, including the wrinkle that Jim is supposed to be convincingly shot and beaten up to make it all look real, but the plan starts to go awry when Mike finds a dead ringer for Helen and starts to put his own alternate scheme into play. Needless to say, mayhem ensues with the two men finding it impossible to trust each other as the cops start to close in.
Best known to American viewers via a censored VHS release from Prism under the title Death Kiss, this trashy little gem was originally unveiled in English-speaking cinemas from the notorious Joseph Brenner under the subtle title of The Rape Killer (whose trailer has popped up on a few compilations here and there). The more socially acceptable title on Mondo Macabro's DVD is also better suited to the film, though in its uncut version there's still a lot of dubious material including implied necrophilia, plentiful nudity, and of course, peppy Greek dance routines. Daniels and Seilinos make for a fun team of villains, which may bring to mind a particular giallo from the early days of Mondo Macabro, The Killer Must Kill Again (itself a Hitchcock homage as well), and the rock-tinged score by Yannis Spanos is also a ton of fun.
The Mondo Macabro disc presents the film in a very similar manner to their Tango of Perversion disc, which isn't surprising as they feature much of the same cast and crew and were shot under similar conditions. Most of the actors voiced their roles in English and were later looped by other voice performers, so both the English and Greek dubs are included here with optional English subtitles (translating the Greek dialogue). The image quality (from the original negative) is very good throughout, a major improvement over the old VHS transfers and nicely done with only a few hairline scratches and scuffs showing the film's age.
As for extras, the disc includes both the Rape Killer theatrical trailer and the Death Kiss one created for the VHS release. There's also the (very tacky) English-language opening credits from the Prism VHS release, extensive cast and crew bios (for Komninos/Daniels, Karagiannis, Seilinos, and Spanos), an "about the film" essay about the connections to gialli cinema and the similar production of Tango of Perversion, that familiar Mondo Macabro promo reel for additional titles, and the "Sunshine and Shadows" 24-minute featurette with critic/musician Akis Kapranos also seen on the Tango DVD. However, the most intriguing bonus may be a text essay called "A Crime in Cavouri," which explains the film's original Greek title and its connections to a famous real-life murder case in the region, which sounds like it would make a pretty astonishing film in its own right.