The Fifth Cord
directed by Luigi Bazzoni
starring Franco Nero, Pamela Tiffin, Ira von Fürstenberg
Made in the wake of Dario Argento’s masterpiece The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, director Luigi Bazzoni created a giallo film that feels more art house than grindhouse and has been largely forgotten by fans. The film has undergone some recent re-evaluation and is now being hailed as one of the best looking and best constructed giallo. The Fifth Cord works great as a taut thriller , but for some fans lacks some of the iconic set pieces that many giallos are best remembered. Many giallo are often fondly remembered for specific sequences, while the rest of the running time is basically filler to get to the next murder. The Fifth Cord never reaches some of the dizzying highs but is beginning to end a solid and often striking film.
Franco Nero (Django) stars as Andrea Bild, an alcoholic reporter who is investigating the murders of people in his social circles. His drinking not only interferes with his work, but combined with his temper lead him to be a suspect in the very crimes he’s trying to unravel. It soon becomes apparent that someone is trying to frame Bild, but who and why? Nero co-stars with American actress Pamela Tiffin (State Fair 1962) and actress/designer/socialite Ira von Fürstenberg.
The Fifth Cord features beautiful and daring cinematography from cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Storaro is rightfully considered one of the great DPs who also shot Argento’s giallo masterpiece The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. He also went on to win cinematography Oscars for Reds, The Last Emperor, and Apocalypse Now. Storaro eschews the usual gaudy palette of giallo for a gritty feel closer to American films of the 1970’s. Storaro and Bazzoni fill the frame with symbolic motifs, including reflections, bars, and staircases. The film takes great advantage of Rome’s post war ultra modern architecture complete with huge spiral staircases work to not only dwarf the characters but also symbolize their struggles to get to the truth behind the murders. It isn’t the same garish look that is usually synonymous with giallo, instead Storaro gives the film a more lived in feel that is closer to American thrillers of the era. In fact it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine the film with Gene Hackman in the lead. The creativity of the cinematography actually adds a great deal of punch to the film that would be fairly pedestrian without it. But never fear, The Fifth Cord is still populated with stylized violence and some terrifically inspired murder scenes, especially an early attack in a tunnel, a harrowing murder of a paraplegic woman desperately dragging herself across the floor in an attempt to escape an intruder, and the finale where a house’s elaborate security system that inadvertently locks the killer inside the home.
The Fifth Cord is not as well known in the States, due largely to the film never getting much home video release until a DVD release in 2012. Arrow Video has not let the lack of reputation deter them from pulling out the stops for an impressive Blu-Ray Special Edition. The disc features a crisp 2k restored transfer from the original camera negative with the English and Italian language tracks. The disc also has the expected bevy of extras. Film critic Travis Crawford’s opinionated audio commentary is a solid track that works best when he’s discussing the film as it unfolds, but lags somewhat when he gets too deep into people’s filmography and it feels a bit like recitation of IMDB pages. Whisky Giallore is a lengthy featurette with Michael Mackenzie that takes a deep dive on the film that is almost as thorough and insightful as the commentary. Rachael Nisbet presents another featurette on the film’s use of architecture entitled Lines and Shadows that is also a must watch. But wait, there’s more. Interviews with star Franco Nero and editor Eugenio Alabiso are also available as well. The extras on releases like this are not just for the entertainment of the film’s fans but help to put these more obscure titles into proper context because the best known movies in a genre are not always the best or most interesting films of the genre.