Friday, October 8, 2021


Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 8
Total First Time Views: 6
Amount raised for ALBANY PARK THEATER PROJECT: $389.20

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (1974) d. Giuseppe Bennati (Italy) (109 min) (1st viewing)

Grumpypants moneybags Patrick Davenant (Chris Avram) uproots a party at his home to a remote (and shuttered) theater building owned by his family for several hundred years. Among his guests are new fiancee Kim (Janet Agren), ex-wife Vivian (Rosanna Schiaffino), redhead daughter Lynn (Paola Senatore), raven-haired sister Rebecca (Eva Czemerys), her short-cropped blonde lesbian lover Doris (Lucretia Love), smarmy artist Russell (Howard Ross), Vivian's nebbish husband Albert (Andrea Scotti), and Lynn's insufferably flip boyfriend Duncan (Gaetano Russo). There’s also a mysterious, oddly dressed stranger (Eduardo Filipone) whom nobody seems to know, recognize, or remember who invited him. Much bickering and idle chatter (i.e. exposition) ensues, with things taking a startling turn when Patrick is nearly killed by a falling beam and Kim is literally stabbed in the back whilst performing the climax of Romeo and Juliet. Accusations fly and unlikable folks die. Roll credits.

Inspired by Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, writer/director Bennati has a ball bringing together a collective of acid-tongued relatives, business associates, and “friends,” having them wander around the gorgeous and atmospheric confines of a grand theater hall (an inspired choice, providing a single location with a multitude of varied settings, including backstage, balconies, onstage, or the lush audience seating) before being murdered. Unlike the ultra-modern settings of many other 70s giallo efforts, the austere classical setting and seemingly supernatural events lend a gothic flair to the proceedings, with Giuseppe Aquari’s stately camerawork and Carlo Savina’s lush orchestral score lending marvelous support.

The staples of the subgenre are present and accounted for: Nearly ever female doffs her duds before being bumped off, with Senatore’s drug-induced shimmy-shimmy a memorable highlight. The murders themselves are a confoundingly mixed bag, some so mundane as to be laughable with others far more ornate and cringe-inducing. (One character comes to a particularly grisly end, stabbed repeatedly in the Nether Lands and then having a single hand nailed to a post. Talk about insult to injury.) There are tweaks to the formula, however; there is nary a J&B bottle in sight, and the black-clad killer adorned in a bald-headed fright mask rather than the classic featureless black cloth face covering.

The supernatural subplot will either intrigue or annoy viewers (I liked it), but at least it’s something “new” and different, with the abundance of gratuitous nudity and annoying characters more in tune with the slasher heyday than its ’70s contemporaries. The killer in 1980’s Terror Train wears a very similar mask to the one seen here.)

Why this particular offering, the equal or superior to so many other gialli from the same period, has languished in obscurity for so long is a mystery unto itself. Thankfully, it has finally been restored to its former glory for fans to enjoy anew.

You can listen to Jon, Ian, and AC chat about the film HERE:

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