La polizia brancola nel buio (1975) opens like any second-rate giallo with a woman fleeing some unknown killer across the Italian countryside as her clothes fall off of her body. Directed by Helia Colombo, La polizia brancola nel buio lacks the visual inventiveness of the best entries in the genre. The plot of La polizia brancola nel buio is incredibly sleazy, far fetched, and in direct opposition to Colombo’s unimaginative and workman-like direction.
La polizia brancola nel buio begins as a mystery when a beautiful model goes missing in a small village thirty-two miles outside of Rome. Journalist Giorgio D’Amato (Joseph Arkim), the missing model’s boyfriend, comes to the village to find her only to pursue the teenaged niece of an eccentric photographer (Francisco Cortéz) who has devised a method for photographing thoughts. Over the course of some eighty minutes La polizia brancola nel buio blends the proto-slasher genre with a perverse and manic take on the soap opera with little regard for characterization, atmosphere or narrative logic.
In another filmmaker’s hands La polizia brancola nel buio could have been the equal to such unorthodox giallo films as Pensione paura (1977) or Non si sevizia un paperino (1972). As it is, La polizia brancola nel buio is a complete mess that is perfectly content to rely on bare breasts to keep its audience riveted. In most giallo films there’s plenty of sleaze to go around but it’s rarely as boring or as gratuitous as it is in La polizia brancola nel buio. If cinematographer Giancarlo Pancaldi’s compositions had been more dynamic, these proceedings wouldn’t have been quite the slog.
The premise that human thought could be recorded as a photograph is the real missed opportunity in La polizia brancola nel buio. This notion has factored into a dozen or more films often yielding at least one or two compelling ideas. Wim Wenders made a five hour long road movie founded on this concept after all. But for La polizia brancola nel buio the machine that photographs thoughts is a fantastic concept that is employed solely to solve a whodunnit. In Colombo’s hands the most cinematic of notions is reduced to nothing more than a plot device.
Recently, La polizia brancola nel buio was included in the Vinegar Syndrome boxed set release Lost Gialli Vol. 1. It’s a beautiful set that’s really well put together and curated but, as with any boxed set, not every film is going to be great. Things are particularly hit or miss when a set is dedicated to “lost” or “forgotten” genre films. However, to Vinegar Syndrome’s credit, all of their releases are well worth owning for the restorations and special features.