Stage Fright – Rediscovering ‘The Killer Reserved Nine Seats’ (Italy 1974 – 99 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - July 16, 2014
Stage Fright – Rediscovering ‘The Killer Reserved Nine Seats’ (Italy 1974 – 99 mins)

One of the better Italian giallo’s from the mid 70’s’, ‘The Killer Reserved Nine Seats’ (L’assassino ha riservato nove poltrone) has a simple plot enlivened by a decent cast in an impressive setting, where incest, ancient curses and of course murder, soon rears its head.

One night nine people are invited to an old opera house owned by the Davenant family. The group is headed by the wealthy Patrick Davenant (Chris Avram), his fiancé Kim (Janet Agren), his red haired daughter Lynn (Paola Senatore) and her boyfriend Duncan (Gaetano Russo). Also invited are Patrick’s former flame Vivian (Rosanna Schiaffino), her friend Russell (Howard Ross), lesbian lovers Rebecca (Eva Czemerys) and Doris (Lucretia Love), and family friend Albert (Andrea Scotti). Once inside and with the doors now locked, they soon realize that they are not alone. A strange guide (Eduardo Filipone) appears from nowhere, and it’s not long before the guests begin meeting their fates, which are very similar to those depicted in an old tapestry found in the theatre.

More of a supernatural giallo than the usual hooded killer tales, the film moves along at a fairly brisk pace. The clothes-shedding female cast is particularly strong here, with former beauty queen Rosanna Schiaffino top-lining and stealing the acting honours in a rare horror role. American-born Lucretia Love, alternating between the US and Europe, also appeared in that years cult Pam Grier pic ‘The Arena’, while the stunning Eva Czemerys, who plays Lucretia’s lesbian lover, had made the exploitation favourite ‘Women in Cell Block 7’ the previous year. Paola Senatore (also seen in ‘Women in Cell Block 7’), went on to have a more lurid career, starring in erotic drama’s (‘Maladonna’ – ’84) and gory Cannibal fare (‘Eaten Alive!’ – ’80), before a drug problem in the 80’s ended her career. Further down the cast list is the gorgeous Janet Agren, who impresses as an early victim, spouting Romeo & Juliet. As Patrick Davenant, Romanian born Chris Avram thought he was rather slumming it here. A stage actor of some note, Avram is solid enough, although he was unhappy at the time with how his career was going. Italian favourite Howard Ross would go on to appear in Lucio Fulci’s most notorious film; ‘The New York Ripper’ (’82).

This was director Giuseppe Bennati’s final movie, and he directs with great style. The murders are fairly gory and sometimes linger on the ample female nudity. I particularly love the killer’s creepy mask, which is very life-like rather than plain ghoulish. Italian composer Carlo Savini, who acted as musical director on ‘The Godfather’ (’72), provided the films lovely score, while cinematographer Giuseppe Aquari makes excellent use of the theatre’s interiors and hallways. The last fifteen minutes of the movie are fairly gripping, with secrets revealed and a 100 year old curse putting pay to the killer’s money-grabbing plans.

Pre-dating Dario Argento’s ‘Opera’ (‘ 87), and borrowing from Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, ‘The Killer Reserved Nine Seats’ is a solid, raunchy mystery, complete with trap doors and spiral staircases. The supernatural elements work well, and help explain the sometimes mysterious goings on. All in all a unique entry in the Giallo stable, and one definitely worth an encore!

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