A powerfully atmospheric 1983 entry in the giallo cycle with a
clever script and strong performances, not to mention an impressively
contained and well utilized setting.
The Italian giallo (meaning, literally, yellow)
films of the 1960s, 70s and 80s were lurid works that emphasized
over-the-top sex and violence within old fashioned mystery frameworks.
The best known such films are Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and
Dario Argento’s THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, which aren’t
representative of most giallos (which by and large aren’t very
THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET (LA CASA DEL TAPPETO
GIALLO), based on a play by Aldo Selleri, is one of the better non-Bava/Argento
giallos (it even has giallo in the title), but also one of the
most unjustly neglected.
Antonio and Franca, a young couple, are burdened with a
roll of yellow carpet Franca inherited from her abusive stepfather.
Antonio puts a classified ad in the local paper offering to sell the
carpet. The following morning a middle-aged man turns up at their
apartment just as Antonio is called downstairs, allegedly because his
car is being towed. The man, who has a paralyzed hand and speaks in a
hard-to-place accent, is seriously weird, and his encounter with Franca
quickly grows threatening.
Identifying himself as a murderer, the guy locks the
apartment from inside and turns out all the lights. He claims Antonio is
jealous of Franca and hired the man to kill her. He also claims to have
murdered his wife on the very carpet Franca is selling. Eventually
Franca grabs a knife and stabs the man to death.
Following this unexpected development Franca wraps the
man’s corpse in the yellow carpet and attempts to flee the apartment.
Opening the front door, however, she’s confronted by a strange woman who
identifies herself as the dead man’s wife, and convinces Franca to let
her in. The woman doesn’t stay long, leaving Franca alone with the
corpse--who doesn’t appear to be dead!
Franca abruptly loses consciousness, and comes to in
the care of Antonio. He acts like nothing has happened, and Franca
begins to suspect she may be losing her mind. But then we get a
flashback or hallucination that (seemingly) shows what occurred while
Franca was unconscious, and suggests that the preceding hour may not
have been all it seemed…
Unlike most giallos (which are generally far
trashier than those by Bava and Argento), THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET
is strong enough to rank with most eighties-era Hollywood thrillers.
It’s extremely atmospheric and visually evocative, imparting a strong
sense of mundane normality in the early scenes that gradually gives way
to creepiness and irrationality. The fact that it takes place largely in
the confines of a small apartment (the “house” of the title is nowhere
to be found), and largely in real time renders it all the more
impressive: the film is genuinely compelling and suspenseful without
(for the most part) feeling stagey. My only real complaint is one I have
about quite a few Italian films, giallo and otherwise: the crummy
English dubbing, which is a constant annoyance.
At least the four lead actors are all quite strong. The
stand-outs are Sweden’s late Erland Josephson and the attractive
Beatrice Romand, who isn’t great but never fails to hold our interest.
THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET (LA CASA DEL TAPPETO GIALLO)
Director: Carlo Lizzani
Producer: Filiberto Bandini
Screenplay: Filiberto Bandini, Lucio Battistrada
(Based on a play by Aldo Selleri)
Cinematography: Giuliano Giustini
Editing: Angela Cipriani
Cast: Erland Josephson, Beatrice Romand, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Milena