In 1970, genre legend Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was released and instantly defined the giallo genre, became a big hit and helped turn Argento into a horror legend. It makes sense then that other filmmakers might attempt to follow in those footsteps. To be fair, Luigi Bazzoni’s 1971 giallo, The Fifth Cord does a decent enough job of creating a visually alluring murder-mystery while, like other giallo films following in the wake of Argento’s success, not quite hitting the spot in terms of tension, excitement and grisly murder scenes.
Based on the book of the same name by D.M. Devine, The Fifth Cord starts at a New Years party, all bright colours and funky dancing to a definitely “of it’s time” soundtrack. Not long after this, a couple making out interrupt a violent attack on a man in a darkened tunnel. Turns out this is the start of many attacks and it’s up to Journalist, Andrea Bild (Franco Nero) to report on the case and gather as much information as possible.
Of course, Andrea doesn’t just get more involved than he initially planned, he’s also a washed up, whiskey drinking mess. As the attacks increase, this time more fatally, Andrea himself becomes a suspect and the only clues are black gloves found at the spot of each attack with a finger cut off on each one, indicating there’ll be more attacks, 5 in total? Or maybe even ten? Obviously this puts our dodgy journalist under more pressure than ever.
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If the above whets your appetite then it’s worth a watch as its classic murder-mystery thriller feel does a pretty good job of keeping you engaged. Particularly for the casual viewer. But for hardcore fans of the giallo genre, The Fifth Cord disappoints somewhat as not only does it lack the edge-of-you-seat tension you’d expect from a film of this type, the attack/murder scenes are disappointingly short/tame in comparison to some of the greats of the genre (Deep Red, Tenebrae, A Bay of Blood, Torso, Blood and Black Lace), therefore leaving The Fifth Cord feeling more like a made-for-TV movie at times. Having said that, it does look great for it’s time, some great shots and visuals throughout.
Cinematography here is provided by Vittorio Storaro and The Fifth Cord does also boast appearances from cult genre favourites including Edmund Purdom, Rossella Falk and Silvia Monti. Add to that a score by the legendary Ennio Morricone. The Fifth Cord isn’t without it’s plus points despite Morricone’s sometimes offbeat score not being anywhere near his best work.
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Overall, a worthy watch for fans of the genre. It’s exciting final scene giving The Fifth Cord a satisfying end to a mixed bag of a film. Arrow Video have done their usual job of compiling a great host of extras for fans and newcomers alike including, among others, an audio commentary by critic Travis Crawford. A new video essay titled Lines and Shadows about the film’s use of architecture and space by critic Rachael Nisbet. A new interview with actor Franco Nero and an unseen, previously deleted sequence restored from the original negative.
The Fifth Cord is out now from Arrow Video.