Death Carries a Cane (Maurizio Pradeaux, 1973)

A gloved hand reaching for a knife.

Death Carries a Cane / Passi di danza su una lama di rasoio (1973)
Running time: 84 mins.
Directed by: Maurizio Pradeaux. Produced by: Francisco Balcazar.
Cast: Nieves Navarro, Robert Hoffman, Simon Andreu, Luciano Rossi, Rosita Torosh, Salvatore Borgese.

For better or for worse, DEATH CARRIES A CANE is a product of its time: violent murder set-pieces co-exist with ugly machismo and beatiful period automobiles in this by-the-numbers giallo outing from director Maurizio Pradeaux.

The Story

When a limping, homicidal maniac slashes his way through Rome with a straight razor it’s up to Swedish fotographer (Nieves Navarro) Kathy and her chauvinistic Italian boyfriend Alberto (Robert Hoffmann) to catch him.

The Visuals

Flat, zoom-happy camerawork during the exposition scenes becomes expressive, even majestic during the murder set pieces. Director Pradeaux stages his stalking scenes with great verve and inventiveness whereas his love scenes are banality itself. Pradeaux and cinematographer Jaime Deu Casas capture an unusual Rome, that of the outskirts. A Rome of bustling street markets, semi-abandoned shacks and traffic-chocked motorways.

The Cast

Nieves Navarro and the moustachioed Robert Hoffman, both decent actors, aren’t given much to work with here. Character actor Luciano Rossi pops up in a throwaway part only to drop out from the story abruptly. Rosita Torosh (SPASMO), who’s made a career of getting herself killed off in some of the finest italian thrillers, plays one of the victims. Prolific stuntman/character actor Sal Borgese has a small part as a bag salesman.

Maurizio Pradeaux’ DEATH CARRIES A CANE (1974) is a middling giallo hampered by a weak screenplay and rushed execution.

The Script

Penned by at least four people, the derivative, poorly developed script throws every cliche into the pot: characters have various handicaps (lameness, impotence, weak bladder). The writers have duly plundered THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE for ideas, both good and bad. Hence a foreigner in Rome who turns amateur sleuth after witnessing a brutal murder. There’s also a nondescript police commissioner, half a dozen red herrings, throwaway picture postcard images of Rome (The Colosseum, Victor Emmanuel II Monument). There are quirky supporting characters who threaten to eclipse the film’s listless protagonists as well as the generic black-clad fedora-wearing killer.

The Music

Maestro Roberto Pregadio’s isn’t the most discussed composer when it comes to film scores. Pregadio’s disturbing music and sound effects during the suspense scenes are particularly effective.

DEATH CARRIES A CANE is a very uneven giallo. On the plus side, murder scenes are descent enough and come at even intervals. It’s the muddled screenplay that lets the film down the most.The final denouement is especially weak, closing the film on a whimper. Definitely not a genre milestone, Pradeaux’ film is only occasionally thrilling and is chiefly valuable as a period piece.

Reviewed by Alex Bakshaev in May 2020