B Movie Challenge: The Embalmer a.k.a Il Mostro di Venezia

Mama Mia!!! If you’re going to be an Italian serial killer (hey if you’re going to do it, you might as well travel to a beautiful countryside) I can only ask that you do it in style. Wear some expensive black gloves, be sure no one is around when you do the deed, and have a real hip, cool pad like an underwater submerged monastery full of skulls and bones. However, make sure you retrieve the victims with a little more class than slowly sneaking up on them in scuba gear (what a way to give a killer blow)! Long before Argento carved several animals with a knife and Michaels Myers stared at anyone who looked his way, the filmmakers at Indipendenti Reiongali gave us this little slice (no pun intended) of early Giallo horror known in the United States as The Embalmer! (Il Mostro di Venezia in Italy, which means The Monster of Venice). 

It’s one thing to be a collecting fanatic, but when it comes to killing a woman to preserve their beauty in a glass jar, you might want to pick a different hobby (I hear collecting legos is a thing?). The term Giallo has its roots buried in popular Italian crime/mystery novels from Mondadori with bright yellow covers. As crime thrillers became popular in the 50s, so did the rise of these kinds of films, taking a lot of the storylines directly from these pulpy pleasures of pain. There were certainly masters who rose from this genre, like Luci Fulci, Mario Brava, and the king of Giallo and Master of Horror Dario Argento (notice the director of this film didn’t make the list).  This genre was a hit among Italians and started to get a strong following when dubbed and distributed in the United States.  However, most missed this one when it was released in drive-ins along with another classic creepy cheapy The She Beast, and the film sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor until discovered by late-night horror hosts and home video in the 80s. 

The cops are baffled (aren’t they always in these kinds of films) as to where these young women who walk alone near the canals in the middle of the night (for no good reason) are disappearing too. Turns out there is a giddy collector who wants to preserve the beauty of the women he falls in love with (how romantic) behind glass sheets, perfectly embalmed to keep their beauty forever and ever. Around the same time as Scary Scuba Steve is collecting his Barbies, a reporter is asked to cover a story of young women visiting the country. When one goes missing, the reporter makes it his integral duty as a sworn reporter of the people (take that Woodward and Bernstein) to bring her home. Will our field reporter find the missing girl in time or will she be another part of the embalmer’s collection of beautiful dolls? You’ll have to take a deep dive into the terrible waters of bad Italian cinema to find out (Questo film è un film terribile da collezionare!).

Gravedigging at eighty-five minutes, and directed by Dino Tavella (who only went to make one other film called A Dirty War a.k.a. Una Sporca Guerra), the film was D.O.A. when it came to the box office, receiving a small limited release in Italy and only playing in Atlanta and a few drive-ins for a few weeks when it originally premiered. Due to copyright laws, you can find this almost anywhere online, but be sure to get the Alpha Video Retrograde DVD release from Oldies.com (no special features but really cool artwork). So as you enjoy this little Italian sausage,  take time to properly be measured for your coffin (as well as the glass trophy case), and always remember they say beauty can’t last forever, but that’s because they never understood true beauty can be a real pain in the neck (from rigor mortis)!

About Ian Klink

As a filmmaker, writer, and artist, Ian Klink’s work includes the feature film Anybody’s Blues and short stories for Weren't Another Way to Be: Outlaw Fiction Inspired by Waylon Jennings, Negative Creep: A Nirvana-Inspired Anthology, A-Z of Horror: U is for Unexplained, The Creeps, Vampiress Carmilla, The Siren’s Call, and Chilling Tales For Dark Nights. Born and raised in Iowa, Klink lives with his family in Pennsylvania where he shares his talents as a teacher of multimedia studies.

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