Death Steps in the Dark / Passi di morte perduti nel buio (1977)

3.5 out of 5

Like the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes vehicle Terror by Night this Agatha Christie styled whodunnit opens with killer and fellow suspects aboard a train before bravely or foolhardily veering into a genre-clash of comedy and thriller with each compartmentalised to the extent that the thriller scenes actually thrill and the comedy scenes tickle the funny bone without resorting to the whole thing collapsing into genre parody.

Leonard Mann, who's range here runs all the way from Blue Steel through to Magnum, makes for an effective comic lead amongst some pretty strong cutthroat bloodletting set amongst wonderfully utilized Athenian locations.

Purists may baulk at the idea of this minor exercise in almost Brechtian cinema but for those with an open mind there is much to savour, not least the by now familiar presented in a less than common way. The gloves of the killer are present but this common genre trope is forced to compete for screen time with the often absurd and lots of cans of fish.

While the results maybe, in terms of execution, a little less than conventional, the presentation of the common genre themes in a widely accessible form may make this one an ideal film for genre neophytes to find their feet. It is certainly a far easier starting point than the French Sex Murders for example.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics