Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

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Klaus Kinski as a Good Guy? …..Yes

by Tony Nash

(A Part of the Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

(This review is of the original Italian language version)

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A Doppia Faccia (Double Face) (1969) R ****1/2


Klaus Kinski: John Alexander

Sydney Chaplin: Mr. Brown (as Sidney Chaplin)

Margaret Lee: Helen Brown-Alexander

Annabella Incontera: Liz, Helen’s Lover

Gunther Stoll: Ispettore Stevens

Luciano Spadoni: Ispettore Gordon

Christaine Kruger: Christine, the Fetish Artist

Gastone Pescucci: Peter, the Porno Director

Barbara Nelli: Alice, Secretary at Brown & Brown

Written by: Riccardo Freda (as Robert Hampton) & Paul Hengge, based on a story by Lucio Fulci, Romano Migliorini, & Gianbattista Mussetto, inspired by the novels of Edgar Wallace

Directed by: Riccardo Freda (as Robert Hampton)


Synopsis: Cold and double-crossing firm owner Helen Brown vanishes after naming her cuckhold husband John Alexander the solo heir to her fortune. Soon it becomes apparent someone is trying to drive him out of his mind. Is Helen dead or alive? Is she plotting with her lesbian lover to have it all, or are there others trying to make it look like John did it because she was unfaithful?

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Riccardo Freda, one of the many Jack-of-all-Trades filmmakers in Italy, tried his hand at the burgeoning Giallo genre that would take off a year later. At this stage, Giallos weren’t the smash successes in Italy current fans and historians thought they were, but they did see moderate success in Germany thanks to the public seeing seem as offshoots of their own mystery style films, the Krimi. These films were primarily made up of adaptations of the novels of British writer Edgar Wallace, and Freda and his co-writer Paul Hengge patterned the screenplay after a story collaboration of other writers, one of whom was Lucio Fulci in his early directorial stages, that was done in the Wallace style. The tricky and intricate plot of a man uncertain his shrewish wife has really died in a car accident and believes numerous unsavory characters, including some people he trusts, are trying to make him go mad thinking she’s setting him up as her killer is a story Wallace himself could’ve written as his stories were almost always centered around the death of a woman or a group of women.

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What makes this Wallace-esque Mystery film interesting is that some of the exterior scenes were shot in England. London’s night life and main entertainment district are shown in full swing in the film, numerous clubs, movie theaters, and restaurants getting their moments in the limelight. While in some scenes it can’t be certain Kinski was actually present in London during filming, that Freda had the budget to send a second unit out to the UK for the shots is pretty cool and a nice addition to get the British feel right.

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Klaus Kinski, a German actor who spent much of the 60’s and 70’s working in Italy is a surprise revelation in the role of John Alexander. Normally known for playing villainous psychopaths and all-around unlikable characters, does an unbelievably good job in the role of a victimized good guy. John is depicted as the typical British working-middle class man who lives a little better than most, but has no ambitions for the high life. He genuinely falls in love with his wife, and is completely baffled and hurt when she suddenly goes cold and loses the majority of her interest in him. Initially he puts up with her lesbian affair to a local stage actress, hoping she’s going through some sort of self-discovery journey, and is relieved when she announces she’s provided for him. When he learns her car crashed as she was going on an extended vacation, he gets continually questioned by the police. After driving a Hippie woman who managed to gain access to his home to escape bad weather to her club, she offers him a look at a nudie film she made, and believes his wife is in the film as well, hiding under a mask. Thinking some very bizarre people are in cahoots with his wife to drive him mad, or are using her against her will, John does his own investigating to prove he had no involvement in her “accident”.

(Author’s Note: The early to mid-60’s saw Kinski appearing in several of the Wallace Krimi films in Germany, usually as the villain or a henchman of the villain, hence why he was casted here.)

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A slew of character actors including Sydney Chaplin (son of silent film icon Charlie Chaplin), British expat Margaret Lee, German Gunther Stoll, and Italian Annabella Incontera,  help make up a set of rouges who may want to try to help Mr. Alexander, or are somehow a part of the conspiracy to make him look guilty and/or drive him insane. Lee’s brief appearance as the shrewish Helen is quite interesting as the character seems to have a kind of affection for her husband, but has for some reason fallen out of romantic love with him.  While not explicitly shown, there’s a heavy hint that an actress Helen constantly spends her time with, is in fact her lover, and has been fooling around with on her husband for some time, suggesting John is extremely jealous of his wife’s promiscuity, particularly in that she threw him over for a woman. The question throughout the entire film will be if Helen is dead or alive, and who she may or may not be conspiring with against her husband, that will become more complicated as the film progresses, leaving everyone uncertain of what’s going on.

(Author’s note: due to the ending being very intricate, not can be said for most of the characters as it would spoil the surprise waiting for viewers when the revelation comes to light.)

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In a case of irony, the film actually bombed in Germany, leading to a brief pause of the Wallace films, fans likely seeing it as a poor imitation of the films already made and released since the late 50’s. While lacking some of the essentials of a Wallace or Agatha Christie story, the film actually did keep the mystery of what was really going on until the last few minutes fairly well hidden, even beginning with Kinski’s character being proven innocent and the story being done in flashback.

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Underrated upon its initial release, Doppia Faccia has secured a place as one of the better entertaining Giallos of the late 60’s period. While it doesn’t have anything too unique to make it a classic of the genre, it does keep the viewer in suspense and guessing as to what’s really going on, and uses the mystery aspect very well, making it both a minor classic and a cult classic style of film. Red herrings abound like crazy in the film and are always keeping the viewer on their toes about the real mastermind of the whole plot, which is key to the success of any mystery. Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Sydney Chaplin, and the remainder of the cast do fine jobs in their respective roles, helping to add to the story at every turn and plot point.

( I highly recommend this  early Giallo effort from Freda as while it is a little too typical in terms of the British style of Mystery and offers little of the tropes associated with the genre, does an excellent job with the clues, false leads, and various herrings to keep the audience constantly guessing. Freda was fairly underrated during his lifetime and with the advent of home media is finally getting the recognition that seemed to constantly  allude him. Klaus Kinski is the biggest surprise of the whole thing, actually giving a convincing performance, of man who, while constantly frustrated by the choices he made in love and attitudes , is an otherwise good guy caught up in something truly diabolical. Arrow Video once again knocks this release out of the park, with fine audio and visual transfers with a nice bit of extras. Well worth checking out in my opinion.

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners including the IMDb and its affliates

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

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