In classic Franco-Italian-German co-production style, The Killer Likes Candy / Un killer per sua maestà is a blend of international stars, co-directors, and co-writers, with source material stemming from a novel by Adam Saint Moore, but this mélange never knows what it wants to be: A spy spoof? A detective film? Political thriller?
Who knows, and the problems are easily glaring in this not particularly complicated tale of a hitman trying to assassinate the leader of an unnamed middle eastern country. Mark (Three Worlds of Gulliver’s Kerwin Matthews) is the lone American apparently put in charge of protecting bigwig Faoud (Lukas Ammann), but after a close call from hired sniper Oscar Snell (Sorcerer’s Bruno Cremer) in Venice, he sticks around on principle rather than duty, but in spite of the ruler’s near-death, Mark and his Italian colleague Costa (Venantino Venantini) are never given extra men to boost their security presence.
Yes, two men are all the U.S. and Italy can afford, yet the candy-munching Snell still can’t kill his mark because Mark is always in the way, so Snell’s employer sends a separate team of goons, led by ex-muscleman Gordon Mitchell, to kill the fly-in-the-curried pasta (er, Mark). They even have the nerve to attempt a kill when Mark is trying to woo Faoud’s hot doctor / anesthesiologist Sylva (Marilu Tolo), a big-eyed, big-eye browed babe who changes wigs and attire according to the type of environment. Sometimes she’s poofy-haired, other times she sports a gamine short cut, but Mark never seems to notice what her mood is.
Most of the action seems to take place over a day or three, which means Mark’s roll in the beach sand with Sylva happens pretty fast, and Snell eventually realizes the key to neutralizing Mark and killing his mark (Faoud) is by manipulating Sylva, so he kills her father and abducts her mom in the hope Sylva will give Faoud excess ether during an open heart surgery.
It would be interesting to know how French director co-writer Maurice Cloche and Italian director Federico Chentrens / aka Richard Owens in the English dub version worked out the scenes, or whether one took over the other’s work due to budget issues, schedule problems, or ineptitude. Most of the action scenes are really well choreographed, and there’s a zippy chase through a bizarre monument garden around the middle (plus the elaborate finale in a marble quarry), but their gravitas is singularly destroyed by Gianni Marchetti’s tongue-in-cheek score, and the constant re-tracking and splicing of cues to create wall-to-wall loops of musical monotony.
Marchetti’s main theme shifts between eerie and breezy moods, with Edda Del’Orso’s gorgeous vocals propelling the haunting melody, but for combat scenes Marchetti uses mixed chorus, like a capella jazz voices and bursts of string & light percussion. It belongs in a Franco-Italian James Bond spoof, but Mathews and Cremer playing their roles straight just add to the confusion, and Venantini’s deliberate pratfalls make one wonder if each director was trying to make his own version of the story – one a spoof, the other a hard thriller - with the editor left piecing tonally opposite scenes into a movie. It may be that Marchetti wrote his score after being pulled in either direction by each filmmaker, with no one arbitrating any of the creative decisions into a balanced film.
What’s evident is the filmmakers had a script bearing a few main set-pieces, but rather than craft a taut thriller, much of the film has Mark constantly leaving his post for no reason save for a chase or fight scene, after which he returns to chew out Costa. Mathews seems to be having fun playing a Bondian hero, while Tolo is just the eye candy (which is what she’s often asked to be).
The Rome locations are nice, but perhaps the final insult lies in the film currently available in a panned & scanned English dub version converted from an old Video Treasures PAL master, with visible speed-up. Killer was shot in 2.35:1, so perhaps there is a widescreen version floating around in France, Italy, or Germany.
Candy is the second and lesser feature in Code Red’s double-bill DVD, with Stoney / Surabaya Conspiracy [M] (1969) a more satisfying work. It’s still a fun package of C-grade exploitation fodder, but it is a bit jarring to see a vintage panned & scanned transfer, phony camera movements mechanically roving back & forth to cover character actions.
Code Red also includes a few bonus trailers, and the is part of the label’s themed double-bill series, replacing the prior Rare Flix edition which grouped the (reportedly) same transfer of Killer, with the utterly unrelated Molly and the Ghost (1991) and Run Like Hell (1995).
Occasional director Frederico Chentrens also directed Playgirl 70 (1969), whereas Maurice Cloche had enjoyed a steady directorial career during the fifties, perhaps notable for the sexploitive trilogy comprised of Girl Merchants (157), Girls of the Night (1958), and Women’s Prison (1958).
Tolo’s other credits include Roy Colt and Winchester Jack (1970), Bluebeard (1972), Dario Argento’s Door into Darkness (1973) and The Five Days (1973), and Women’s Prison (1974).
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan