Director: Flavio Mogherini
Script: Flavio Mogherini
Cast: Ray Milland, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Michele Placido, Howard Ross, Ramuro Oliveros, Rod Mullinar, Eugena Walter, Vanesa Vitale, Mel Ferrer
Running time: 102 minutes
Year: 1977
Certificate: 15

A little girl busily plays with her doll on a beautiful Sydney beach in Australia, right next to where some twat has rather oddly left a couple of wrecked cars. Randomly a bloody hand flops down from inside the car, revealing a horribly disfigured corpse. And so begins The Pyjama Girl Case

The film then shifts to an elderly man, Timpson (Ray Milland), who is tending to some flowers in his greenhouse. Timpson is something of a technophobe, and doesn’t even have his own phone, leading to his neighbour shouting through a nearby window that there’s a call for him over at their place. It’s soon revealed that Timpson is a retired police inspector, and some of his former co-workers want his opinion on the body that they’ve just discovered on the beach. His curiosity awoken, Timpson heads down the morgue, to meet with the others and see said body. Because old ‘Jim’ sees stuff that his ex-colleagues don’t, his old boss lets him work the case (for free!) to give the old bugger something in his life (apart from his roses) to get up for.

The film then switches to what we later learn is a flashback, and a young woman’s flirtations towards improving her boring and hard life she shares with her possessive husband. Linda does this by having an affair with her hubbie’s friend, Antonio, and having a second affair with an older, rich professor, who, it’s clear, is leading her on. She eventually has enough of her shitting waitressing job and all the men in her life, and escapes to the country, but is tracked by her husband and alleged friend, Antonio.

In between this we continue to bear witness to Timpson’s (or Thompson’s, depending on different people in the movie!) investigation of who the dead girl is, and who killed her. Part way into the film the authorities place her body in a glass case and display it in a local museum, hoping that someone will recognise her and will come forward with information. The large crowds of people that go to see her just go to show how ghoulish people can be…

Inspired by a true story, from an incident that occurred during the 1930s, The Pyjama Girl Case is not the kind of film that it’s marketed as, namely as Giallo-styled murder-mystery, although there’s certainly a lot of mystery running throughout the film, including my own thoughts of: ‘when’s this going to end?’ There are some red herring characters inhabiting the story, and there is a grimness that permeates the movie, emphasising men’s aggression towards women.

Milland produces a very watchable performance, bringing many interesting ticks to the character of Timpson/Thompson. I never thought I’d witness an acting legend like Ray Milland performing a wanking motion on screen, for example! Michele Placido also impresses as the Italian immigrant waiter, and Mel Ferrer is more than able as a professor who is having an affair with Linda, who, herself, is played by the striking Dalila Di Lazzaro. Howard Ross is also notable as a Linda’s husband’s unworthy and untrustworthy friend, Antonio.

Riz Ortolani provides the film’s funky score, while the main, rather infectious, theme song, is sung by Amanda Lear, who used to be a bloke.

The film is nicely photographed throughout, but the film is quite bizarrely edited at times, although that could have just been me dozing off a few times, momentarily!

I think my main problem with the film was that at times it comes across as a glossily made daytime soap, with all the usual half-interesting soap dramatics that go with that. It’s pacing is also pretty dire. In the hands of a better director and editor the film could have worked a lot better, but instead it remains mediocre at best. However, it’s still worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of Australia and Ray Milland, but for Giallo thrill-seekers, and you know who you are, I’d go elsewhere for your vicarious thrills and spills!

Arrow Films are distributing The Pyjama Girl Case on Blu-ray. As per usual Arrow have treated us to some decent extras on the disc, including: 

Audio commentary with Troy Howarth who drops in a myriad of interesting facts including the fact that the title track on The Pyjama Girl Case soundtrack was also used on the more recent Dallas Buyer’s Club.

Small World (28.5 mins) – an interview with Michael Mackenzie who discusses the internationalisation of the Giallo genre.

A good bad guy (32 mins) – an interview with actor Howard Ross, who says he’d rather play the bad guy, and reveals that they used a body double for the lead actress’s nude scenes, and that he didn’t like the voice they dubbed him with.

A study in elegance (23 mins) – an interview with editor Alberto Tagliavia, who edited all but one of the director’s films. He talks about the director loving the editing process and the moviola in particular.

Inside the yellow pyjama (15 mins) – an interview with assistant director Ferruccio Castronouvo. He reveals that even though the film was set in Australia much of it was actually shot in Spain, but a small crew did shoot a few scenes in Sydney.

The yellow rhythm (21.5 mins) – an interview with composer Riz Ortolani, who talks about working on 12 – 13 movies a year during the boom years of the Italian film industry. Apparently, The Chemical Brothers ripped off one of his pieces of music back in 2008! 

Theatrical trailer (3.55 mins) – a mental trailer, which emphasises a quote from one of the characters: ‘Women like you are good for sex and nothing else’!

Image gallery – 16 photos

 

The Pyjama Girl Case
Justin Richards reviews Flavio Mogherini's Australian set giallo, 'The Pyjama Girl Case'.
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About The Author

Justin Richards is a journalist by day and a scriptwriter by night. His work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not sitting hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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