I have a soft-spot for over-the-top exploitation films, but not mean-spirited ones.
A few months back, I gave Island of Death (1977) a four-star review, praising its “everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach that pushes the film past any genuine scares or mean-spirited umbrage, and firmly into parody.” Giallo a Venezia opens with a similar vibe.
We meet an improbably coiffed police detective inspecting the murder of a married couple, Fabio and Flavia.
As the case unwinds, we learn Fabio was a sex fiend. In a series of flashbacks, he pushes Flavia to engage in escalating deviant behavior. First simple voyeurism, but soon he's whipping her, encouraging strangers to grope her, and her to grope strangers.
The whipping bit had me laughing. The scene starts with Fabio and Flavia in bed. She tries to engage him, kissing and fondling him, but he's bored and soon retires to another room where he thumbs through a book of erotic drawings. Still looking at the drawings, Fabio snorts a sizable amount of cocaine. The combination enacts a kind of Jekyll and Hyde transformation that sees him return to Flavia, cat-o-nine-tails in hand, and wail on her. She screams which only excites him further, and soon he's forcing himself into an uncomfortable place. Played straight, the scene would be painful, but it's so over-the-top, it's hard to take seriously.
But instead of embracing the ridiculous, the film doubles down on misogyny. A mysterious killer offs a prostitute and some friends of Fabio and Flavia. The murders—particularly the prostitute's—are uninspired and ugly. The film gets progressively meaner, culminating in a gang-rape scene I found hard to watch. Giallo a Venezia isn't crazy enough to entertain and lacks any thoughts to provoke. It's just rubbing our noses in a series of obnoxious scenes it believes pass for edgy drama.