Captain Jim (Lakis Komninos) lives the lavish life of a wealthy playboy. He loves fancy things, big parties and women. He’s married but he plans to ditch his wife Ellen (Dorothy Moore) for his much younger mistress. He’s looking to trade up if you will. The problem is that despite his lifestyle, Jim is very much broke. His wife on the other hand, is extremely rich. The obvious predicament is that if he does leave his wife, he’ll no longer have any money.
Luckily Jim has a plan. If his wife dies he gets to claim her life insurance. So with a dead wife he’ll be rich and be able to move onto his mistress. Jim’s friend Mike (Vagelis Seilinos) happens to get off on raping women and then murdering him. Jim and Mike come to an agreement and the plan goes into motion. Mike has plans of his own and they may end up spoiling things for Jim.
I had never seen a Greek exploitation film until my recent viewing of The Wife Killer (AKA Death Kiss) from director Kostas Karagiannis. If this is any indication, Greek exploitation has plenty of gems out there to offer.
It’s a very solid thriller with a bit of a cat-and-mouse game going on. The story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but the ending offers up a few twists. Honestly, the story could be ripped from any number of Lifetime movies. The difference being here we get some blood and a fair amount of nudity. As I type that it seems like a strange thing to say, but how many Lifetime movies are about a husband trying to off his wife? A lot I bet. The Wife Killer is basically an extreme, unrated version of that, which is awesome.
One issue I did have with the film is it lacks likable characters. The majority of the time is spent with Jim and Mike and they’re both mostly terrible. So in that regard it’s a little tough because you usually want to be able to connect with someone and cheer them on. The closest thing to a hero is either the cops or a doctor that plays a pretty large supporting role, but they’re iffy at best. The cops don’t have a ton of personality and the doctor still has something sleazy to him.
The cinematography of Vasilis Vasileiadis is something you won’t soon forget. Almost every scene has some sort of pull-in or pull-out. Zooms on zooms on zooms! And I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that. Vasileiadis was totally zoom happy and I’m completely ok with that. That’s a pretty key element to a lot of exploitation thrillers of the 70’s. As I dig deeper into Greek exploitation I’ll be interested to see if that’s a theme that develops frequently.
The Wife Killer is available on DVD from Mondo Macabro and it’s a very nice DVD. The picture and audio quality is solid. This isn’t a super crisp HD presentation or anything of that nature, but you get a disclaimer up front letting you know the best available materials were used for this release. I always appreciate these disclaimers, but I’m not even sure it was necessary here. The film looks good enough that I wouldn’t have questioned anything.
The audio is dubbed in English except for a few scenes in which the English audio wasn’t available. Those scenes provide English subtitles. Going into my viewing I expected that to be a bit weird but it’s actually not. I think only two scenes had this audio change. The first comes pretty early so you notice it more but by the time the second rolls around you’re so engaged in the film that you just kind of pass through it without skipping a beat.
The film has a few special features including a great little piece on the history of Greek cinema. It’s a quick history but super informative. I learned a ton about Greek cinema that I certainly never knew. There’s also an essay included called ‘A Crime in Cavouri’, which is about a real life murder that inspired The Wife Killer. This is quite fascinating, especially because I couldn’t find anything about this murder online. Not really a special feature but the movie does come in a red case. I always appreciate little touches like that, so extra points for that.
The Wife Killer is a very solid thriller form the 70’s. It’s not the trashiest exploitation film out there, but it definitely has a fair amount of sleaze. The film isn’t a giallo, but giallo fans will probably find a lot to enjoy here. Definitely recommend checking this one out.
The Wife Killer available now on DVD from Mondo Macabro.
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