Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Before watching this DVD I had no idea what this film was about, but because it was released by Mondo Macabro I was immediately interested. I've found their DVD releases  to be an enviable source of cinematic strangeness from around the world and this looked to be another slice of (possibly) Euro-Trash joy so, bring it on! Little did I know that I was in for a film produced by Englishman Dick Randall who was famous for bring to the screen such sleazy offerings as THE MAD BUTCHER, BLACK DEEP THROAT, THE CLONES OF BRUSE LEE and the Euro-Trash 'classic' PIECES. I was expecting an Italian giallo of some type and instead I get a British produced film directed by an American best known for FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS! Well- there's nothing for it so I'd best dive in and swim.

I guess THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A would be best described as a horror film. It has several of the standard horror tale tropes - it has a red masked, evil mastermind commanding a small army of minions to do nasty things to innocent people; it has a vulnerable female protagonist ripe to be a 'final girl'; it is set in an ornate, old dark house complete with an odd warden- er, ummm- I mean landlady; in other words, it has all the things needed to be a horror film. So why does it seem to stop being one just about the time it should be ramping up to deliver the goods?  In the film Daniela Giordano plays the titular resident of Room 2A. Her name is Margaret and she is a rather reserved girl who has just been released from jail after serving a short sentence. It seems that she was caught at a party in possession of marijuana and her shame at having a criminal record weighs heavily on her. Her social worker Alicia (Rosalba Neri) has arranged for her to live in a boarding house run by Mrs. Grant (Giovanna Galletti), who's rather strange adult son Frank (Angelo Infanti) still lives at home with mother. This first section of the film has a nice, understated quality and tone that is slightly distant and dreamlike putting me in mind of the classic mood piece CARNIVAL OF SOULS. In fact, this detached, cold atmosphere really had me intrigued with the idea that this was going to play out as a variation on that older movie with some more uncensored elements that might play into the erotic qualities that CARNIVAL OF SOULS only hinted at.  Indeed, once we are shown Frank's creepy workroom full of mannequins I felt sure this was the way things were going to go. Add to these things the fantastic and never spoken of problem that Margaret's room has a red stain on the floor that reappears no matter how many times she cleans it and you have a great set up for a frightening tale of madness and death. And then she starts having nightmares about the aforementioned masked figure in  red! This is really cooking, right?

But about this time other things begin to intrude into the story that swing things in another, less interesting direction. Margaret meets Jack (John Scanlon), who is hunting for information about his dead sister Edie who was a prior boarder at Mrs. Grant’s house. Jack doesn't believe his sibling committed suicide but instead thinks she was killed for some reason. His investigation turns up the fact that, much like Margaret, Edie served a short time in jail for a minor crime before her stay at Mrs. Grant's place and both girls lived in the very same room. Even though things are becoming stranger all the time in Grant's Boarding House of Odd People Jack convinces Margaret to stay a little longer to try to find out why folks keep disappearing from Room 2A.

As I've said, this film becomes less interesting and more by-the-numbers as it reaches its conclusion. It's not a bad film but I can't help feeling it squanders its impressive beginning in the desire to have a simple rush-to-the-rescue finale. The movie has a number of interesting characters and it plays its mystery out pretty well, but the silly last 15 minutes undermines a lot of the goodwill generated. When part of the showdown with the evil minions involves a car chase and an 'attack on the castle' sequence right out of a peplum you can't escape the fact that the film is flailing around in search of something. Maybe this combination of disparate elements will hold more appeal for other viewers but for me it just seems like they produced 70% of a good film and then flubbed the ending.

Showing that they will go the extra mile Mondo Macabro's DVD release of the film is the most complete version. The movie was clearly trimmed for its US theatrical release and this presentation gives us the full-length running time with the bits not dubbed in English given subtitles. Indeed, the entire film has been given newly created, optional subtitles so that the viewer can check out the Italian language track but still follow the story. I took the opportunity to watch both versions and although there are some minor differences in dialog and emphasis in relationships there are no real shocking alterations from one to the other.  It looks like nearly all of the actors spoke English on set so it is that language in which the movie plays more naturally. Besides the trailer the only video extra is a juicy interview with star Daniela Giordano. Some of this piece looks like it was in the extras for Mondo Macabro's DVD of PANIC BEATS but any chance to hear this charming lady discuss making movies in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s is well worth seeing. In the barely eleven minute talk she relates some fun stories and remarks that although she made many movies she only ever had three real directors -Mario Bava, Paul Naschy and Mario Cainio! All the other 'directors' just yelled Action but never spoke to her about what she should do. Miss Giordano is very engaging in this interview and I only wish it were longer. Also included are onscreen liner notes for the film and brief bios of actors Daniela Giordano, Raf Vallone, Rosalba Neri and Karin Schubert.

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