Based on the quality of the print I watched on YouTube, it’s going to be hard to discuss this one. Keep this in mind as you imagine what it must have been like for original Paul Naschy fans before his Blu-ray renaissance… searching for titles, then finding murky prints with bad sound on bootleg videocassettes or worse.
The Crimes of Petiot (1973) is another crime thriller that at first seems to be like Seven Murders for Scotland Yard (1972.) It’s distinctively different, though, in that it avoids the graphic elements that made the earlier film a giallo. This one is strictly a political drama that revolves around a bloodless murder mystery.
Naschy plays Boris Villowa, a globetrotting art dealer engaged to a fearless reporter named Vera (Patricia Loran.) She and her colleague, Heinrich Weiss (Fernando Marin), seem to have a grudge against the police commissioner and want to solve the string of murders before he does. Concerned with her safety, Boris sometimes plays backup for her investigation.
The movie is loosely based on the true story of serial killer Marcel Andre Henri Felix Petiot, a World War I veteran who offered escape from the Nazis for resistance fighters and Jews through a series of underground tunnels. I’m not sure if the tunnels really existed, but it doesn’t matter. He instead killed 60 +/- people and burned their bodies or dissolved them with acid.
The truth is stranger than fiction in this case and it’s interesting that Naschy’s script doesn’t incorporate some of the sensational aspects of Petiot’s history. It also allows him to play an “ordinary man” instead of a monster and, from what I could tell, he does a good job with the role. None of this means that the film doesn’t have a twist or two.
If The Crimes of Petiot were ever to be restored, I want to study the scenery. It must be spectacular because it feels like for about a third of the film, people are taking long walks outside just to arrive somewhere for brief conversations before they leave and walk somewhere else. Also, much of the action takes place in a dark wooded park.
That’s about all I can say. My gut feeling is that this is a better film than Seven Murders for Scotland Yard. Even through the blobs of darkness and with the blast of an inexplicable whining noise, it seems more technically sound. Oddly, they have the same director, Jose Luis Madrid, so maybe it’s the tone of the subject matter making the difference.
Written by Jose Luis Madrid and Paul Naschy
Directed by Jose Luis Madrid
Starring Paul Naschy, Patricia Loran, Fernando Marin, Anastasio Campoy
RT 85 min.
Released July 8, 1973
Home Video YouTube
Rating 5 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)