Opening with the distinctive early Euro-disco strains of Amanda Lear (strained might be a better word), Flavio Mogherini’s 1977 giallo La Ragazza dal Pigiama Giallo is inspired by a true story, although it’s less interested in piecing together the facts than in using them as a launching pad for its own flights of fancy.
It begins with the discovery of a dead girl on a beach in Sydney, dressed in yellow pyjamas and with her face battered in. Oddly, we don’t get to see the yellow pyjamas, and perhaps forgivably the filmmakers have moved events into the present day (as well as 350 miles from where the incident actually occurred). Found next to the body is a sack containing a handful of grains of rice, which retired D.I. Thompson (Milland, looking old and tired but still exuding charisma) takes as a significant clue to the body’s identity and the perpetrator of the crime. The detectives getting paid to pursue the case are stumped, and end up displaying the cadaver naked in a shopping centre to see if anyone can come forwards and identify it.
Meanwhile a young immigrant called Linda (Di Lazzaro) is juggling affairs with a rich doctor (Ferrer), a younger German (Ross) and an even younger Italian (Placido), eventually marrying the latter but unable to give up the other two. Linda is irresistible but unfulfilled, and evidently heading for tragedy of one kind or another.
It’s an ambitious structure for a cheap, knock-off detective movie to develop, elevating it above (and possibly out of) the rest of its genre. But while The Pyjama Girl Case follows the usual giallo patterns – loving close-ups on the girl’s misshapen face, the promise of a group sex scene which we know will be delivered once we see how the narrative is working – Mogherini’s dialogue and character development leave a lot to be desired, and his direction favours interesting compositions over cohesive storytelling. Much as this focusses on the detectives, Thompson in particular, we’re rarely given any insight into the work they’re doing, and even the attempts to have us empathise with the victims – there are several, to varying degrees - end up feeling silly. One especially poignant death scene becomes a moment of unintentional hilarity thanks to an itinerant left shoe.
If your heart is in spaghetti gumshoe, then you’ll enjoy the sense of place and occasional grotesquery. But if you’re interested in the yellow pyjama case, you’re better off taking your curiosity elsewhere. Ultimately, this feels like an extended ‘See You Next Wednesday’ sketch from An American Werewolf in London, all cross-purpose foreplay and very little gratification. And to cap it all off, the transfer is just as muddy as the film.
Extras: trailer, audio commentary, interviews with critic Michael Mackenzie, actor Howard Ross, editor Alberto Tagliavia and composer Riz Ortolani
THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE (1977) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: FLAVIO MOGHERINI / SCREENPLAY: FLAVIO MOGHERINI, RAFAEL SÁNCHEZ CAMPOY / STARRING: RAY MILLAND, DALILA DI LAZZARO, MICHELE PLACIDO, MEL FERRER, HOWARD ROSS / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 17TH