If you like your 1960s London fashion, French New Wave aroma, comic book aesthetics, and Italian exploitation shavings in one dose, and you don’t give a bloody parsnip about plot appeal, then “Deadly Sweet” (1967) could be the midnight celluloid nightcap you’ve been seeking. If, on the other hand, you prefer sexy thrillers with a modicum of narrative intrigue, skip right on over this unimpressive cinematic exercise.
Directed and edited by Tinto Brass, and based on Sergio Donati’s novel Il sepolcro di carta (literally “the tomb of paper”), “Deadly Sweet” is best summarized as a film about a man chasing a woman. After an expository segment that takes place in a morgue and presents some plot information, the film essentially hangs around a man named Bernard (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who sees a woman named Jane Burroughs (Ewa Aulin) at a night club and finds himself caught up in a tide of questions involving her deceased father, her presence at a crime scene, and her relationship with her brother Jerome (Charles Kohler).
The cover for this Cult Epics DVD release boasts of a “sexy giallo thriller.” Unmotivated frontal nudity, activities between consenting adults, lingerie, and murder do not automatically pass for “sexy” or “giallo.” In fact, the incorporation of black-and-white sequences, the framing of many shots, and pop-cultural references (Batman, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, “Doctor Zhivago,” and Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up”) lends to Brass’ film a stronger experimentally French New Wave sensibility.
The film’s Italian title is “Col cuore in gola,” which literally means, “with heart in throat.” It’s a darn shame that “Deadly Sweet” leaves the heart going nowhere but indifference.