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THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET

A powerfully atmospheric 1983 entry in the giallo cycle with a clever script and strong performances, not to mention an impressively contained and well utilized setting.

The Package
     The Italian giallo (meaning, literally, yellow) films of the 1960s, 70s and 80s were lurid works that emphasized over-the-top sex and violence within old fashioned mystery frameworks. The best known such films are Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE and Dario Argento’s THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, which aren’t representative of most giallos (which by and large aren’t very good).
     THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET (LA CASA DEL TAPPETO GIALLO), based on a play by Aldo Selleri, is one of the better non-Bava/Argento giallos (it even has giallo in the title), but also one of the most unjustly neglected.

The Story
     Antonio and Franca, a young couple, are burdened with a roll of yellow carpet Franca inherited from her abusive stepfather. Antonio puts a classified ad in the local paper offering to sell the carpet. The following morning a middle-aged man turns up at their apartment just as Antonio is called downstairs, allegedly because his car is being towed. The man, who has a paralyzed hand and speaks in a hard-to-place accent, is seriously weird, and his encounter with Franca quickly grows threatening.
     Identifying himself as a murderer, the guy locks the apartment from inside and turns out all the lights. He claims Antonio is jealous of Franca and hired the man to kill her. He also claims to have murdered his wife on the very carpet Franca is selling. Eventually Franca grabs a knife and stabs the man to death.
     Following this unexpected development Franca wraps the man’s corpse in the yellow carpet and attempts to flee the apartment. Opening the front door, however, she’s confronted by a strange woman who identifies herself as the dead man’s wife, and convinces Franca to let her in. The woman doesn’t stay long, leaving Franca alone with the corpse--who doesn’t appear to be dead!
     Franca abruptly loses consciousness, and comes to in the care of Antonio. He acts like nothing has happened, and Franca begins to suspect she may be losing her mind. But then we get a flashback or hallucination that (seemingly) shows what occurred while Franca was unconscious, and suggests that the preceding hour may not have been all it seemed…

The Direction
     Unlike most giallos (which are generally far trashier than those by Bava and Argento), THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET is strong enough to rank with most eighties-era Hollywood thrillers. It’s extremely atmospheric and visually evocative, imparting a strong sense of mundane normality in the early scenes that gradually gives way to creepiness and irrationality. The fact that it takes place largely in the confines of a small apartment (the “house” of the title is nowhere to be found), and largely in real time renders it all the more impressive: the film is genuinely compelling and suspenseful without (for the most part) feeling stagey. My only real complaint is one I have about quite a few Italian films, giallo and otherwise: the crummy English dubbing, which is a constant annoyance.
     At least the four lead actors are all quite strong. The stand-outs are Sweden’s late Erland Josephson and the attractive Beatrice Romand, who isn’t great but never fails to hold our interest.
 

Vital Statistics

THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET (LA CASA DEL TAPPETO GIALLO)
R.P.A. Cinematografica/RAI

Director: Carlo Lizzani
Producer: Filiberto Bandini
Screenplay: Filiberto Bandini, Lucio Battistrada
(Based on a play by Aldo Selleri)
Cinematography: Giuliano Giustini
Editing: Angela Cipriani
Cast: Erland Josephson, Beatrice Romand, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Milena Vukotic

     

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