• Killer Reserved Nine Seats, The

    Released by: Camera Obscura
    Released on: June 25th, 2014.
    Director: Giuseppe Bennati
    Cast: Rosanna Schiaffino, Chris Avram, Eva Czemerys, Lucretia Love, Paola Senatore
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Diabolik DVD

    The Movie:

    Directed by Giuseppe Bennati in 1974 and notoriously hard to come by, The Killer Reserved Nine Seats starts out with a scene in which a few cars heading into the city late one night. They stop and a group of nine family members and friends head inside an older opera house owned by the Davenant family. Unused for decades, it’s nevertheless a fascinating old building ripe with a strange history.

    The man in charge of this late night visit is Patrick Davenant (Chris Avram) but accompanying him are his fiancé Kim (Janet Agren), two lesbian lovers named Rebecca (Eva Czemerys) and Doris (Lucretia Love), his red haired daughter Lynn (Paola Senatore) and her boyfriend Duncan Foster (Gaetano Russo), a balding guy named Albert (Andrea Scotti), a high class prostitute and Patrick’s former flame Vivian (Rosanna Schiaffino) and a misogynist friend named Russell (Howard Ross). Somehow, however, they are no alone – a nameless man (Eduardo Filipone) in a Nehru suit with a fancy medallion hanging around his neck. He seems to have been here before and is quite familiar with his surroundings despite the fact that the place has been closed for a century.

    As the night progresses, the group splits up and the mystery man disappears shortly before a rope is cut and a massive beam falls and just misses Patrick. As couples look for privacy to fool around, Kim finds an Elizabethan costume and decides to do a little Romeo and Juliette on the stage. When her stage suicide turns out to be a very real murder, the rest of the theater’s inhabitants begin to panic. When the doors somehow lock from the outside, Patrick explains that the theater is cursed and as the bodies start to pile up the survivors try to find out not only who the real killer is but how and why all of this is happening in the first place.

    When it begins, the film seems like it’s going to follow the standard Giallo route and it does borrow pretty heavily from Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians as many films from the genre do. Once it picks up and gets moving, however, Bennati introduces some unexpected supernatural elements into the film that, along with its fantastic location, help to make it stand out from the pack. Granted, an opera house was used in Argento’s Opera and Soavi’s Stagefright but Bennati beat them both to the punch and this picture would seem to have been an influence on both of those later films. The last twenty or so minutes of the picture bring things to an interesting finale where what at first appeared to be some haphazard writing and iffy direction turns out to actually be pretty creative and quite unique. All of this is wonderfully photographed and atmospherically lit, benefitting from a nice score from Carlo Savina.

    The cast, many of whom are going to be quite familiar to fans of Italian horror pictures, do a pretty decent job with the material. Avram plays the smug patriarch of the family convincingly enough and the various female cast members (all of whom disrobe to varying degrees before the end credits) are all quite attractive. Rosanna Schiaffino, more a mainstream actress than a horror stalwart, really steals the show here and looks quite stunning in a black dress complete with odd spider web shoulder accents! The wardrobe definitely has that early seventies Europe vibe to it that adds some interesting splashes of style and color to the visuals.

    The murder set pieces vary in their extremity but the film gets pretty gruesome and some could argue it relishes in seeing its female cast members offed in more gratuitous and extreme fashion than their male counterparts. There are bloodier Giallos out there and sexier ones too but given how The Killer Reserved Nine Seats manages to work in some very obvious elements from the types of gothic horror pictures filmmaker’s like Antonio Margheriti and Mario Bava were making a decade before, few are quite as unique as this one.


    The Killer Reserved Nine Seats debuts on Blu-ray from Camera Obscura in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Although the primary opera house location is often dark and occasionally heavy on drab tones we get nice color reproduction on primaries, red especially, on the backdrops and frescos and costumes worn throughout the movie. Black levels are nice and solid and the image shows excellent detail from start to finish. Outside of a few small specks that most won’t even notice, print damage is never an issue while the lack of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement results in a nicely filmic picture with strong texture and depth.

    DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks are provided in English and Italian with optional subtitles offered up in English and German. The single channel mixes both sound quite good, with nice depth to the score and decent, crisp sounding dialogue. The levels are balanced and there are no issues with hiss or distortion. For the few scenes for which there was no English dubbing completed, subtitles will appear (this obviously doesn’t affect the Italian track, for which subtitles will appear throughout when enabled).

    The extras on the disc start off with an audio commentary from Marcus Stiglegger and Kai Naumann, conducted in German (though optional English subtitles are provided), that does a strong job of exploring the history of this picture and discussing the lives and careers of its cast and crew. They also offer some interesting critical analysis of what works in the picture, talk up the fantastic opera house location used for the bulk of the film and make some interesting comparisons here between this film and others, Giallo or otherwise. It’s a nicely paced and well researched track for what is a genuinely obscure film.

    Additionally there are two featurettes here, the first of which is an eight minute interview with actor Howard Ross. He speaks about what it was like spending most of the shoot in an old theater and shares some amusing anecdotes about temperamental leading man Avram and about the picture’s director. The second featurette is a twenty-nine minute interview with screenwriter Biagio Proietti who discusses how he got his start in the film industry and notes some of the other projects he was involved in. He then discusses some of the themes exploited by the film, including the supernatural angle that creeps in and his working relationship with the picture’s director. Both interviews are quite interesting and again, for Giallo fans, they represent a rare opportunity to dig beneath the surface of a film that has, until now, been exceedingly difficult to see (at least without resorting to crummy grey market options or garbage quality torrents).

    Outside of that we get two trailers for the feature, a generous still gallery of behind the scenes and promotional materials, animated menus in your choice of English or German and chapter selection. Additionally, inside the packaging is a booklet of liner notes (again, in English and German) that discuss the cast and the importance of the location to this particular film and which also offer up some trivia about its director and home video release history.

    The Final Word:

    The Killer Reserved Nine Seats might unfold like a lot of other Giallos but it manages to take its story in some interesting and unexpected directions while admirably exploiting all of the tension and shadowy atmosphere afforded by its location. On top of that, the film benefits from an interesting cast and some inspired murder set pieces. The Blu-ray from Camera Obscura looks fantastic and offers up this hard to find film in virtually pristine shape. Throw in a few choice supplements and it’s easy to see why this release comes highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      I'm saving this for the weekend but I took a sneak peak at it last night, it really does look amazing. This one's worth the hefty price for me. Gorgeous women - Paola Senatore's hair style isn't particularly flattering but she still looks stunning - sleaze, and pronounced mean streak. The supernatural angle makes it somewhat unique as well, and that old theater is a fabulous setting! Nice review.