Summertime Killer – 1973 / Director: Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi

We did a review swap as part of Euro Crime Month with Aaron from  who has co-incidentally been covering the genre too. Here is Aaron’s end of our deal – a great write up of Isasi-Isasmendi’s Summertime Killer … enjoy!

Robert Castor (Christopher Mitchum) is a motorcycle-riding hitman who, as a young boy, witnessed his father being beaten to death. As an adult, he attempts to kill the mobsters who were involved in his father’s death, but when he botches one of the assassination attempts, he kidnaps his potential victim’s daughter, Tania (Olivia Hussey), and holds her for ransom. Castor takes Tania out to a boat-house of sorts in an undisclosed area, and things get complicated when the two eventually fall in love. Meanwhile, a detective named Kiley (Karl Malden) proceeds with an investigation regarding a couple of recent deaths that ultimately leads him to Castor.

I first sought Summertime Killer out in an attempt to watch as many of Olivia Hussey’s genre films from the 70′s as possible, which was easy since she didn’t star in many. I have to say, Hussey looks the most attractive in this than in anything else I’ve seen her in, but I’m not quite sure how I came to that conclusion since she pretty much looks the same in every movie. Perhaps it’s because she wears a bathing suit and shows more skin in this movie than in anything else that comes to mind? Anyway, I thought the chemistry between Hussey and Mitchum was great in this, and their romance didn’t feel far-fetched in the slightest. My favorite moment in the film involving Hussey was literally a montage of her trying to break out of the boat house, which consisted of shots of her hitting a chair against a window and prying pieces of wood off the walls and floor. Alas, the montage would have been great if accompanied by Benny Hill music and sped up.

While the baby-faced Mitchum is good in this despite being the antithesis of a cinematic 70′s tough guy, it’s ultimately the great Karl Malden who stands out. As an actor (and a presence), Malden always had this naturally likable quality about him, and he’s just one of those rare actors who can’t be duplicated. As far as his character, it’s refreshing to see a detective (or an “inspector”, depending on where you’re from) in a European genre film who isn’t either A) hard-nosed and abusive, or B) a complete moron. Malden’s character makes a lot of logical decisions in the film, and it’s one of those little things that I appreciate as a fan of genre films from this particular era.

Stylishly, Summertime Killer is wonderful. Director Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi isn’t as familiar a name to fans of Eurocrime and European genre films as, say, an Umberto Lenzi, or even a Fernando di Leo, and quite frankly I’ve never seen any other film that he’s done. Whether it was common for one of his films to be beautifully-shot or not, I have no idea, but it’s at least the case with this one. The cinematography is great, as are the outdoor locations that make up a good portion of the film. The score, by Luis Bacalov and Sergio Nardotti, is fantastic as well, and the film’s theme song was borrowed by Quentin Tarantino (of course) and used in one of his KILL BILL movies.

As a whole I wouldn’t call Summertime Killer spectacular (it’s honestly kinda boring at times), but it’s a nice, stylish alternative to the more violent Eurocrime films of the era without having to rely on heavy-handed political and social commentary. Summertime Killer is equal parts character and plot-driven, with a surprisingly touching plot twist that will make you look at the film differently upon repeat viewings.