Strikingly composed, well acted, with a pervasive sense of hard-to-pinpoint menace operating in its elliptical plot about political assassinations in Italy, Alberto Grimaldi’s production, Illustrious Corpses, misses being a topnotch film only because of a certain dryness in the approach taken by director Francesco Rosi.
Lino Ventura, playing in thoughtful but colorless fashion, is an inspector uncovering a Watergate-scope conspiracy below the surface of a series of murdered officials. The film lacks visceral excitement.
With an approach at times reminiscent of Francis Coppola’s The Conversation, but without the emotional involvement that film engendered, Rosi and his scripting collaborators keep the exact nature of the conspiracy in the shadows, making the audience work along with Ventura to decipher the bizarre events.
Sequence involving Max von Sydow, as a fanatic official involved in the conspiracy, shows what the film could have been, giving a frightening and totally believable picture of obsessive approach to obliterating political dissent. Otherwise, the officials portrayed are a lackluster crew.
What keeps the film highly watchable are the crisp shooting style of Rosi and the firstrate lensing by Pasqualino De Santis, along with excellent choice of locations to give the film the texture, if not the dramatic intensity, of real-life political intrigue.