Renowned giallo author Ugo Palffy finds himself in the middle of a creative crisis as he struggles to come up with an idea for his latest novel and deliver it to his publisher on time. With barely a few hours to go before the deadline and hardly a word written, all hope seems lost until a neighbour is mysteriously killed in the apartment above. Taking their cue from the ensuing investigation, his wife and agent attempt to persuade him to take his inspiration from the mysterious events unfolding around them.
Directed by Giacomo Gentilomo in 1941, Brivido is very much a giallo in every sense of the word, with a narrative that could have been lifted out of any number of Agatha Christie novels. Based on the stage play Il Triangolo Magico by Alessandro de Stefani, (with a screenplay co-authored by Mario Monicelli and Mino Caudana) it is categorized as a giallo-rosa (lit; pink giallo), a term used to describe films where there is an emphasis on comedy as well as mystery and suspense – in this sense Brivido continues in the same tradition as Mario Monicelli’s earlier Giallo, which is also played for laughs as much as it is for thrills. Director Gentilomo returned to the giallo genre two years later in another very similar production entitled, Cortocircuito/Short Circuit, with Umberto Melnati returning as the lead actor.
Parts of the original audio track were destroyed or lost during WW2 and had to be re-recorded in 1947 – the video below identifies the different actors whose voices were re-dubbed.
Although filmed entirely in Italy with an Italian cast and crew, the fascist regime, led by dictator and film aficionado Benito Mussolini, prohibited films like Brivido from being set in Italy – Instead encouraging more homegrown, realist productions, often emphasising the plight of the everyday man, or dealing with social issues, such as separation, working conditions, the role of a woman, etc…. While this approach would soon give birth to the much-celebrated neo-realism genre, it made life very difficult for producers to get approval for films like Brivido which were very clearly intended as light-hearted escapist cinema with “taboo” themes like murder, deception and betrayal. Films that were very much inspired by their American counterparts which were banned in Italy at the time. Unsurprisingly, Italian filmmakers found a way to get around these new restrictions by simply changing the names and locations to places outside of Italy – for this reason, Brivido is set in Budapest, Hungary (although we never actually get to see any of Budapest) and all the characters have Hungarian names.
The original play The Magic Triangle by Alessandro De Stefani.
Note, the film differs significantly from its source material but does retain a fair amount of the dialogue in places. Characters also change, in Brivido one of the main characters, Federica, has a brother who is central to one of the sub-plots, whereas in the original play this character is a lawyer. Both film and play are set in Hungary.