For 1969’s Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion, Elio Petri turned his eye to the then nascent urban crime thriller, a genre that reflected – and some would say preyed upon – the political and economic uncertainties rife in Metropolitan Italy at the time.
After all the high-concept exuberance of The Tenth Victim, We Still Kill the Old Way saw Petri move from sci-fi to the crime genre and, stylistically, marked a return to a more subtle, low-key approach.
Based on a novel by Robert Sheckley, The Tenth Victim represented a marked sea change in Elio Petri’s oeuvre. Gone was the low key, wry approach of his former films: this is a brash, colorful production that exudes extravagance from it’s every pore.
Petri’s next film was The Teacher of Vigevano (Il maestro di Vigevano,63), another intimate, black and white chamber-piece, which plays rather like a retread – albeit an even more pessimistic retread – of I giorni contato.
Petri’s second film was I giorni contati (62), which again featured Salvo Randone. This time he plays Cesare, a plumber and widower who is riding home from work on the bus when it’s discovered that one of the passengers has died.
After making two shorts, Nasce un campione (54) and I sette contadini (59), Petri made his full debut with The Assassin (L’assassino, 61), based on a script co-written with Tonino Guerra (with whom he would later collaborate on several films).
For some reason, Elio Petri is a filmmaker who seems to have slipped off the cultural (and counter-cultural) radar. To the art-house crowd, Italian cinema is composed of the giants – Rossellini, Visconti, Bertolucci, Pasolini – with very little else getting a worthwhile look in.