Starring Ray Milland, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Michele Placido, Mel Ferrer
Directed by Flavio Mogherini
Distributed by Blue Underground
Imagine your horror if you were the soul unlucky enough to be walking your prize bull down the road, only to discover the partially charred remains of a brutally murdered young woman carelessly hidden in a culvert. That is exactly what happened to Mr. Tom Griffith on September 1, 1934 on a road near Albury, Australia. Thus began the real-life Pyjama Girl case. Even though a confession from and conviction of the supposed murdered eventually closed the case some ten years later, much speculation remains on whether or not the Pyjama Girl’s true identity and that of her murdered was ever really discovered.
The “Pyjama Girl” became known as such because the media were convinced that the severely burnt silk garments worn by the victim were a pair of yellow Chinese style silk PJs. Identification was made impossible because her body had been so seriously disfigured from several skull crushing blows to the head, a gunshot wound to the cheek and throat, and the petrol fueled blaze that was meant to destroy the evidence. The authorities decided to preserve the body in formaldehyde in an attempt to find the girl’s true identity. Her image was distributed around the world, and people who believed they may have known who the Pyjama Girl was were allowed to view the body to aid in the identification process. Although there was a woman who tried to claim the victim as her missing daughter, the dead girl’s name was still unknown.
For ten years the identity of the Pyjama Girl remained a mystery until Tony Agostini confessed to killing his wife, Linda, in an accidental shooting. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison for the Pyjama Girl murder. Unfortunately, the facts in his confession don’t match the facts in the Pyjama Girl case. From the actual acts that caused the death to the color of her eyes, the evidence just doesn’t add up. Written by Melbourne historian Richard Evans, The Pyjama Girl Mystery is a book that details the case and points out the many discrepancies which may indeed prove that certain evidence in the case could have been fabricated in order to satisfy the need for a conclusion to the highly publicized case. The public wanted a murderer brought to justice so the police delivered one.
The Pyjama Girl Case, also known as The Girl in the Yellow Pyjamas, is a 1977 Italian film that takes a more modern approach to the Pyjama Girl murder. Telling two stories simultaneously, the film weaves the tales together to create a loose representation of the true life Pyjama Girl case. It vaguely follows the story believed to be true by the authorities in 1944. Unfortunately for the movie’s audience, the true story and the mystery that encircles it are far more interesting than what is portrayed in the film. The screenwriter and director, Flavio Mogherini, has taken a large share of artistic license with the original story in order to romanticize it for the big screen.
The result is a 102-minute long embellishment that occasionally seems to trip over itself before its conclusion. Sex, violence, and indiscretion are used to create a more intriguing background to relay the events of a true story that offers very little hard evidence to work with. Too bad some of these additions, which were meant to help the flow of the film, actually detract from the double plot and make it a bit difficult to follow at times. Although, in my opinion, Italian films are known for this trait anyway.
Along with a sometimes confusing storyline, The Pyjama Girl Case can also lay claim to one of the most distractingly annoying soundtracks I’ve ever had to endure. A sick melding of bad cocktail lounge and worse porn music, this particular soundtrack nearly made me mute the movie at times. As if the music wasn’t bad enough on its own, for some reason the filmmakers felt the need to blast it in between the scenes of mumbled dialogue, resulting in the need to adjust the volume several times during the viewing.
Even with its strange plotline and horrid music, The Pyjama Girl Case is still a noteworthy film that deserves the attention of those who enjoy a good Italian mystery thriller. I’m not sure if I would personally consider this film to entirely be true giallo, or even horror for that matter, but some of the graphic imagery and subject matter definitely fit the mold for both. However, I would NOT recommend The Pyjama Girl Case to someone looking for an action-packed film toting tons of gore and violence. But if you are hoping for a movie experience that can deliver everything from bad stereotypical accents and midgets to nuns, police brutality, and a girl in a glass coffin with her face burnt off, then this film is definitely for you!
The Pyjama Girl Case is offered on DVD by Blue Underground as a meager single-disc release. The DVD includes the unrated widescreen version of the film along with special features that include a theatrical trailer and an interview with author/historian Richard Evans, who penned the abovementioned The Pyjama Girl Mystery. The 30-minute interview is a fascinating look into the extensive research done by Evans on the true Pyjama Girl and her tragic saga. It is filled with news clippings and actual photos of the real Pyjama Girl that are grotesque and macabre but add a gloomy realness to the story. Also offered with the DVD is the comic-style insert The Pyjama Girl, which explains the true story in a more factual manner than the film.
After viewing Mr. Evans’ interview and reading the insert, I found myself enthralled by the story and also had a newly discovered appreciation for the film itself. The case and its surrounding mystery even caused me to research it further online. I would be curious to see what would happen if today’s technology was put to the test in the case. Exhuming the body, running DNA tests on it, and cross-referencing it with the surviving members of Linda Agostini’s family could prove once and for all that, even after all these years, the real Pyjama Girl’s true identity is still very much a mystery.
The Pyjama Girl Mystery: A True Story of Murder, Obsession and Lies – Interview with author Richard Evans
The Pyjama Girl by Eddie Campbell – Eight-page graphic novel
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