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Film / Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

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Time to get a new boyfriend.

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is a 1970 film from Italy, directed by Elio Petri.

A man (Gian Maria Volonté) arrives at the apartment of his gorgeous lover Augusta Terzl (Florinda Bolkan), in a city somewhere in Italy. She asks "How will you kill me?" and he says "I'll slit your throat." Then they go to bed. Kinky sex? Well, yes...until he actually murders her by slitting her throat.

The man then leaves deliberate clues all over the woman's apartment, leaving his fingerprints everywhere, deliberately stepping in the woman's blood to leave a footprint, even going so far as to purposely leave fibers from his tie behind on the woman's fingernail. He passes a neighbor as he leaves the apartment building and makes sure to speak to the neighbor so said neighbor will remember him. Then the man goes to his day job.

As a police inspector. Namely, chief of homicide.


  • Bathtub Scene: Augusta is lounging in the tub in one scene where she calls the inspector.
  • Blatant Lies: The inspector tells a protester who they've been torturing that "we aren't the Gestapo or the SS." That's exactly what they are, actually.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The inspector makes a communist agitator kneel on the floor. For hours, apparently.

  • Creator Cameo: Elio Petri appears as one of the attendants at the Investigator's speech; he's the one that's fallen asleep.

  • Day of the Jackboot: Italian audiences familiar with real, actual jackboots would have understood the symbolism when the inspector sends out his helmeted goons to crush left-wing political protests.
  • Detective Mole: Being chief of homicide and charged with the investigation of a woman that you yourself murdered probably qualifies.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Because he's a police chief, no one else in the police department suspects him, even though he does very little to hide his tracks. One of the reasons he murders the woman is that she insists the police are so corrupt that he could get away with murder. He becomes increasingly frustrated as it becomes clear that she was right.
  • Dies Wide Open: Poor Augusta.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: A random young commie has been arrested by the inspector's State Sec police.
    Random commie: I want a lawyer!
    Cop: We're not in America!
  • Establishing Character Moment: The man kills his lover five minutes into the movie.
  • Flashback: While the present narrative follows the investigation, a series of flashbacks tell the story of the inspector's relationship with Augusta Terzi.
  • Gainax Ending: The film ends with a confrontation between the inspector and his superiors at the inspector's home. He confesses to the crime, but they refuse to accept his guilt, going so far as to rip up the photos he gives them of Augusta at his home in crime scene poses. Finally he gives up and says he's innocent, and his bosses leave—and then, for some reason, all of his superiors appear at his door again. He lets them in, again. The inspector lowers the blinds in his living room as his superiors wait. The End.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The flashbacks make clear that, whatever the inspector says about wanting to test whether he could get away with murder due to his position, the real reason he killed Augusta was that he found out she was also having an affair with Antonio, her young communist neighbor.
  • I Love the Dead: Part of the inspector's whole deal, apparently, as he and Augusta have way too much fun recreating garish murder scenes.
    Augusta: Doesn't it excite you to find them like this?
  • Imagine Spot: The Gainax Ending. One of those two scenes has to be imagined. The drinks that the inspector had set out for his superiors, the ones they downed after hearing his confession and refusing to accept it, are not there when they wordlessly return.
  • No Name Given: The inspector is never named, and is only ever referred to be his nickname 'Dottore' (Doctor).
  • Police Are Useless: And fascist, as well.
  • Posthumous Character: Augusta dies five minutes into the film, but is important to the rest of the narrative, not least in the series of flashbacks that detail her affair with the inspector.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The inspector's whole point, as he kills his girlfriend just to see whether his position as a high ranking policeman means that he can get away with it.
  • State Sec: The day he kills Augusta Terzl is the inspector's last day in homicide, as he has been promoted to head of Political Intelligence—which is State Sec, a secret police charged with ferreting out subversives and communists. Phone tapping is rampant, torture is part of the job. The inspector gives a fascist speech to his minions in which he says that political opposition is the same thing as crime.
    Inspector: Repression is civilization!
  • Title Drop: Sort of. Early in the film a cop makes a random comment about how a doctor is "above suspicion." The later in one of his villain rants, the inspector says that his whole goal in murdering his girlfriend and leaving clues pointing back to himself was to prove that he could get away with it, "that I am completely above suspicion."
  • Villainous Breakdown: The inspector has a rather understated one towards the end of the movie, screaming at Antonio to turn him in, frantically begging his superiors to believe that he's a murderer. Notably, his carefully groomed hair starts to get more disheveled.
  • Villain Protagonist: The inspector, who is a murderer and a fascist as well.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Left always does this. One of the inspector's men notes that after two hours in a holding cell, the young communists they arrested have already split into four groups.