The Pyjama Girl Case (1977)
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Academy Award winner Ray Milland in one of his final features … giving the universal hand gesture for masturbation. Based loosely on a 1934 true crime in Australia, the Italian-made The Pyjama Girl Case is a methodical mystery cast in a quasi-giallo style by director/co-writer Flavio Mogherini, who puts his art and production design experience to fine use.
On the beach, a woman’s body is found charred, violated, shot and with her head bashed in. The uncharacteristic brutality of the case prompts retired inspector Thompson (Milland, Dial M for Murder) to come out of retirement on a volunteer basis to help local police sort this puzzler out.
Meanwhile, we meet Linda (the striking Dalila Di Lazzaro, Phenomena), whose sexual partners always hide her panties, and believe me, she has many — partners, that is. Despite being married, she’s still sleeping with past lovers, who include a physician sugar daddy and a lovely woman with a pair of yellow PJs.
Linda’s several conquests are poorly introduced, but not in a way that clouds the narrative. Besides, like a skilled police procedural should, the focus is on Milland, pursuing leads such as grains of white rice. Mogherini pulls off a near-masterful turn in the final third, but even if you see it coming, you’re bound to genuinely be disturbed by the public gawking at the body on display, and even more at Linda throwing all reason away in a moment of self-destruction. —Rod Lott