It was a veiled accusation made within a work of art, director Giacomo Solaris having made a film which depicts a corrupt judge whose connections with the Sicilian Mafia influence his verdicts, with witnesses and stooges killed by car bombs or murdered in custody, the parallels with the highly publicised trials presided over by state prosecutor Alberto Traini-Luiz leading his wife and lawyer to demand legal proceedings against Solaris.
Traini himself, despite having seen the film which culminates in the assassination of the fictional judge on the steps of the courthouse, an act of retribution for his otherwise unpunished crimes, is reticent, though Solaris suggests that is only because full disclosure of all evidence in open court will tarnish Traini’s reputation irreparably even if he wins, a point which becomes moot when the judge is gunned down in an early morning rendezvous with an unknown individual.
A crime thriller from 1974 which sits adjacent to the more action focused and frequently violent polizieschi genre, How to Kill a Judge (Perché si uccide un magistrato), also known as The Murder of a Magistrate and the more literally translated Why Does One Kill a Magistrate? was directed by Damiano Damiani, the third in a thematic trilogy begun with The Day of the Owl and Confessions of a Police Captain where he collaborated with Franco Nero playing different roles, previously police officers and now dogged director Giacomo Solaris.
The beautiful blue eyes softening the stubborn man who is convinced he is right, that the man accused of killing the judge over a petty grudge is misdirection and a case involving mafia funds invested in property development in Palermo holds the real motive, grieving widow Antonia (Françoise Fabian) is understandably unwilling to collaborate in a post-mortem character assassination on her husband when a suspect has been named, forcing Solaris to use other avenues of investigation to clear his conscience.
The film within a film Inchiesta a palazzo di giustizia (Investigation at the courthouse) more overly stylised and dynamic than its frame and also serving as an efficient synopsis of the background, that contrast sets How to Kill a Judge in the realm of realism, with tight-lipped politicians vying for advantage and Solaris kept on the outside from the start, disregarded as a “leftie” who leaps to the defence of the accused car park attendant only because he is working class.
With the standard disclaimer that all events and characters are works of fiction placed atypically prominently in the opening credits, understandable in a film which questions the ethical responsibility of those whose inflammatory work may have prompted murder, How to Kill a Judge is a film which requires attention with the scant crumbs of information obtained only after sifting through false leads and breaking down walls of silence, Solaris’ pursuit of the truth an empty prize when the final cost is tallied.