The Mysterious Mr. Skerl

The Mysterious Mr. Skerl

1.
bestialitàThe name Peter Skerl brings to mind one of the most elusive figures in Italian genre cinema. He appears to be the director of only one feature film, the controversial erotic drama Bestialità (1976), whose authorship has often been put into question. The movie – written by Luigi Montefiori and starring Leonora Fani, Juliette Mayniel, Enrico Maria Salerno and a young Ilona Staller – features an ambiguous directing credit in its opening titles: «A film by Peter Skerl, directed by Virgilio Mattei». Hypotheses abound. To some, Peter Skerl is a pseudonym of editor Virgilio Mattei (but then, why such a dual credit?). To others, that bizarre name conceals assistant director Giuliana Gamba (who, however, denied it). Some even suspected that the Skerl/Mattei duo was actually formed by Gamba and Aristide Massaccesi, with Mattei as front. A bit like Schrödinger’s cat, in short, Skerl is and isn’t there at the same time.
The mysterious Mr. Skerl recalls in part another illustrious phantom of Italian cinema, Warren Kiefer – long considered to be the pseudonym of an Italian director, Lorenzo Sabatini, who in fact didn’t exist, whereas Kiefer indeed did. As for Peter Skerl, the words of those who knew him should suffice: he was quite an unusual and interesting character, judging by the portrait which his friend and colleague Gianni Martucci did of him in the pages of «Nocturno Cinema», in an article published in the November 2009 issue.[1]
In short: Skerl was born in Belgrade in 1942. His father was from Trieste, a pharmaceutical director at the Sandoz company. When the city fell into the hands of Tito’s communist troops, Peter, his mother and a sister fled to Italy and sought political asylum there, while his father was arrested.
We find news of a Peter Skerl in Italian newspapers for the first time in 1960: on September 20, 1959, his one-act stage play I derelitti premiered at the Pirandello theatre in Roma. He was the director and the leading man as well: the other actors in his company “I Giovani Artisti” were Elisabetta Skerl (his sister? Or his wife?), Piero Vivaldi, Gianni Bertoncini, Paola Palombo and Alberto Gandolfo. The photographs depicting him, which can be seen on the Roma Mediateca website, show a very young man, barely out of his teens. Is that the same Peter Skerl? Almost certainly, yes.

2Subsequently Peter moved to Sweden, a fact which would later cause many to mistakenly label him as a Swede. Let’s see what Martucci says: «Like all the Slavs, he had an extraordinary ease with languages: he spoke a perfect Italian, English and German. After six months in Sweden, he asked me to join him and put together a stage play.» Skerl then moved to Austria, where he and his friend attempted to make a movie through a Czech company. As Martucci recalled, «We had written a spy story, a very good one, funny, for an Austrian-Czech co-production. I remember that in Bratislava they gave us special effects machines at a very low cost.» Unfortunately the Russian invasion in 1968 forced them to put the project aside.
But the experience in Austria was not totally forgettable. Together with, Skerl wrote a giallo script set in Vienna and titled Prater-Schock. The film, initially to be an Italian-French co-production financed by Compagnia Cinematografica e finanziaria—C.E.F., Parva Cinematografica and Compagnie Française Des Coproductions Internationales, was eventually made in Spain, co-produced by Dauro Films and with the title Ragazza tutta nuda assassinata nel parco (1972), directed by Alfonso Brescia. It would be the only official title in Skerl’s resume besides Bestialità.
Whereas the news of his collaboration with Ingmar Bergman must be taken with a grain of salt. The «Giornale dello Spettacolo» wrote: «a trusted collaborator of Ingmar Bergman, he assisted to the shooting of many of Bergman’s later films and also curated the Italian language version of Scenes from a Marriage, and he will make his directing debut in Italy, with Il segno sotto la pelle The latter was in fact the working title for Bestialità.
In a rare Italian interview dated circa 1977/78 and made by the then-13-year-old Leopoldo Santovincenzo for a local radio, and published in its entirety in 2013 in «Nocturno Cinema», Skerl himself claimed he had been Bergman’s assistant on Vargtimmen (aka Hour of the Wolf, 1968) and Skammn (aka Shame, 1968), but his name doesn’t appear in the credits of these two films: what is more, other statements he made in the aforementioned interview cannot be confirmed. Skerl said he had been in Italy for about three years (this is debatable: the script for Prater-Schock is dated May 1971, and let’s not forget his stage play in the late 1950s), and claimed he had won twice and consecutively a “Scandinavian Festival in Stockholm” «as author, director, musician, art director.» After the experience with Bergman («Now you can walk alone», the director of Persona allegedly told him), Skerl mentioned having directed other films in Sweden in the 1960, «not of international style, because there Bergman is financed “at a loss” […] You can make pornographic films which become international because they are pornographic, such as Vilgot Sjöman who made I Am Curious–Yellow, then I Am Curious—Blue and now Taboo […]. You can make so-called “national” films, and I made those, that is, those films which won’t go beyond the Scandinavian borders […] Then, feeling Sweden was too tight […] and wanting to make international films, once the Germans called me I want to make movies in Germany and in Austria too.»[2]
In pre-Internet time, it was easy for Skerl to come up with a filmography which nowadays seems non-existent, as there are no records whatsoever of any of the films he mentioned. But what was he talking about, exactly, when he mentioned «those films which won’t go beyond the Scandinavian borders»? Those products destined to the Swedish market and not suitable for foreign sales? Or something else to which he could only refer vaguely, confiding that his 13-year-old interviewer didn’t have enough malice to understand what he was talking about—that is to say, hardcore films, which had already been legalized in Sweden? A mystery within the mystery. Certainly, speaking with Santovincenzo, Skerl gives himself airs and pictures himself as an auteur.
By claiming to be a former associate of the most intellectual and respected European director, Skerl sought a piece of the spotlight for himself: reading some articles published in newspapers during the making of Bestialità, one has the suspicion that the whole Bergman story was nothing more than a shrewd publicity gimmick. «The pessimism of a Bergman ‘nephew’» reads a title in the «Corriere della Sera», which describes Skerl as «pleased with his own apocalyptic pessimism» with such statements as «Politics are the poison of the world» and «I have committed two murders, by fathering two children condemned to the life sentence of existence.» The article described the film as a tale of conjugal crisis, Bergman-style, and its morbid erotic triangle was only suggested: «the sociological and psychological analisis introduces fantasy elements which are decidedly osée».[3] The Scandinavian answer to Borowczyk, in short.
According to Martucci, Bestialità was directed exclusively by his friend Peter. Virgilio Mattei, an editor who worked mostly on television and the brother of Skerl’s Italian wife, was just a front. He shared the directing credit with his brother-in-law because the latter, being a stateless person, didn’t have Italian citizenship, and therefore was not in a position to ask for bureaucratic permits for production.
In addition to Bestialità, the name Peter Skerl is linked to a couple more obscure projects, and no less controversial. One was Zoorastia, conceived as a sequel of sorts to Bestialità by the volatile producer Pino Buricchi, and starring Karine Verlier (La stanza del vescovo, Alessia… un vulcano sotto la pelle, La settima donna…). Filming was halted after just ten days of shooting at Santa Maria di Leuca in the late Summer of 1978, due to lack of money. We will discuss this film in another article.

3

2.
Skerl’s other unfilmed project is Mostruosità, produced by Franco Pacini’s company C.I.P. It is not – despite what reported in the IMDb – an alternate title for Zoorastia, but a different movie. In the notification of the start of production, dated March 28, 1978, Skerl is listed as the author of the story, «adapted for the screen» by Franco De Cesare, while the script is credited to De Cesare, Virgilio Mattei and Skerl. The technical crew lists Mattei as director – for the usual bureaucratic reasons – and editor, while the music score was to be written by Coriolano (Lallo) Gori, Giuseppe Berardini was to be the d.o.p., and Antonio Visone the production designer.

The other production data are as follows:
– costumes: Erta Scavolini;
– sound: Raffaele De Luca;
– special effects: Gino De Rossi;
– assistant director: Simonetta Rimoldi;
– still photographer: Vincenzo D’Onofrio;
– production manager: Silvano Marabotti;
– production supervisor: Nereo Sallustri;
– production secretary: Aldo Sisti.

4The cast included Eleonora King, Carlo De Mejo, Francesco Parisi, Bruno Di Luia, Romolo Tinti, Per Holgher, Franco Lantieri, Vinja Sauvage, Roberto Caporali, Franco Volpi, the French Cathérine Zago, the German Katharina Williams and the Swiss Paul Muller. The indoor scenes were to be filmed at the Cinecittà studios and the exteriors in the Alto Adige region. Filming was to start on April 24, for five weeks overall according to the shooting plan. The estimated budget was about 250 million lire (Bestialità cost 200 million), with the distributor guaranteeing a minimum sum of 100 million lire for Italy and 30 million for the foreign markets. It was a low-budget production, without any famous actors: the lead was Carlo De Mejo, Alida Valli’s son and a recurring presence in ramshackle productions (Porco mondo, Eros Perversion, La ragazza del vagone letto), far from his glory days in Pasolini’s Teorema. The rest of the cast included has-beens and lesser-known supporting actors, with stuntman Bruno Di Luia promoted to a prominent acting role. The female protagonist, Eleonora King, had starred in Alfonso Brescia’s Anno zero – Guerra nello spazio; she is credited in the ministerial papers for Zoorastia as co-scriptwriter and even director. According to Karine Verlier, the girl – of Italian nationality but with Oriental features – was Skerl’s mistress.[4]

The papers submitted to the Ministry include a «report on the film’s artistic and cultural purposes» signed by Skerl himself, which reads:

With this film, we basically aim to distract the audience from everyday problems, with a giallo story, full of tension, effects, plot twists, conceived to nail the viewers to the chair, have them jump on it, and surprise them with an unpredictable but logical final twist, by using the best narrative ingredients and the best means to express them. But it also aims, for those in the audience who want, to make people reflect on some issues concealed in the film, like in a good medicine, by the ‘sugar’. And also to show the mentality, usages and customs of some lovely places, to those who are not familiar with them.

The metaphor of a bitter medicine coated in sugar was dear to Skerl, who used it also in his interview with Santovincenzo, quoted by «Nocturno Cinema»: «…I don’t believe in eroticism and sex, and to make something I must believe in it. I think I can make more commercial stuff, I don’t mean to say more committed, because you can give the audience a bitter medicine, as Ingmar Bergman does, and there are few who swallow it gladly, but you can coat it in sugar and then it becomes a commercial film, and even children drink it, without noticing they are taking a medicine.»[5]
However, Skerl was definitely not thinking of children when he wrote Mostruosità.

3.
There also exists a 15-page synopis of Mostruosità which tells the story in detail.
5The setting is a snowy mining town in the mountains, surmounted by a castle and burdened by the legend of a man named Gruvan, who «had terrorized the area with his horrible murders»: his descendants – the elderly Jakob (Paul Muller) and Filomena (Katharina Williams), who is believed to be a witch, and their son Thomas –live by the abandonded mine where the murders took place many years earlier. The savage murder of a local girl, Sandra, enrages the villagers, who meditate a lynching: the clues (a bloody knife and a poncho) seem to point to Thomas as the guilty party. He is a young painter who is seen for the first time as he «puts the color on a canvas, spreading it with his thin fingers. […] he looks dreamy, slim, with long light hair, a stubble, and a couple of mice clinging to his head and shoulders.»
Thomas is making a portrait of a model (male or female?) who disappears into a trap as soon as the villagers arrive at the painter’s hut. He is taken to the village, to the chief of police Holzinger (Francesco Parisi) before Sandra’s dead body, while the local doctor (Franco Lantieri) is performing the autopsy. He announces that the girl was pregnant. Thomas desperately denies being the murderer, and reveals that the victim told him that she was about to get married, but not her husband’s name. Taking advantage of a moment of distraction, Thomas escapes: he ends up in the old mine, scattered with bizarre statues of miners that he himself forged, and is thrown into a deep well by two locals, Emil (Per Holger) and Hans (unassigned role).
One year later, the village has seemingly forgotten the horrors of that night. Elisabeth (Eleonora King), a friend of Sandra’s who has just arrived from Australia, shows up. Greta (Cathérine Zago) and Karl (Carlo De Mejo), Sandra’s mother and brother respectively, take her to the cemetery, where she finds a bouquet of «mysterious and beautiful orchids» on Sandra’s grave. Who brought the flowers there?

The next sequence, in the village dance hall, introduces the main characters, puts Elisabeth in the spotlight and leads to the arrival of «an extravagant and crazy parade of half-naked men and women with their bodies painted vividly and casts of furs on their shoulders», led by «a man of indefinable age who sports a helmet with a panache, a weird costume with a Dracula cloak and a colored parrot on his shoulder»: Count Ludwig (Roberto Caporali), a local nobleman with extravagant habits. His buxom niece Ramona (Vinja Sauvage) is no less extravagant, and «dances lasciviously to the rhythm of a frantic tam-tam played by a thrilled black man», in an infecting belly dance that hypnotizes the viewers.6
Elisabeth would like to make out with Karl, but she is taken out by Emil, who carries her into the woods to make love with her. But a blade flashes in the dark, and the boy is viciously stabbed in the belly.
Elizabeth, upset and battered, tells Karl and Greta – who loves her as a daughter – that she has just escaped a maniac. Karl offers to help Holzinger investigating, but a violent snowstorm prevents the search.
The following day, another young man, Hans, is disemboweled by the murderer, again before Elisabeth’s eyes. The description of the murder is very interesting, and the way it happens – in full day, in a crowded ski track – somehow predates Argento’s Tenebre.

bruno di luiaThe villagers refer to the legend of Kruvan the murderer, but inspector Polcar (Bruno Di Luia), who has come from the nearby Innsbruck to investigate, immediately discards the supernatural trail. Polcar realizes that there is a link between Sandra’s murder and the recent ones, which have all been committed with the same weapon. The cop reopens Thomas’ murder case, finds out about Emil and Hans’ role in it, and pays a visit to the mine where the tragedy took place. Meanwhile Elisabeth, summoned by the local parish priest (Luigi Rossi), who is in possession of important bits of information, notices a mysterious figure placing the orchids on Sandra’s tomb. It’s Josef (Romolo Tinti), a local young man who reveals he was Sandra’s lover and got her pregnant to avoid her follow the destiny that her mother wanted for her, that is to become a nun. But Josef too is disemboweled by the maniac just before Elisabeth’s eyes, in front of the church altar.
The investigation leads Polcar and Holzinger to the castle. They are welcomed by Ludwig’s guards, dressed in medieval clothes and carrying halberds, and by the usually half-naked Ramona («seven veils are all that covers her splendid body»), who guides them to a tour of the castle to the “paradise”:
«At the center of the room a gigantic Christmas tree is the source of lighting and spectacle. Huge balls are hanging from its branches, and inside them there are groups of three or four people, tangled and stuck one to another in the search for collective intercourse! They are motionless! Are they statues? From a ball, a hand protrudes furtively toward Ramona, and tears off a veil!»
Mostruosità would have been worth watching at least for this scene, halfway between Filippo Ratti’s La notte dei dannati and some psychedelic oddities such as the orgy sequence in Lucio Marcaccini’s Roma drogata.
The description of the sacrilegious mise-en-scene continues:
«Pastors, women, animals, are involved almost ritually in sodomitic orgies, expertly lit by a light source coming from a crib, where a real infant is shaking, still dirty! Ramona covers him tenderly with a veil, while commenting the scene with a lazy tone and ambiguous phrases …»
Skerl here is in full delirious mode: orgies, bestiality, blasphemy are served all together, and all of a sudden, within a plot which until now seemed standard giallo fare, with a black gloved maniac stabbing people to death like in a Massimo Dallamano film. Speaking of which, in the meantime said maniac has made another victim, an elderly policeman who was escorting Elisabeth and Karl. But the focus of the plot is now on the sacrilegious happenings at the castle:
«Screams of pain, whiplashes, heavy blows of hammer!… a man wrapped in a red tunic and with a crown of thorns deeply stuck in his head, is carrying a heavy cross, while a big man in ancient Roman clothes whips him!
Holzinger cannot hold his disgust! Before him and Polcar, the representation of the Passion of the Christ is being desecrated in sadomasochistic orgies! Only the genius of a crazy maniac could have gone that far! Ramona dances lightly among torturers and volunteer victims. A whiplash tears off yet another veil.»
The scene features a vital clue to the solution of the mystery: Ramona mentions her uncle’s lover, «a boy slim like a girl, shaped by the count’s craving toward ‘the horrible impossible perfection!’”».
Meanwhile, Karl and Elisabeth have reached the mine, amid hordes of bats and those miners statues —one of which turns out to be not a statue but someone in flesh and blood…
But let’s get back to the castle:
«Ramona reaches a cross on which a man is being crucified for real, with cries and spasms of masochistic pleasure. At the top, nailed to the wood instead of the I.N.R.I. sign, Holzinger recognizes the portrait which Thomas was painting when he took him away from his hut.
A spear transfixes the painting, and on its tip is the last of Ramona’s veils. Now naked, she laughs and twirls, inviting Polcar and Holzinger to follow her!…»
An alternate editing follows in a chaotic crescendo: Elisabeth and Karl facing the murderer, and the two cops following Ramona in the castle vaults, which are connected to the mine and to Thomas’ hut by a maze of tunnels. Karl falls into the well, which – as Polcar and Holzinger find out – conceals a platform which could have saved Thomas’ life. Another discovery awaits them: hidden somewhere in the caves, there is a woman…

At the climax, Elisabeth comes back to Greta’s house in a state of shock. The other woman spreads an ointment on her naked and bruised body. «“He tried to abuse you, didn’t he?… Disgusting, they are all disgusting!” Her hands tremble while she spreads the ointment on the girl’s naked body. “But nuns are good… so good…”»
All of a sudden, Greta throws herself on Elisabeth’s breasts, in an erotic craze.
«The woman’s crazed tongue hungrily licks Elisabeth’s lips, her neck, her nipples…»
Meanwhile, somebody armed with a knife is approaching from behind…
As if the number of perversions that the story accumulated until now weren’t enough, Skerl plays his ace in the hole: we find out that Sandra and Greta had a lesbian incestuous relationship, and that the loving mother hadn’t taken her beloved daughter’s pregnancy well…
Now the black-gloved killer is right behind Greta. He grabs her and hands the knife to Elisabeth, who finishes the job: «”You took her son LIKE THIS’!” And she stabs Greta in the belly, ripping it open.»
As she falls, Greta clings to Elisabeth’s body, scratching it and ripping off her panties: «Greta’s eyes open wide as she looks at the groin, then they stop forever, dead.»
It turns out that Elisabeth’s secret accomplice is none other but Count Ludwig. And Elisabeth, as readers will have realized by now, hides a surprise underneath her panties. The situation becomes a bit crowded with the arrival of the two cops, plus Karl (who survived the fall) and the real Elisabeth, whom the Count had previously kidnapped (although it is not clear when exactly). A providential bullet in the neck dispatches the fake Elisabeth.
«Ludwig rushes to the dying body and hugs it in sorrow. His caresses take away his beloved’s wig, and cover a small penis which Elisabeth has instead of a vagina.
A death rattle! The girl dies in his arms!
“THOMAS.!… THOMAS!…” The Count screams desperately the name of his beloved.»
In short, recapitulating: a disemboweling black-gloved maniac, a final twist involving a transsexual killer (Eleonora King plays both Elisabeth and Thomas) which predates the notorious U.S. slasher Sleepaway Camp (but which was perhaps inspired by Pierre Klossowski’s novel The Baphomet, which the delirious orgy scene recalls), a Count who looks like the local version of Aleister Crowley, and so many sexual perversions that would have made the reviewers of the Centro Cattolico Cinematografico mad. Who knows what the Board of censors would have decided, had the film been made? Censorship had loosened in this period, but not so much as to allow taboo themes as male homosexuality and blasphemy. Not to mention all the rest which Skerl scatters with nonchalance throughout the story.
Mostruosità was inscribed in the P.R.C. (Public Cinematographic Register) on May 23, 1978. But it would never see the light. A few months later, the director was in Puglia, shooting the similarly ill-fated Zoorastia. It would be his last experience in Italian cinema. Soon after – already in 1979, according to some – Skerl moved to the United States.

Nowadays Peter Skerl lives in Los Angeles. «He was a great talent, but he wasted many occasions, because he was a megalomaniac»,[6] Martucci explained, and that megalomania transpires from the aforementioned interview. A bizarre destiny for a megalomaniac, to have his own existence canceled by the world wide web. Because still today, for the IMDb, and therefore to the eyes of the world, Peter Skerl is none other than a pseudoynm of Virgilio Mattei.
His story would end here, were it not for a late, and very disturbing, post scriptum.

4.
Rome. Saturday, January 21, 1984. At 6:30 p.m. a 17-year-old girl leaves a party at some friends’ house, near Largo Cartesio, and goes to another friend’s place, in via Tuscolana. She will never get there. Someone notices her as she gets on a scooter driven by a young man. Her body will be found in a vineyard in Grottaferrata, strangled with the strap of her handbag and with her spine broken. Her name is Caterine (italianized in Caterina) Skerl, nicknamed Katy, a student at Rome’s Liceo Artistico Giulio Romano, enrolled in the Ponte Flaminio section of FGCI (the Italian Communist Youth Federation). She is Peter Skerl’s daughter. Her «life sentence of existence» has lasted far more less than expected.

katy sterl

The devil is in the details. The Ansa agency which launches the news renames mistakenly Peter as “Joseph” Skerl, and gives way to a chain reaction which messes things up even more, and makes the shroud of the mystery surrounding the director even thicker. Several years later, reprising the news in the «Corriere della Sera», Sergio Valentini will mention Skerl’s profession correctly, but not the name and not even the nationality: «Separated from his wife, the father, Joseph Skerl, born Swedish, lives in America where, they say, he works as a film director. Even Caterina and Alexander were born in Sweden».[7]
Caterine’s murder is linked to other killings of women which took place in the Rome suburbs and in the surrounding countryside, starting from July 1983. The victims were mostly prostitutes, such as 31-year-old Thea Stoppa, whose body was found in a construction site near the Flaminia on July 15, ’83; 45-year-old Luciana Lupi, on July 22; 34-year-old Lucia Rosa, on the 24. All three were raped and strangled, and their faces were covered with earth and rocks. But among the victims there are also an irreprensible municipal employee (Giuliana Meschi), who had her throat cut by someone who then jumped several times on her body, crushing it to death, on August 5, in a corn field in Sabaudia; or Fernanda Durante, whose body was found on October 30 ottobre, her belly ripped by 37 stab wounds. Then came the turn of Caterine Skerl. The latter three victims were likely chosen by chance by the killer, who followed them, kidnapped them and murdered them.
Caterine’s killer is a much more concrete figure than the bizarre maniac imagined in the script for Mostruosità, but no less monstrous. According to the law his name is Maurizio Giugliano, domiciled in Trastevere, the son of a guardian of cows, a pyromaniac and a serial killer. He is arrested, tried and comdemned for two of the six killings; years later he will confess the murders in the letters he sent to the commissioner who arrested him. There is also a seventh victim, the 51-year-old Maria Negri, 51 anni, a housewife in Punta Sabbioni. That day Giugliano had taken a trip around that area with his wife and his brother-in-law: he stopped buying cigarettes, noticed the woman at the window, entered the building, had her open the door, and strangled her with the vacuum cleaner’s wire. And then he came back to the car where his unaware family was waiting.
Giugliano died in an asylum, at 31. In jail he had strangled his cellmate, after the latter had denied him a cigarette.
Does it end here? It wouldn’t seem so.

dodici donne un solo assassinoIn fact Giugliano, despite confessing all the other murders, had always denied having killed Caterina Skerl. According to an interesting book by Otello Lupacchini and Max Parisi (Dodici donne un solo assassino, edizioni Koiné, 2006), the Skerl case might be linked to the notorious disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi and Mirella Gregori – almost the same age as her, same figure, same way of disappearing – and to other murders of young women, behind which there would be only one killer, the so-called «Avon man», who approached his victims with the excuse of hiring them as collaborators to the famous cosmetics brand.

Even though with some imprecisions (such as the erroneous name Joseph Skerl), the two authors trace a disturbing scenario which Max Parisi will further develop in his following book Assassini in libertà (Koiné, 2008). The general picture would seem to 11even involve members of the Magliana gang, some of whom – such as Franco Giuseppucci – were often hanging around at a villa in via del Casale Lumbroso 167: the villa with the waterfall seen in so many Italian films of the period (A tutte le auto della polizia, La lupa mannara, Il trucido e lo sbirro, Il commissario Verrazzano, Pierino medico della SAUB, Vieni avanti cretino…). Owned by actor Giorgio Ardisson, it was a clandestine gambling room, frequented by many people in the movie business. Including, or so it seems, Peter Skerl.
Other sources – such as Paolo Franceschetti’s blog – suggest an even more unlikely thread, and a ritual motive for the killings, which are linked to a Masonic and esoteric organization called Rosa Rossa (Red Rose). Nonsense? Very likely. Curiously, the script for Mostruosità deals with numerology and the Kabbalah in the scenes set in Count Ludwig’s castle, where among other things we read about «a strange dagger holder, with seven sheats». Seven, the key number of the Rosa Rossa sect…

In 2013 another chapter was added to the story of Katy Skerl. Marco Fassoni Accetti, a photographer and independent filmmaker who self-reported being involved in the Orlandi case, linked the Skerl murder to the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi and Mirella Gregori, but called in the so-called “Bulgarian track” in the wake of power struggles inside the Vatican, at a time where it was necessary to protect the dialogue between the Holy See and the countries of the Warsaw Pact, and Pope John Paul II’s anti-Communist politics were seen with increasing dissatisfaction.[8] Among the clues that would prove this connection, there is an anonymous letter sent to one of Emanuela’s gregori orlandiclassmates, to Mirella’s sister and to the TV show “Chi l’ha visto?”: the letter mentions January 21st (the date of Katy Skerl’s death), referring to it as the martyrdom of Saint Agnes “with blonde hair” in the “vineyard of the Lord”. Once again reality seems to cruelly mock the obscure fantasy microcosm of Skerl’s film, with mystical allusions which vaguely echo those in his unfilmed script. In September 2015, the head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome received an exhibit from Fassoni Accetti which alluded to an alleged theft of Katy’s coffin: «A fake team of cemetery workers, simulating an exhumation, smashed the cemetery oven where Skerl was buried and took the coffin with her mortal remains», to conceal an element which linked the Skerl case to Orlandi’s. It seemed that the white blouse worn by the 17-year-old girl in the coffin had been mentioned in a statement released by Emanuela Orlandi’s alleged kidnappers, sent to the press in November 1984.[9]

The story of Peter Skerl ends here, for the moment. With a mystery unveiled and another, much more dense and disturbing one, still to be discovered. And a much more monstrous story than any human mind could ever conceive and film.

mostruosità

Special thanks to Stefano Raffaele and Tommaso Gullì They.

Notes:
[1] Gianni Martucci, Il mio amico Peter Skerl, «Nocturno Cinema» n. 87, November 2009, p. 85.
[2] Davide Pulici, Peter Skerl: sotto il velo del mistero, «Nocturno Cinema» n. 131, July-August 2013, p. 65.
[3] Non firmato, Il pessimismo di un ‘nipotino’ di Bergman, «Corriere della Sera», August 31, 1976.
[4] Pulici, Peter Skerl: sotto il velo del mistero, p. 63.
[5] Ibid, p. 64.
[6] Martucci, Il mio amico Peter Skerl.
[7] Sergio Valentini, Uccisa senza un perché, «Corriere della Sera», April 5, 1994. Caterine was born in Sweden in May 1967. Alexander Skerl has embarked on a career in cinema: he was assistant editor in Nanni Moretti’s Aprile (1998).
[8] Fabrizio Peronaci, Emanuela, Mirella e altri due misteri: il delitto di Katy Skerl, la morte di José, «Corriere della Sera», April 26, 2013.
[9] Fabrizio Peronaci, Orlandi, esposto-denuncia a Pignatone sulla tomba di Katy Skerl, «Corriere della Sera», September 17, 2015.

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