Saturday, June 25, 2011

Perversion : Trailer (1967)

Commercial success came at a price for Lucio Fulci. Films such as the immortal horror epic, The Beyond, Zombie and House by the Cemetery are the titles that generally pop into one’s cranium when discussing the maestro of Italian horror’s long list of horrific journeys into sadism. Many grue-bashers never stop to say a kind word about Italy’s grand man of terror, and it’s mostly because they’ve never seen his work that was done before the name Lucio Fulci became synonymous with extreme. As Dario Argento’s rise to fame was cemented with his style over substance chiller, Suspiria and his legacy living on through his murder mysteries that had come before and after, Fulci’s gialli remained earthed to the general audience. It took a while, but finally Don’t Torture a Duckling and Lizard in a Woman’s Skin were released, finally putting to rest accusations that Lucio Fulci couldn’t work with story alone. But, you don’t know where you're going until you know where you’ve been. Before releasing the terrific mind bender The Psychic (also co-penned with Roberto Gianviti), Severin Films reached all the way back to the one that started it all, Perversion Story, Fulci’s first horror film. It won’t stand up against his classics, but for a rookie, he puts on a good show. Dr. George Dumurrier (Jean Sorel) runs a fledgling medical clinic with his brother, Henry (Alberto de Mendoza). The bill collectors keep calling and the bank account always seems to come up a little short, and not only that but George’s wife, Susan (Marisa Mell) is a terrible asthmatic. George isn’t exactly the poster boy for a good husband, as he spends most of his time cheating with his new ladyfriend, Jane (Elsa Martinelli). His conscience does hold him back somewhat, as he refuses to divorce Susan because of her medical condition. George has to go on a trip to try to attempt to get some financial backing for the clinic, so he leaves a nurse named Betty to look after Susan. She’s frustrated that all his energy goes into the clinic. There’s really no business trip, of course. He’s just going out with Jane again. But, very soon, the well being of his wife won’t matter at all and will benefit him greatly.
While having a good time at a casino with Jane, George is delivered the message that his not so beloved Susan has died. He also finds out that he’ll be reaping the benefits of a two million dollar insurance policy, one that will surely keep the creditors from bothering him day in and day out. The excitement is short lived, however, as he encounters a woman named Monica at a local strip joint who bears an identical resemblance to his now deceased wife. Only the colors of their eyes and hair are different. An investigator also discovers this and before long Monica has been taken into police questioning and George finds himself in the slammer looking at doing a few days in jail, followed by a few minutes in the gas chamber. But, nothing is truly adding up. Although George isn’t the most morally sound person in the world, he doesn’t seem to be capable of murder and there are a lot of other factors painting a picture of deceit. Without question, there’s more than meets the zoomed in eye in Fulci’s first excursion into the world of the gialli.
Perversion Story isn’t one of Lucio Fulci’s weakest efforts (those would consist of movies later on in his career when battling declining health), but it walks along the fine line between mediocre and good. It’s no fault of Fulci’s though, as the film deals out some superb mystery and has your mind asking all sorts of questions. Since the film was made in 1969 and thus so early in the giallo cycle, most stereotypes (many that would be created by Argento in the next few years) aren’t present in this film and truth be told, there really aren’t any main plot related kills (certainly no maniac stalking women of the strip club with a knife grasped tightly in the trademark onyx glove) other than Susan’s at the beginning, one that we don’t even see. And, that’s for good reason because her death is the sun that the story orbits. On one hand, sure, you have a giallo that lacks kills, but on the flipside, the story is set up in such a way that it’s acceptable. It’s tough to come to terms with it, but seeing as the year was 1969 and the big guns hadn’t yet gone off, Perversion Story comes off highly as a thriller with a few morbid touches. It should come as no surprise that Fulci would veer into the undead a decade later after witnessing the ghastly corpse featured in the movie. It turns out to be the only gore featured in the film and rather than looking gnarly like the rotted corpses in the sentimental favorite, Zombie, this cadaver is green, super sickly and stomach churning; you can almost smell the stench it in your own living room based on the visual. As far as pieces to the puzzle go, Fulci peaked with The Psychic and this one remains quite a few steps back from that. Still a very engaging story that will keep your wheels turning until everything is sorted out with an ending that perhaps would have been a lot more interesting had it taken cues from Night of the Living Dead. Those upset with the lack of gore should be informed that the film makes up for it with nudity. There are countless amounts of topless women dancing about the strip joint and a bit of almost lesbianism with actresses Elsa Martinelli and Marisa Mell (who, delightfully, never keeps her clothes on for too long). For the Fulci enthusiast, even in ’69 the maestro was zooming in on the peepers of his actors. Also present is his much more compelling calling card of using mirrors to show actors working off of each other even in the same shot, even when they’re across the room. And if your eyes are on the ball, that’s definitely Lucio Fulci in the police lab handing the detectives a paper. Italian cinema fans should also rejoice as you’re likely to recognize a face or two, with stars playing roles in other genre films such as Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, Short Night of the Glass Dolls along with Fulci’s later and more enjoyable gialli efforts. This release doesn’t come without its controversy. An Italian/Spanish/French co-production, Perversion Story exists in different cuts to please the different markets (and censors). This particular version is the French edit, which consists of much more nudity and slightly less story. Researching the matter, the footage exempt from this release is a tad more insightful to the plot, causing a couple scenes to be edited choppily. The reason behind this is that Severin was only able to find one quality print, and it was of the French version. A composite cut would have been my personal preference, but that may have irked the purists out there. What we are left with is perfectly acceptable, perfectly official and allows Fulci’s followers to finally witness the film also known as One on Top of the Other with a quality presentation.


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