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Varied, and Unusual Crimes: The Killer Jumps His MO

by Tony Nash

(A Part of The Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

Image result for Giornata Nera per l’Ariete (The Fifth Cord)

Giornata Nera per l’Ariete (The Fifth Cord) (1971) R ****1/2

Franco Nero: Andrea Bild

Silvia Monti: Helene

Wolfgang Preiss: Il Commissario di Polizia

Maurizio Bonuglia: John Lubbock

Edmund Purdom: Edouard Vermont

Renato Romano: Dr. Riccardo Bini

Luciano Bartoli: Walter Auer (as Luciano Baroli)

Pamela Tiffin: Lu Auer

Ira von Furstenberg: Isobel Lancia (as Ira Furstenberg)

Rosella Falk: Sofia Bini

Agostina Belli: Guilia Soavi

Guido Alberti: G. Traversi

Written by: Mario di Nardo, Mario Fanelli (as Mario Fenelli), & Luigi Bazzoni, based on a novel by David McDonald Devine (as D.M. Devine)

Directed by: Luigi Bazzoni

Synopsis: An alcoholic reporter looks for personal and professional salvation/redemption as he investigates a series of murders committed by The Black Glove Tunnel Killer. His determination becomes more so when the police list him as a suspect because he knew everyone who was attacked.

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Luigi Bazzoni, after a four-year hiatus from the critical sleeper Uomo, l’Orgoglio, le Vendetta (Man, Pride, & Vengeance), returned with another excellently made Giallo in Giornata Nera. Going back to the cinematography and lighting that brought him into the limelight with Donna del Lago, Bazzoni once again adds dizzying ambiguity, uncertainty, and intrigue to an already proven gem within the Mystery subgenre. This time the killer is an unhinged psychopath whose crimes are methodically planned, but at the same time don’t follow a specific pattern or reasoning, other than that all the victims are in one or another unhappy. The camera angles and movements when the killer strikes expertly hide the majority of his or her body, thud adding to the mystery as to what’s really going on. What initially looks like a coverup for underage prostitution, child pornography, and voyeurism soon turns into something much deeper and psychological than even the people investigating could have imagined. Bazzoni once again shows his mastery of keeping his viewers uncertain of character motive and reasoning, letting audience think a character is innocent, and then have something totally unexpected be learned about them.

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A first for the Giallo genre in this film was Bazzoni and his crew managing to obtain permission to film in one of Rome’s most noted public/government buildings. While shooting on location in Italy was never a problem for filmmakers, gaining access to certain buildings belonging either to the government or private businesses often proved problematic, either for fear of it hurting business with tourists and locals always wanting to see where in the building popular actors stood as they worked on the film or that the crew would prove a hinderance to whatever took place in the building via the inner workings of the product. Surprisingly, the owners of the business/building had no problem with Bazzoni’s script or where he asked for permission to shoot at, and gave full assistance and cooperation to the director for however long he was filming in the location, offering viewers a rare insight into how business, public and private was conducted in Italy.

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Franco Nero, one of Italy’s most popular and beloved international genre actors, does a fantastic job in his only Giallo film as Andrea Bild. A once highly respected reporter, Bild has dwindled into mediocrity and drunkenness after a past incident ruins his reputation. When he’s called to investigate a series of different, but loosely connected killings, and one attempted killing, Bild believes her can reignite his career and save his life with exposing the killer. When he learns mutual friends are involved somehow in the killings, he goes deeper and deeper into the case. At the same time he tries to rekindle the romance he enjoyed with a fellow correspondent who offers information regarding all the victims. Nero does well with the flawed character, and how he pays him leaves viewers totally believing the character and making him feel like a real person who could’ve really existed.  After learning the brother of his on again off again mistress is involved in an underage porno/voyeur racket with the lovers of two of the victims, Bild believes the murders were done in order to hide the dirty scheme and to silence the women blackmailing them. Soon however, another possibility occurs to Bild that leaves his correspondent love interest in the direst of situations he must save her and her son from.

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Image result for (The Fifth Cord) Edmund Purdom

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Image result for Giornata Nera per l’Ariete (The Fifth Cord)

Image result for Giornata Nera per l’Ariete (The Fifth Cord)

Image result for  (The Fifth Cord) Edmund Purdom

An international cast of character actors including Silvia Monti, Edmund Purdom, Pamela Tiffin, Wolfgang Preiss, Maurizio Bonuglia, and Ira von Furstenberg, all make up the varied suspects, police, and victims within the story. Each has something to hide, learn, or gain from Bild’s investigation. Some are guilty of a crime not in connection with the murders, but will ruin said individuals when the new information becomes public, some are innocent and are killed because they’ve learned things they’re not supposed to, and there’s even a couple who  are framed as scapegoats so the real perpetrator can get off scot-free. Many will be revealed as far different from how they portrayed themselves as, while others will feel a sense of relief for their acts finally coming out in the open, and the dead will be vindicated in the end.

(Author’s Note: Like with La Donna del Lago [Lady of the Lake/The Possessed], discussing the majority of other characters besides the lead would lead to far too many spoilers and plot revelations, so it’s best to leave them to just this minute description.)

Image result for Giornata Nera per l’Ariete (The Fifth Cord) Edmund Purdom

Well crafted, well-acted, and well shot, Giornata Nera proves to be one of the most artistically aesthetic Giallo ever made. The unique cinematography alone is enough to put it on the top 20 or top 10 Giallos but the intricate and finely wield story add a whole other dimension to the film that puts it in the top 10. The Atmosphere is tense enough that it plays to the tradition of the old school Mystery film, and mixes well with the equally interesting Thriller. There’s a scene towards the end that some could argue has something of a Horror vibe, but is really the crescendo to the killer in the shadows who is finally unmasked.

(A must watch for any Giallo fan and film fan in general, I can’t recommend this one enough. Franco Nero gives one of his finest performances here, and it’s a real shame he didn’t do more Giallo films. The rest of the cast does superb work as well, leaving audiences uncertain until the very end if they’re innocent or guilty. How Bazzoni frames each scene like a work of surreal art, mimicking the delirium of an alcoholic going through the haze of sobering up and hallucinating DTs. Arrow Video once again knocks it out of the park with visual and audio transfers, and also a new interview with the always lively and enigmatic Franco Nero reliving his memories of working with friends Bazzoni and Vittorio Storato and making the film.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners, including Mondo Digital

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067134/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fifth_Cord

Buying Options

https://www.arrowfilms.com/product-detail/the-fifth-cord-blu-ray/FCD1851

https://www.arrowvideo.com/product/the-fifth-cord/940

https://www.amazon.com/Fifth-Cord-Blu-ray-Franco-Nero/dp/B07L3LWXMY/ref=sr_1_6?crid=3HVD8UNAI15E1&keywords=franco+nero+blu+ray&qid=1569434077&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Franco+%2Caps%2C139&sr=1-6

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B07KZ36D7N/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=1569434166&sr=1-13

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Deceit, Sex, Blackmail: Her Photos Are the Object

by Tony Nash

(A Part of the Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoiler Free)

(this review is of the Italian language version of the film)

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Le Foto Proibite di una Signora per Bene (The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion) (1970) ****1/2 R

Dagmar Lassander: Minou, the Wife

Pier Paolo Capponi: Pier, the Husband

Nieves Navarro: Dominique, their friend (as Susan Scott)

Simon Andreu: The Blackmailer

Osvaldo Genazzani: Commissario Franco Poretti

Salvador Huguet: Giorgio, Pier’s colleague (as Salvador Buguet)

Written by Ernesto Gastaldi & Mahnahen Velasco (as M. Velasco)

Directed by: Luciano Ercoli

Synopsis: A stranger holds a knife to a woman demanding she sleep with him in exchange for not going to the police with evidence her husband killed a man he owed money to. He returns later and admits he lied in order to get her into bed, but this time threatens to reveal the hidden camera photos of their tryst to her husband if she doesn’t continue to sleep with him. With the aid of a friend, the woman searches for answers.

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By 1970, the Giallo had found its place as lurid Murder Mystery Thrillers in Italy. While many filmmakers tended to have the villain of the piece be a black-gloved, sunglasses wearing enigma, Luciano Ercoli decided to have his villain’s face shown right from the start, but keep him elusive to all but the female protagonist. Focusing more story and characters rather than the erotic undertones and overtones the genre would quickly become noted for and identified with, the twist and turn filled story has a woman certain she’s being used as a ploy in someone’s scheme to drive her out of her mind, but is uncertain of who would gain from her being declared mentally incompetent or would want to put her through such torment. Ercoli, along with his regular collaborators Ernesto Gastaldi and Mahnahan Velasco invent a very intricate Mystery story that leaves audiences guessing up until the very end as to what exactly is going on. Only giving the audience the indication that the villain is in cahoots with someone close to the woman he’s stalking, Ercoli and his screenwriters bring the Mystery Thriller back to its Agatha Christie roots.

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An interesting first for this film is the music of the Italian Maestro Ennio Morricone. Le Foto was Morricone’s first entry into the Giallo genre, and hits the mark with his first score of the new medium. Morricone’s unique blend of instruments and tones, which he first crafted when doing the Italian Westerns, would help to define the genre as one of its main staples for years to come. The score fits the film like a second skin, offering a nice balance of beautiful drama score, and suspense score.

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Dagmar Lassander, a Czech actress who settled in Italy, is in fine form and brings the classic element of the Giallo heroine back to the fold in the role of Minou. A fairly typical upper class, white collar wife, Minou enjoys mild luxuries that allow her to pursue interests most women of the period wouldn’t get the chance to. Recent financial strains on her husband Pier’s most recent project, have led her love life to become dull and void of happenings, and a previous addiction to stress pills to deal with it. When a perverse stranger informs her that her husband’s latest product resulted in the death of a greedy financier, Minou is forced to decide how far she will go to protect the man she loves. Distraught and disgusted she had to sell her body in order to prevent her husband’s ruin, Minou begins falling deeper and deeper into her pills and depression. Realizing all too quickly the stranger has a strong S&M fetish that can’t be satisfied, and learning his “evidence” was completely fabricated so he could keep blackmailing her, Minou is forced to confide in her friend Dominique, feeling she is the only one who’s understand her predicament. Soon she becomes certain that someone close to her is aiding this man in his actions against her, and is completely unsure of who to trust, even her own judgement, now unable to tell if part of what has happened was real or imagined as the result of her husband’s business dilemma and their bland married life.

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Nieves Navarro, a Spanish actress who became popular in Italy, is a luring delight as Dominique. A free spirit in every sense of the word, Dominique is content to travel the world and try as much as she can to enjoy and get the most out of life. Originally involved with Pier, she convinced him to give Minou, whom she recently met at the time, a chance as a girlfriend, feeling she was better for him than her Bohemian lifestyle. Minou’s sole form of support while her husband struggles to fix his business, Dominique tries as best she can to keep them together. Even when sleeping with Pier’s trusted assistant, she can’t help but worry for the stability of her friend’s wedded bliss. When she learns Minou has been put in a compromising position by a devious and odious blackmailer, she does whatever she can to help her, including helping her to raise a monetary price that even a blackmailer couldn’t say no to. While a ménage-a-trois isn’t out of the question between the three, Dominique can’t deny she still has some feelings for Pier, but whether she regrets giving him up to give Minou happiness is anyone’s guess. Fearing something is amiss in her friend’s life Dominique must decide what kind of card to play in order to prevent anymore tragedy.

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Image result for forbidden photos of a lady above suspicion

Simon Andreu, a Spanish character actor who enjoyed a twenty-year international career, is a successful slimeball in the role of the Blackmailer. Nothing is known about this guy or who he really is, but what is known is that he’s sadistic and has an interest in the bizarre side of sex. Smugly sure of himself, he constantly states he’s only done what he’s done for pleasure, the only thing mattering is Minou practically being forced to go to him in order to avoid scandal for both herself and her husband. What begins as merely a game for him soon becomes an obsession as he slowly begins to become to intrigued with Minou, entering into state of mind that borders on the psychotic. Pier Paolo Capponi, an Italian character actor who was most prolific from the mid-1960’to mid-1970’s maintains a mysterious interest as Pier, Minou’s husband. Admitting right away he’s having financial trouble in his business it isn’t hard for Minou to think her husband would resort to drastic measures to ensure he didn’t go bankrupt. While he loves his wife dearly, Pier can’t help but worry that he’s in a hole he can’t dig out of to save what he has, which is the cause of their marriage having gone cold. Realizing his wife is going crazy with worry over her near rape experience, Pier soon finds himself wondering what’s more important: his financial status, or his wife’s peace of mind?

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One of the more intriguing and engaging entries of the genre, Le Foto is the most Bava influenced of any Giallo in the early to prime stages of its existence. Lesser known and less talked about because of its focus on story and characters rather than the lurid murders and nude sex scenes that would eventually become a major staple of the genre, Le Foto uses the old school methods of the Murder Mystery to great effect, proving murders and masked killers weren’t always necessary to create suspense and intrigue.

(I extremely highly recommend this film as it keeps you in suspense and uncertainty as to who is behind the mind games and blackmail against the lead actress. While it doesn’t have the staples the genre’s famous for, the film makes up for it with a supurb story from genre stalwart Ernesto Gastaldi. All of the performances, especially those of Nieves Navarro and Simon Andreu are done very well, and again keep the viewers guessing. The Blu Ray from Arrow Video is once again spot with audio and visual transfers, crisp and clear as always. Surprisingly, Arrow’s subtitle translation of the Italian audio track is missing in two scenes, very unusual and very rare for Arrow as they’re pretty precis, perfectionist, and spot on with all of their releases. The missing spots don’t offer new information to help the viewer along with the story, so the scenes aren’t overtly important, but it’s still a little strange for Arrow to miss those scenes.  Other than this, the release is great as usual.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065677/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_foto_proibite_di_una_signora_per_bene

Buying options

https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B07JZBP2XS/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=&sr=

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B07JK2HZSL/ref=tmm_blu_new_olp_sr?ie=UTF8&condition=new&qid=1568830004&sr=1-1

https://www.arrowfilms.com/product-detail/the-forbidden-photos-of-a-lady-above-suspicion-blu-ray/FCD1838

https://www.arrowvideo.com/product/the-forbidden-photos-of-a-lady-above-suspicion/934

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Blog News #5

Hello to all my followers, those I’m following, and all curious visitors,

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a news announcement, but being it’s the middle of the month and towards the end of the year, I figured it was a good time for an update.

The current Cycle of the Melodic Gialli mini season will be going on pause after Sept. 25, and resuming in January 2020. The season will pause with Luigi Bazzoni’s Giornata Nera per l’Ariete (The Fifth Cord) starring Franco Nero and resume with Riccardo Freda’s A Doppia Faccia (Double Face).

October will soon be upon us, and after the fun and fairly nice overall response to The Month of Hammer Horror last year, I decided to do a new special this year I’ll be calling Euro Witches & Madmen, which will look at European filmmakers take on the Witch and Mad Scientist sub-genre of Horror. The day I begin I’ll also be including a page for comments to the films, something I might do with future reviews. I’m still waiting for two titles in the mail, but I have the majority of what I’ll be showcasing in the special. Towards the end of the month I’ll add a picture of the films I’ll be looking at.

After Euro Witches and Madmen is completed I’ll be taking the months of November and December off, so October will be my epic end to the year. My parents and I have been in New Jersey for almost two years now, but our Ocean City house is more suited to Summer living, so we bought a house in Somers Point New Jersey (only seven minutes from Ocean City!) for the Winter months, and we’ll be moving in during October. I’ll be doing a lot of sprucing up in both by new bedroom and first time ever Man Cave (something I’ve dreamed about for a while now) and I want to focus on giving my space my personal touch. I’ll still watching and writing up on films, but I won’t be posting anything until January 2020. I definitely send out Holiday greetings, click likes and leave comments for write-ups, and if any special restorations come up I might mention them, but overall, I’ll be on Holiday break.

If there’s anything you’d like me to look at for future write-ups, please feel to post in the comments section, and be sure to keep them pre-1990’s if possible, I’ll make exceptions here or there to the rule if its a film I’ve seen and liked. Take care all.

Tony Nash, MOVIE FAN MAN

Filed under: Annoucements

A Surreal Murder Probe

by Tony Nash

(A Part of the Cycle of the Melodic Gialli)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Spoiler Free)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

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La Donna del Lago (The Lady of the Lake/The Possessed) (1965) ****1/2 PG-13

Peter Baldwin: Bernard, a Writer

Salvo Randone: Enrico, Hotel Owner

Valentina Cortese: Irma, Enrico’s Daughter

Pier Giovanni Anchisi: Francesco, a Photographer (as Piero Anchisi)

Philippe Leroy: Mario, Enrico’s Son

Virna Lisi: Tilde, Former Hotel Maid

Pia Lindstrom: Adriana, Mario’s Wife

Written by: Giulio Questi, Luigi Bazzoni, & Franco Rossellini, based on a novel by Giovanni Comisso

Directed by: Luigi Bazzoni & Franco Rossellini

Synopsis: Bernard, a writer on vacation to forget a recent break-up and to finish his latest novel, learns an old girlfriend he intended to rekindle a romance with has died. Initially told she committed suicide for unknown reasons, an old friend informs Bernard she was reportedly having an affair with both her employer and his son. Bernard begins to wonder if a possible scandal prompted either father or son to murder her.

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Luigi Bazzoni, one of the lesser known but equally talented Italian filmmakers, makes his directorial debut with Franco Rossellini, nephew of the famous Roberto, with a unique and original Mystery Thriller. Taking the simple concept of a man looking into the possible murder of a woman he was close to, Bazzoni sends his protagonist on a strange, almost hallucinogenic journey where he’ll experience revelations, both real and imagined. As artistic and inventive as Bazzoni and Rossellini make the film via its visuals, the duo manages to keep the narrative intact, their style allowing viewers only scraps of information to piece together what really happened to the young woman. Relying primarily on the inner monologues of the main character, sporadic brief flashbacks, and short insightful conversations with select characters, the filmmakers keep the audience in the dark about what was really going on until the almost very end of the piece. Mixing stark lighting with unique camera movements and editing, Bazzoni makes a last hurrah for the final black and white filmed early Giallo with different and still intriguing tricks.

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An interesting footnote is that this film was the final major work for composer Renzo Rossellini, brother of Roberto, and father of co-director Franco. While he lived for another 20 years, Rossellini only contributed scores to two other films, both released two to seven years after his death. The score to the film is a fine final send-off for one of the Major composers to the Italian film industry.

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Peter Baldwin, an American actor who later became a successful TV director, does very well in the lead of Bernard. A writer suffering from an existential crisis of sorts after deciding to end a recurring tryst, Bernard decides to revisit his favorite small Italian village from his childhood, hoping to get back on track. At first he seems to perk up, happy to see old friends, and even feels invigorated to finish his most recent novel. Things turn dark however when he learns Tilde, an immigrant maid he’d had feelings for, has apparently killed herself. When he learns poison was in her stomach, but that a knife wound was the cause of death, Bernard begins a private investigation with the local photographer who is also certain Tilde was murdered. As he delves deeper and deeper into the case, Bernard begins to feel the strain of his personal world coming apart, both imaging outcomes of the investigations, and also fearful that clues will lead to more clues and questions. Soon both the audience and Bernard himself will wonder if he truly wants to find answers that may reveal the woman he loved wasn’t who she made herself out to be.

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A slew of Euro character actor and actresses including Valentina Cortese (who also appeared in the first ever Giallo La Ragazza che Sapeva Troppo [The Girl Who Knew Too Much] for Mario Bava), Salvo Radone, Philippe Leroy, and Virni Lisi all round out the cast. Each character is interesting, but with very little being revealed about them, and while it’s clear they’re all hiding something about the past, because they’re only seen when the main character is in the room, it’s difficult for them to be judged accordingly with their actions. Also appearing in a small, non-speaking part is Pia Lindstrom, Ingrid Bergman’s oldest daughter from her first marriage. While she didn’t act as much as her mother and step-sisters, her performance is a mute one, but essential to how the film plays out.

(Author’s note: Little can be discussed of the rest of the cast without risking giving away major plot points, and even in the ending. The complex unfolding of the film makes it difficult for cohesive explanation of how things pan out, and motivation isn’t really gone into too much.)

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Never knowing what the main protagonist is encountering is real or imagined, and wondering why the family who owns the hotel has the kind of power to buy the silence and ignorance of the entire community, del Lago has all the trimmings of the soon to be hallmarks of the Giallo would be famous for. Leaning more towards hallucinogenic illusions and surrealism in the journey of Peter Baldwin’s character, and offering little in the flashbacks about the life Virna Lisi’s character, giving her more of an aura of mystery as to who she really was and why her death was considered the only solution for the killer or killers. Luigi Bazzoni shows right away in his debut film the kind of unique visual journey he wanted to take both his characters and his viewers on, mixing artistry and traditional narrative with high hints of fragmentation and subtext.

(A highly recommended and must watch Giallo here. It’s one you really have to pay attention to and may take some multiple viewings as sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between reality and dreams. The visuals are a real treat so multiple watches won’t be a bad thing.  The climax is completely out of left field and in some cases still leaves unanswered questions that maybe are best left unanswered, if only for the sake of the protagonist. Arrow Video once again knocks the audio and visual transfer out of the park with this release, only a minor subtitle flaw seems to be present. The Italian audio is once again the preferred option as again the dubbing sounds very fake. Another kudos for Arrow is the bringing back from obscurity of Luigi Bazzoni, and while some of his films were previously released on DVD, Arrow has given Bazzoni the write-ups and treatment he missed out on during his lifetime.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059116/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Possessed_(1965_film)

Buying options

https://www.amazon.com/Possessed-Blu-ray-Peter-Baldwin/dp/B07L39R28F/ref=sr_1_3?crid=7A6UU4XJPM0Q&keywords=luigi+bazzoni&qid=1568223269&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Luigi+%2Caps%2C137&sr=1-3

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Possessed-Blu-ray-Luigi-Bazzoni/dp/B07KZ4H97D/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1NYVG5C80VY8K&keywords=luigi+bazzoni&qid=1568223310&s=dvd&sprefix=Luigi+%2Caps%2C283&sr=1-1

https://www.arrowfilms.com/product-detail/the-possessed-blu-ray/FCD1850

https://www.arrowvideo.com/product/the-possessed/939

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Jazz, S&M, and Revenge: The Devil is a Woman

by Tony Nash

(The Art of the Erotic Thriller Miniseries 1: Part 2)

(Spoiler Free)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

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Il Miele del Diavolo (The Devil’s Honey/Dangerous Obsession) NC-17 (1986) ****

Brett Halsey: Prof. Dr. Guido Domenici

Blanca Marsillach: Cecilia

Corinne Clery: Carole Domenici

Stefano Madia: Gaetano

Paula Molina: Sandra

Bernard Seray: Nicola

Written by: Jaime Jesus Balcazar (as Jesus Balcazar), Lucio Fulci, Ludovica Marineo, & Vincenzo Salviani, with dialogue by Sergio Partou (as Sergio Patou)

Directed by: Lucio Fulci

Synopsis: An unhinged young woman kidnaps the surgeon whose carelessness while dwelling on his failing marriage caused the death of her jazz saxophonist boyfriend. While subjecting him to various forms of sexual torment, she recounts her life with the dead man, and begins to have revelations that might change everything.

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The 1980’s had some interesting points to its time: the aerobics/fitness craze, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the recognition of AIDS as a serious illness to be cured. For films, there was the continuation of the Star Wars franchise, the beginning of the Indiana Jones franchise, The Shining, and a series of wacky comedies including The Blues Brothers and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. Across the Atlantic however, the European film world was entering a decline. One of the people hit the hardest by this steady downturn was filmmaker Lucio Fulci. While the 1970’s had been a prolific time for him, the middle 80’s saw failures at the box-office and with critics, projects that never went beyond the development stage, and recurring health issues that kept him cooped up in the hospital with little time for writing or studio planning. When his health finally started getting better, an independent producer offered Fulci the opportunity to get back in the game and back in the black financially with an erotic thriller. With the 80’s being a time for female empowerment, Fulci and his co-writers decided to have their female lead start out as somewhat submissive, but slowly shows her dominant and aggressive side as she goes through both grief and revelations about herself and many of the people in her life. The mixing of passion and thrills comes off very well as Fulci takes his audience through seemingly tender moments, only to have the male and female lead subjected once again to cruelty, both physical and sexual.

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Brett Halsey, an American leading man and later character actor, gets to sink his teeth into a fairly complex role as Dr. Guido Domenici. A talented surgeon with a seemingly perfect and tranquil marriage, Domenici is filled with angst, regrets, and uncertainties. Unable to remain aroused by his wife, he begins to look for excitement amongst the prostitutes of the area, but realizes his impotence is more of a mental block than simply trouble at keeping the passion alive. Even when he earnestly wants things to work out between himself and his wife, something inside of him just can’t seem to adjust and make things happen. His personal problems then lead to him causing the death of a young man suffering head trauma, and this event drastically alters his life. What begins as threatening phone calls leads to the dead man’s repressed girlfriend kidnapping him at gunpoint, placing a dog collar around his neck, and subjecting him to various tortures, both mental and sexual. In a strange twist of irony, Domenici’s sexual vitality is revived by the young woman’s actions, and he soon begins to develop feelings for his captor.

Image result for the devil's honey movie

Image result for the devil's honey movie

Blanca Marsillach, a Spanish actress who worked frequently in Italy in the 80’s and 90’s, is magnificent in the role of Cecilia. A seemingly sexually promiscuous young woman at first, it’s soon revealed Cecilia was coerced into many of her antics by her sex crazed boyfriend Gaetano. Marsillach then begins to take viewers on journey through the mind of an intricately complex woman who goes through extreme moments of grief, compassion, and anger. In spite of knowing Gaetano was often careless on his motorcycle, Cecilia convinces herself Dr. Domenici is the sole person responsible for his death. Snapping under the pain and anguish, Cecilia dons the sweater Gaetano wore on his final days and kidnaps the doctor. Marsillach then takes Cecilia through a complete change, having her go from an easily manipulated naïve girl, to an empowered and deadly dominatrix. She drugs the doctor, carries him into the house she and Gaetano shared, places him in a dog collar, and proceeds to subject him to various mental and sexual degradations. While it’s never shown onscreen, various moments within the film suggest Cecilia also repeatedly raped the doctor. When Domenici listens to her every word, even at times begging for his forgiveness in not doing a better job as a doctor, Cecilia begins to think differently about him, and even at times tries to be kind, only to remember what he did to Gaetano. When not torturing her prey, Cecilia looks back on her relationship with Gaetano. While many moments show they truly did love each other, Cecilia’s now clear mind shows Gaetano had a vicious, sadistic side that could be dangerous. As she slowly begins to come to certain truths she repressed, Cecilia finds herself faced with the most important decision in her life.

(I have to say I found Blanca Marsillach the most impressive performer in this film, her ability to go from an emotional wreck to a completely crazy and unhinged bitch is something that takes quite a lot of talent, natural or fleshed out through training. Even though Brett Halsey and one of the producers considered her not talented, and riding the coattails of her older sister Cristina’s success in Italy, I think she does a fabulous job with the role.)

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Corinne Clery, a French-Naturalized Italian actress, most noted for her roles in Just Jaeckin’s pre-Emmanuelle classic Histoire d’O (The Story of O) and the James Bond film Moonraker, has a short, but memorable appearance in the role of Carole Domenici. Little backstory is given about the character, but from what is seen of her onscreen, she’s the typical example of an upper-class housewife. Sexually frustrated like her husband, Carole tries everything she can think of to seduce her husband and reignite the passion and romance they sorely need. Knowing full well that her husband is seeking out prostitutes, Carole tries to behave like the prostitutes he seeks out, but it’s uncertain if she can finally pull it off and save their marriage.

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What looks like an atypical sexploitation film on paper and from the trailers and stills is in fact a bizarre character study by Fulci and his co-writers. The characters of Dr. Domenici and Cecilia in particular are multi-layered with plenty of depth that allows viewers to both sympathize with them, and be repulsed by them. Both are extremely flawed, so to say what either is doing is right or wrong can’t really come into play (though viewers can still question whether they’ve gone too far or not) because both are at a crossroads where they must figure out who they are and what course their lives should take. The sex and sexual innuendo scenes are not in place for the sake of full shock value, but in fact serve a purpose to show the frustrations, difficulties, loves, hates, and fear the characters are experiencing, and while the scenes still have the effect of making people cringe and be embarrassed to look at, are still effective in getting the point across. Fulci took the erotic thriller to a whole new level and while is still not everyone’s cup of tea, is done intelligently with good story, solid characters, and scenic backdrops that add some nice touches to an otherwise low-buck affair.  

(I would recommend this film to a select audience. The film isn’t for everyone, and many of the sex scenes can get a little bizarre. When you’re able to get past those scenes, the story and the characters become very interesting, and soon it’s no longer just about sex, but issues that run far deeper. Severin Films does a fine job with the visual transfer and the extra interviews, but the audio varies greatly. The Italian audio is clear and crisp while the English one is very low pitched. The Italian language is the way to go as that’s the how the film was originally done, but for people who don’t have an understanding of Italian the only subtitles offered are dubtitles for the English dub. This is one of the rare occasions where I’ll leave it up to the viewer if they wish to check this one out.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and Mondo-Digital.com

for more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090903/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil%27s_Honey

Buying options

https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Honey-Blu-ray-Brett-Halsey/dp/B07557RYDV

The Devil’s Honey [Blu-ray]

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics