DVD Release Date: June
= Highest Rating
murder of a prostitute triggers a series of grisly slayings
in this goofy, slapdash giallo.
thief Antoine Gotvalles (Pietro Martellanza) robs a church of
some jewelry, then pays a visit to his girlfriend Francine (Amuck!'s
Barbara Bouchet) at the upscale Parisian brothel where she works.
They get into an argument and he slaps her around rather violently.
A short time after Antoine leaves she's found bludgeoned to
death, her face smashed in with a lamp. Naturally Antoine is
the prime suspect. The police, led by Humphrey Bogart look-alike
Inspector Fontaine (played by professional Bogart impersonator
Robert Sacchi), launch a dragnet for the wanted man. He's quickly
captured, but not before turning up at the apartment of his
estranged cabaret singer wife (Rosalba Neri) and threatening
to kill her.
At the trial
in which he's convicted and sentenced to the guillotine, Antoine
stridently declares his innocence, promising revenge from beyond
the grave on those who let him take the fall for the crime.
He then promptly escapes while being transported to death row.
He doesn't get very far. Crashing a stolen motorcycle, Antoine
accidentally cuts his own head off! His demise would seem to
close the case for good... except that not long afterwards,
the owner of the brothel, Madam Collette (Killer
Nun's Anita Ekberg), is murdered the same way Francine was.
Then the magistrate who passed sentence on Antoine is discovered
dead in his home with a slashed throat. Is the courtroom curse
coming true? Insp. Fontaine questions the parties concerned
— mainly those whom Antoine swore revenge on — but they, too,
start dropping like flies at the black-gloved hands of the mystery
killer. And what's the deal with the eccentric Professor Waldemar
(Howard Vernon) and his interest in Antoine's severed head?
He claims to need it for scientific research...
Sex Murders fares quite poorly in comparison to the stylish,
visually intriguing gialli of genre masters Dario Argento and
Sergio Martino. The mystery isn't all that hard to figure out;
our detective, Insp. Fontaine, looks pretty inept when he misinterprets
a written clue that's fairly obvious to anyone in the audience
even halfway paying attention. (Or maybe he's just dyslexic.)
Director Ferdinando Merighi, here under the pseudonym "F.
L. Morris", helms in a rather perfunctory style, leaving
it entirely to editor Bruno Mattei to make something of the
various set-pieces while stringing them together in a semi-coherent
fashion. Mattei — himself an infamous Eurotrash director (Hell
of the Living Dead, SS Girls)
— fails more often than he succeeds. When he does pull off something
semi-decently, such as the motorcycle decapitation gag, it's
undermined by some other factor. (As Antoine rides to his doom,
inserted close-ups of the actor's face display a black background
— as if at night — although the chase scene takes place in broad
daylight.) Production values lean to the cheap side. The music
score is a pastiche of Bruno Nicolai compositions lifted from
other giallo films, notably All
the Colors of the Dark and The Case
of the Scorpion's Tail. (At least it's good music
and Nicolai is given proper credit.) Most of the special effects
aren't all that convincing, whether it's the severed heads (yes,
that's plural) or a body plummeting from the Eiffel Tower. (Rather
than use a dummy, an incredibly cheesy-looking cartoon silhouette
is superimposed on a still of the Paris landmark. And it's shown
to us three times!) The lion's share of the budget obviously
went to hiring the cast. But what a cast!
It's a Euro-Cult
fan's delight. Barbara Bouchet is unfortunately killed off relatively
quickly but Rosalba Neri (99 Women,
has a more substantial role, even lip-synching a smoky torch
song in French. The beautiful Evelyn Kraft, wearing a lot more
clothes than she did playing the jungle girl in Mighty
Peking Man, appears in the role of Prof. Waldemar's
sheltered, virginal daughter. The always reliable Howard Vernon
gives his patented urbane-but-creepy performance as the oddball
scientist and overprotective dad. (Too bad the character's not
named Orlof!) In the film's third act he's given the opportunity
to crank it up a few notches and really vent his spleen; it's
always fun to watch Vernon chew the scenery.
Not so delightful
is the stunt casting of Robert Sacchi, the "Man with Bogart's
Face". It isn't that Sacchi's a bad actor or anything (though
his voice is looped by someone else, who doesn't try to do a
Bogart impression), it's just that Fontaine's uncanny resemblance
to the Hollywood legend has absolutely nothing to do with the
narrative. It's used purely as a gimmick and is a distracting
one at that.
On the other
hand the presence of "Humphrey Bogart" in a giallo
also jacks up the weirdness quotient, of which this film possesses
an abundance — especially in the way the various components
of the plot are seemingly mashed together willy-nilly. In this
case the weirder the better, as the film's very oddity — along
with its interesting cast — is the best thing going for it.
Amusing dubbing, a cheesy laugh here and there and some gratuitous
nudity don't hurt, either.
as "Volume One" of The Dick Randall Collection,
Mondo Macabro's DVD offers the longest and most complete cut of
French Sex Murders ever
seen, assembled using elements from different international
versions of the film. This naturally results in fluctuating picture
quality, with some scenes exhibiting dirt, minor damage and somewhat
washed out colors. By and large, though, the anamorphic 1.66:1
print looks pretty good, especially when one considers its cobbled-together
nature. The packaging lists the audio track as stereo but what
came out of my speakers sounded like your typical (for Euro-Cult)
mono mix — no great shakes but serviceable enough.
A nice array
of extras greatly enhances the disc's value. There's a text essay
by MM's Pete Tombs on the film's convoluted history, image galleries
of international promotional materials, and two deleted
scenes (albeit in pretty rough shape): one is in French with English
subtitles, the other (featuring Vernon in the lab) with no dialog.
An entertaining documentary, The Wild, Wild World of Dick
Randall (33 min.), affectionately profiles the producer of
French Sex Murders, American expatriate
Dick Randall (1925-1996). A
true low budget movie impresario of the old school (who fled the
States, never to return, because of tax problems), Randall was
a globetrotting dealmaker who produced films all over the world,
always keen to cash in on the latest fad. The doc includes clips
from a number of his productions, such as Clones
of Bruce Lee, Invaders of the Lost
Gold, For Your Height Only
and Living Doll. (The latter two
are scheduled for eventual DVD release by Mondo Macabro, doubtless
as future installments in The Dick Randall Collection.)