Oct 31, 2012

Autopsy (1975)
Director: Armando Crispino
Writers: Armando Crispino and Lucio Battistrada
Starring: Mimsy Farmer, Barry Primus, and Ray Lovelock.

The Plot: Autopsy follows Simona Sana (Mimsy Farmer) who is a medical student in the process of writing her thesis on differentiating between actual suicides and simulated ones. While this goes on, Italy is being ravaged by a string of suicide deaths that have been brought upon by sun spots. When Simona runs into an American girl who turns up on her autopsy table the next day, dead from an apparent suicide, she finds herself wrapped up in a very large conspiracy that will have her questioning her own sanity and even investigating her own father.

The Review
Although I normally cover a great deal of European horror during the month of October, this year has proven to be quite a bit different. My focus has been a bit all over, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my love for giallo or European horror. Not at all! I am constantly surprised at the movies that were made during 1970s Italy, and this is the main reason why I continually find myself coming back. Autopsy is a movie that has been on my netflix DVD queue for years now, but it has continued to allude me up until this point. A giallo that moves by its own beats and rules, Autopsy may not be the genre movie that appeases all audiences, but one can easily see what the filmmakers had in mind when they started to piece this giallo together. Mixing multiple genres, Autopsy can be a bit on the nasty side of things, but it is far less exploitative than many potential viewers might expect it to be.

Autopsy is noteworthy because of the way it obviously mixes two genres that were very popular during the seventies. Taking place fully within the realm of the giallo, Autopsy procures the majority of its shocks via many grotesque images of real autopsies that are strewn throughout the majority of the film. Most of these are photographs that act as decoration for most of the backgrounds throughout the movie. Such shots, which utilize bizarre surgeries or deformities, are plentiful within the movie, and audiences probably saw this as a blend between the Mondo movie genre along with the giallo. As the movie progresses, and the scenes move away from the grisly footage accumulated within the autopsy room, the plot seems to lose sight of these disturbing visuals, but on occasion they do pop up as if to remind the audience that this movie intends to shock them. After it seems as if the movie has forgot about the nasty shots of real death, a set is actually introduced within the film that is literally decorated with large posters of disfigured and deformed human beings.

From an aesthetic and visual point of view, Autopsy makes for a compelling little watch. I must admit, the film is far from the most stylish giallo ever made. Unlike many films in this genre, most of the colors are actually quite muted in Autopsy. Yet, despite this lack of vibrant color or deep use of the frame, the movie does have a rather surreal quality to it. Similar to some other bizarre giallo films from this era, such as The House with Laughing Windows and Death Laid and Egg, Autopsy mixes arthouse ideas in with general exploitation. Featuring some rather strange kaleidoscope-esque imagery that pops up every now and then, combined with the nightmarish and psychotic score provided by Ennio Morricone, this makes for a rather disturbing experience. Although the movie might not pack the visual exuberance that this genre is known for, it does manage to deliver a very unique and visceral experience for the viewer.

If there is a flaw within Autopsy, it is its loving devotion to the genre. While this also makes the movie perfect comfort food, it unfortunately means that the majority of the twists and turns within the film are merely expected from the genre. Granted, the fun part of any true “giallo” is the fact that you can rarely ever actually guess what will happen throughout the course of its story, but at the end of the day this also makes the movie somewhat predictable. Nosy wannabe snoops searching out potential murderers? Check. Highly improbable motivations for the killer? Check. A large scene of exposition during the climax of the movie? Check, yet again. These tools serve as the foundation for almost every giallo that littered the marketplace during the 1970s. Yet, Autopsy does find certain ways to stand out on its own, I will give it that. The grotesque visuals are certainly a part of this, and the strong performances from the cast also stand out as a plus whenever you discuss the movie. Mimsy Farmer, who stars in the lead, is very strong in her role, but Barry Primus might be the most interesting performer within the main cast. The American actor plays a priest who goes way over-the-top, and he actually manages to outshine the charismatic Ray Lovelock. This trio of actors are all fantastic in their individual roles, so there are few scenes to complain about when discussing the performances.

The Conclusion
Autopsy, in the minds of some, is a king within the genre. I would never go that far. Aside from some nasty images that pop up throughout and a few interesting visuals, the movie is a very by-the-books thriller. For giallo fans, I would say that the movie is certainly worth tracking down. For everyone else, they might want to explore the true kings of the genre first. I give it a three out of five.