Murder Obsession | Varied Celluloid

Murder Obsession

Posted by Josh Samford On March - 16 - 2012

Murder Obsession (1981)
Director: Riccardo Freda
Writers: Antonio Cesare Corti, Antonio Cesare Corti, Riccardo Freda, Simon Mizrahi and Fabio Piccioni
Starring: Stefano Patrizi, Martine Brochard, Laura Gemser and Henri Garcin



The Plot: Our film opens on the set of a movie where we watch as a lovely young woman (played by Laura Gemser) is nearly killed by her castmate Michael (Stefano Patrizi ). The scene was supposed to call for Michael to sneak up on her and pretend to strangle the young woman, but things go awry when Michael has to be pulled off by the crew in order to rescue the girl. Michael, the son of a now-deceased maestro, then decides to head off with his girlfriend Deborah so that the two can visit his still-living mother who resides in his family’s mansion. While visiting his mother, who may have an incestuous fascination with her son, Michael intends to have a good time with all of his cast and crew who are also supposed to come and visit for this weekend. However, once everyone arrives, we start to discover a bit more about Michael’s sordid past. Apparently his father was murdered and it seems Michael may have been the one responsible. Could these past sins from Michael’s childhood come back to haunt him in a typically violent fashion? Tune in to find out!

The Review
Murder Obsession is a giallo title that probably doesn’t feature a great number of talking points that are going to immediately jump out to moderate fans of the genre. Although that fact doesn’t reflect anything about the film, this simply remains a title without a great number of big names behind it that will capture the imagination of potential audience members. The biggest name in the cast is the incredibly under-hyped Laura Gemser, who is obviously best known from the Black Emanuelle series. Although she is the biggest name on the marquee, for North American viewers at least, the movie hasn’t been publicized heavily because of this. I believe that this comes down to the very classy way that Raro Video has promoted the film, but I will comment more on this company later when I talk about the DVD. The director behind the title isn’t one of the largest names for American audiences either. Although director Riccardo Freda made a number of genre films in the past, his work has nearly been overlooked completely here in the states. Known for working within a number of genres, Freda appears to be a very well respected filmmaker within the Italian industry. He is even noted as having directed the very first Italian horror film, Lust of the Vampires. So, as a huge force within the industry, it is a shock that his name doesn’t resonate more with anyone other than the hardcore fans of Italian horror. Still, there is no time like the present for discovery, and that is precisely what Murder Obsession was for this viewer. A voyage of insane discovery.

As one might expect from any Italian thriller from seventies or early eighties, the setting and the visual aesthetics of the film creates something completely stunning. Featuring another mansion setting, as was common within this genre, the set decoration is beyond anything the audience could ask for. Featuring some beautiful lighting and tightly packed shots that ooze with atmosphere, this is certainly a film that knows what it wants to say visually. We get a lot of shadow use, blue lighting during sequences that take place during the dark, and lots of strange abstract visuals. I don’t think it is entirely unfair to consider this one of the more strange entries into the Giallo catalog. It is very arty in comparison to some of the sleazier entries into this film market, no doubt. One sequence in particular, one that revolves around an abstract dream sequence, is guaranteed to both befuddle and amaze audiences. This wild dream scenario that finds the character of Deborah (played by Silvia Dionisio) running around with giant spiders following her may be one of the most curious sequences in any linear giallo I have ever seen. The trees that are adorned with bleeding skulls hanging from them, which are of course shot in extreme closeup, are the sort of weird atmospheric creations that define Murder Obsession

Overall, you have to ask yourself: “is this a great film?” and the answer has to be “no.” I don’t think any film this silly or featuring such hokey special effects can truly be considered great in a non-ironic way. However, what Murder Obsession has going for it is a high level of enthusiasm and creativity. Brilliantly shot and featuring enough creative twists and turns to keep the audience hooked to the story, this is a giallo that acts outside of the norm, and it certainly gets away with it. It doesn’t hurt that it features a great cast and some very-acceptable violence! As far as the actors go, all are universally strong in their roles. Leading man Stefano Patrizi might be a bit miscast as the leading man, but even he is typically decent. It wouldn’t have hurt the movie if Gemser had a stronger role, but that is just the fanboy inside of me speaking. Continuing on with the fanboy talk, the violence certainly deserves more than a passing glance. Although this one doesn’t become a complete gorefest, it most assuredly features some nasty stuff. There is even a bit that features the most dreaded horror-movie weapon of all time: the chainsaw! Whenever the chainsaw shows up in a horror movie, all pretensions cease to exist. At that point we enter into pure exploitation, and Murder Obsession revels in it.

There’s some symbolism to be found here, despite this being a sometimes-silly mix of the giallo genre and the world of the supernatural. One of the final shots, which looks to duplicate Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” which displays Christ being held by his mother Mary after the crucifixion, is beyond bizarre. What it says about the overall story, I can read in multiple ways. However, I believe that Freda certainly saw something of interest in the character of Michael and his mother. The spiritual nature of the film is generally what leaves me perplexed, but overall I find the symbolism to be a rather interesting punctuation mark on what will no doubt be considered one of the more strange Italian horror titles out there. Joining the ranks of The House With Laughing Windows and Death Laid an Egg, Murder Obsession is a slightly more tame piece of genre film madness. It finds the perfect blend of pure bizarre psychological terror and distinctly strong narrative values, and it runs with it. So, despite the possible levels of pretension that the film musters up during its final moments, Murder Obsession exists within its own world free of all judgement. I won’t discourage others from digging underneath the skin and discovering more within the film, but I won’t dissuade others for trying to have a good time with a fun piece of exploitation.


The DVD
Raro Video release some quality stuff, there is no doubt about that. While I won’t argue that Murder Obsession is a cinematic treasure, I enjoy the fact that Raro treats its release with such a high level of respect. The film is presented in English, with only a couple of scenes switching to the Italian audio because of deleted scenes within the American cut of the film. The English audio soundtrack is unfortunately a bit soft and even hard to hear during certain sequences. However, I am a big fan of Giallo dubs, so I appreciate the English audio for what it is. There are others, however, who only watch these films in their native Italian. So, I can certainly understand both sides of that argument. The DVD also features a very interesting interview with one of the men responsible for the special FX, the legendary Sergio Stivaletti. This makes for a very interesting interview, as we discover that Stivaletti was very new to the business and did not have the very best experiences while making the movie. Also included with the disc is a very informative booklet that features a brilliantly written essay about the film, as well as some key scenes worth examining. Normally booklets such as these are useless, but in this case, it adds a great deal to the viewing experience.


The Conclusion
As I have already stated, this isn’t top notch cinema. However, it is still certainly worth checking out. Better than a number of second and third-tier Giallo titles, Murder Obsession has a distinctly gothic feel to it that is rarely duplicated within the genre. Certainly worth picking up from Raro, as their prices are usually quite affordable. You can visit the US site for yourself at RaroVideo.com, and I highly recommend it. I give Murder Obsession a very solid three out of five. Check it out!




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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