Combustible Celluloid
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With: Stefano Patrizi, Martine Brochard, Henri Garcin, Laura Gemser, John Richardson, Anita Strindberg, Silvia Dionisio, Fabrizio Moroni
Written by: Antonio Cesare Corti, Riccardo Freda, Simon Mizrahi, Fabio Piccioni
Directed by: Riccardo Freda
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 97
Date: 03/18/2013

Murder Obsession (1981)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Freakouts and Flashbacks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Raro Video released this giallo on a new Blu-Ray and it looked inviting, so I gave it a shot. It has some silly visceral thrills, but it's not exactly a good movie. The director Riccardo Freda is probably best known -- if you can call it that -- as the credited director on I Vampiri (1956), the film that launched Mario Bava's career in horror.

Many years after that film, Murder Obsession tells the story of an actor on a horror movie. Michael Stanford (Stefano Patrizi) plays a strangler who goes a little too far in his scenes, leaving the actress gasping for air.

Taking some time off, he decides to visit his mother (Anita Strindberg) for the first time in years. He brings his girlfriend, Deborah (Silvia Dionisio), but lies to his mom and says she's his secretary. The groundskeeper Oliver (John Richardson) is supposed to leer creepily at everyone, but, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and slightly balding, he's not at all menacing. He just looks like someone's next-door neighbor.

Then, for some reason, some of the actors, including the beautiful Beryl (Laura Gemser) -- Michael's strangling victim -- and the horror director Hans Schwartz (Henri Garcin) show up at the mansion. We learn that Michael somehow killed his father when he was a kid, but has blanked out the whole episode and doesn't know how it happened.

Of course, people start dying, and all the evidence points to Michael, who -- once again -- doesn't remember killing anyone. Fortunately, the killings are hilarious, and include plastic heads and dead bodies that accidentally move and breathe. Even better, almost all the female cast members take off their clothes and/or have sex at some point. Clearly this is what inspires Freda the most, as these scenes are the most passionate and authentic in the film.

Murder Obsession does have that terrific giallo atmosphere, though its use of color isn't quite as bold as in the works of Freda's colleagues. Overall, it's entertaining enough that aficionados of good-bad movies will enjoy it.

Raro's Blu-Ray (the DVD was released last fall) contains several interviews with cast and crew members, the shorter, 92-minute English-language cut, and a nifty liner notes booklet.

Best Buy Co, Inc.